Metsähovi Radio Observatory awarded for its open solar data

The solar activity radio data collected over the course of 40 years is one of the most extensive data sets of its kind. The open data is utilised by researchers, students and artists alike.
metsähovin radioteleskooppi ilman kupua kuva: annamari tolonen
The main telescope at the Metsähovi Radio Observatory is a 14-metre radiotelescope. The telescope is pictured here without the protective cap that is normally used to shield it from solar heat radiation. Photo: Annamari Tolonen /Aalto University

Aalto University's Metsähovi Radio Observatory published around one year ago solar data collected over the course of more than four decades. The continuously updating data set includes one of the world's longest time series for high radio frequencies.

In recognition of this, Finland's Open Science National Coordination gave Metsähovi Radio Observatory and IT Centre for Science (CSC) the 2020 "Promoters for Openness" award. Each year, recognition is given to organisations that enable the implementation of open science practices in Finland and set an example for others with their own work.

Ensimmäinen piirretty aurinkoradiokartta vuodelta 1978
The first radio map of the sun, generated in 1978. The project also involved digitising old paper solar maps.

The Metsähovi Radio Observatory uses several radio telescopes and antennas to monitor the activity of the sun every day of the year. As data volumes have grown and data diversified, its demand has also increased.

‘We wanted to make it easier to share and find data. Our goal was to make it easy to refer to the data and to supplement it continuously with new observations,’ explains Joni Tammi, Director of Metsähovi Radio Observatory.

When no suitable storage platform was found for the continuously updating data set, Metsähovi decided to cooperate with the CSC to create one. CSC implemented a new kind of storage platform for the Fairdata service offered by the Ministry of Education and Culture. You can read more about the project here.

Solar data inspiring artists as well

It is important to understand and predict the activity of the Sun because solar flares, for example, can interfere with electricity and telecommunications networks and satellites. On the other hand, gradual changes taking place over the long-term could have impacts in areas such as the global climate, and these are not yet fully understood.

Open solar data can be utilised by researchers and students around the world.

‘Making the data openly available means that the entire scientific community can be part of Metsähovi’s solar research. This can lead to new cooperation projects with other research groups,’ explains Juha Kallunki, laboratory engineer responsible for solar observations at Metsähovi Radio Observatory.

Solar data has also had surprising uses, such as in art projects and even in some data-inspired poems.

‘As more and more people from different fields come across the data, new innovations may emerge. The applications and areas of use could basically be anything – the only limit is one’s imagination,’ Kallunki adds.

The award was given virtually at the Open Science Autumn Days on 7 December 2020.

Solar data online:

Metsähovi Open data site


More information

Joni Tammi
Metsähovi Radio Observatory, Aalto University
[email protected]

Juha Kallunki
PhD, Laborary engineer
Metsähovi Radio Observatory, Aalto University
[email protected]

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Metsähovi Radio Observatory's 14-metre radio telescope

Metsähovi Radio Observatory

Metsähovi Radio Observatory is the only astronomical radio observatory in Finland. Metsähovi’s main instrument is the 14-metre radio telescope, which is used around the clock, every day of the year. Its observational data is used, e.g., for studying active galaxies, the Sun, and the rotation of the Earth.

Aurinkokartta, jossa näkyy suurin havaittu purkaus Auringossa

Metsähovi Radio Observatory publishes solar data spanning more than four decades

The amount of data Metsähovi receives from the Sun is huge and is growing daily with new findings.

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