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.
Aurinkokartta, jossa näkyy suurin havaittu purkaus Auringossa

Aalto University's Metsähovi Radio Observatory is the only astronomical radio research station in Finland. Their most important research instrument is the 14-meter-diameter radio telescope, which has been used to study how the Sun works for more than four decades. Metsähovi has now made their solar data open to the public.

Joni Tammi, Director of Metsähovi Radio Observatory, explains more about the project and how the Sun operates: “Solar activity occurs in 11-year cycles, and, for example, solar flares affect the operation of power grids and satellites much more at certain times than others. Additionally, there seem to be much longer fluctuations in activity that take place over hundreds of years. In other words, a lot of data must be collected over a very long period of time in order to make reliable predictions about how the Sun operates. The data set collected by Metsähovi is also globally one of the longest, collected with high radio frequency.”

Ensimmäinen piirretty aurinkoradiokartta vuodelta 1978
First, in 1978 drawn solar radiomap.

A new research data service has enabled the release of a growing data set

One of the biggest challenges in publishing the data was finding the right storage solution. Metsähovi's data is unique because it grows as new observations are continuously made so it was decided to cooperate with CSC (IT Center for Science Ltd.), which has developed the old Fairdata service, owned by Ministry of Education and Culture, to support the publishing of growing data sets.

Radio data from the Sun is uploaded monthly to the Fairdata service, one of CSC's data publication platforms. The goal was to develop the existing service to be more intuitive and user-friendly for publishing growing data sets. This prevents the system from issuing a new identifier every time new data is uploaded each month. It is now possible to reference the growing dataset and the increase in its observations is apparent.

The support for publishing growing data sets developed by CSC has only recently been implemented and no similar services have yet been seen elsewhere. In Finland, Aalto University and Metsähovi are its first users.

Predicting solar activity is important

The aim of Metsähovi's research is to better understand and predict the Sun’s activity as this affect everything on earth, both in life and technology. The Sun also has an impact on climate change so it’s important to understand how its cyclical operation and activity contributes to climate change.

Although solar flares do not endanger life on earth, they can severely disrupt the operation of technology, such as power and telecommunications networks and satellites. In order to prepare for possible disturbances, solar activity forecasts must be made as accurate as possible as they would aid the early detection of possible discharges.

Publishing the data can lead to new discoveries

People examine things from different perspectives, and this is also the case with solar radio data. Tammi emphasises that Metsähovi Radio Observatory wants to find people from different fields who may be interested in the data.

“Researchers in different fields can find similarities with data from their own projects. This makes it possible to find and get more information on various phenomena and problems that have not previously been discovered”, Tammi states.

Local, national and even international communities of researchers have shown interest in the data from the Sun. Metsähovi's expertise and data have also been of interest to artists, and the data has been used as part of art exhibitions and even in master's degrees in art. “Our solar data has been used in artwork in ways we would never have imagined”, Tammi adds.

The data set is now openly available on Fairdata service.

Go to Metsähovi's Open data siteView solar data at Fairdata servic

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.

Read more
Metsähovi Radio Observatory's 14-metre radio telescope
Metsähovi Radio Observatory, Joni Tammi

Three fascinating facts about space – which mystery would space researcher Joni Tammi like to understand?

When Joni Tammi was on the first grade, he gave his first school presentation about stars. It started a journey that led to a career in space research. But what was the brainwave he got during his studies on a course taught by astronomer Esko Valtaoja?

Solar map

Northern lights are the most visible sign of the Sun's activity – and other facts about our closest star

The Sun has been studied at Aalto University's Metsähovi Radio Observatory over 40 years. These observations form the basis for solar radio maps that provide researchers with an insight into the Sun’s behaviour, for example.

Kuva mustasta aukosta

Astronomers capture first image of a black hole

Aalto University contributed to paradigm-shifting observations of the gargantuan black hole at the heart of distant galaxy Messier 87


Aalto University is currently running a fundraising campaign aimed at raising money to upgrade Metsähovi's radio telescope with a receiver that uses entirely new technology, enabling faster, more versatile and accurate sun observation.

Elliptical Galaxies

New technology revolutionises the way we look at the universe – donate towards a new receiver at Metsähovi

This year we got a picture of a black hole 26 000 light years away! But would it be possible to see even more and see even further?

Give for the future
  • Published:
  • Updated:
URL copied!

Read more news

Eveliina Peltola. Photo: Lassi Savola.
Appointments, Research & Art Published:

Eveliina Peltola: Mathematics is beautiful because in it everything falls into place in a natural way

Assistant Professor Eveliina Peltola sees mathematics as a universal language that people need to get into before they can use it.
Lääkäri juttelee lapsen kanssa
Press releases, Research & Art Published:

Researchers develop better way to determine safe drug doses for children

New research on organ maturation models could lead to improvements in drug development
alto_University_Learning_Centre Tuomas_Uush
Research & Art Published:

Volunteer as a Publication Forum (JUFO) panellist!

Julkaisufoorumi (JUFO, the Publication Forum) is appointing new panels for the term 2022-2025. The panels are responsible for the ranking of publication channels, mainly journals and conference series. This ranking is used in the funding model of the Ministry of Education and Culture. It is thus important that all publication channels are correctly ranked. We are now looking for volunteers for all fields relevant to Aalto.
Unite! Charter on Diversity and Inclusion.jpeg
Research & Art, Studies, University Published:

Unite! university alliance strongly committed on promoting diversity and inclusion

Unite!, a pioneering European university alliance, has published their Charter on Diversity and Inclusion.