by Dr. Wes Lockwood
Last month, Lowell Observatory was the local host for the 8th SORCE Science Meeting, held in Sedona. SORCE (Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment) is a satellite launched in 2003 and operated by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado. It measures the total solar irradiance (the output of the Sun summed over all wavelengths), and the solar spectrum as well as other quantities relevant to the Sun’s influence on climate.
The theme of this year’s workshop was “Decadal Cycles in the Sun, Sun-like Stars, and Earth’s Climate System.” Jeff Hall and I have given brief reports about stellar variability at previous SORCE workshops, but this time an entire afternoon session was devoted to what we have learned from Sun-like stars pertinent to the question of solar variability. Lowell Observatory has been involved in this line of work since 1953. We have characterized the variability of Sun-like stars on decadal timescales using observations made by Brian Skiff from 1984 to 2000 at our historic 21-inch reflecting telescope on Mars Hill. Our results are published in a series of papers in The Astrophysical Journal beginning in 1997. Observations with robotic photometric telescopes at Fairborn Observatory in southern Arizona continue under the direction of Greg Henry at Tennessee State University.
Our long-time collaborator Richard Radick at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Sunspot, NM, gave the keynote address for the stellar session, His survey included Lowell work that Jeff Hall, Brian Skiff, Len Bright, and I continue to do using the solar-stellar spectrograph (“SSS”) at the 42-inch telescope as well as photometric work at Lowell and Fairborn Observatory.
This year’s SORCE workshop included a field trip via bus up through Oak Creek Canyon to Lowell Observatory where we hosted campus tours, a reception in the Rotunda, the customary science dinner, and telescope viewing at the Clark telescope. It was a privilege for the Observatory to offer prominent solar and climate scientists from all over the world a brief taste of what makes Lowell Observatory a special place in the history of twentieth century astronomy.
For more information about SORCE, check out their website. http://lasp.colorado.edu/sorce/index.htm.