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.

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