Honorary Doctorate for Sami K. Solanki

The University of Oulu in Finland has honored Prof. Dr. Sami K. Solanki from the MPS for his contributions to the study of solar activity and variability.

May 24, 2017

Prof. Dr. Sami K. Solanki, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen, has received the honorary doctorate of the Finnish University of Oulu as part of an elaborate three-day ceremony, which the university celebrates every four years. In his laudation Prof. Dr. Ilya Usoskin, physics professor in Oulu, honored the researcher from Göttingen as one of the world's leading solar physicists - both in the field of modeling the Sun and in the experimental exploration of our star.

Although it looks almost always the same when seen with the naked eye, the Sun is quite a  variable star. During some phases it emits a true firework of radiation and particles into space; its visible surface is then covered by numerous dark sunspots. In other phases our star shows its quieter side. What physical processes in the Sun cause these changes? And how strongly can our star’s variability affect the climate on Earth? These questions are addressed by Prof. Dr. Sami K. Solanki - with a detailed look at sunspots and the basic building blocks of the solar magnetic fields.

In addition to theoretical models describing the Sun, Solanki uses experimental observations. The researcher from Göttingen is the head of the Sunrise mission, which observed the Sun in 2009 and 2013 from an altitude of more than 35 kilometers with the help of a balloon-borne observatory. Without the disturbing influence of the Earth's atmosphere, Sunrise was able to uncover tiny structures on the Sun's visible surface. A third flight is in preparation. SO/PHI will occupy an even better observation position. The telescope, which was developed and built at the MPS, will be launched on board the ESA space probe Solar Orbiter next autumn and will travel within approximately 42 million kilometers of our star – closer than any other space probe before. Solanki is the Principal Investigator of the SO/PHI team.

Prof. Dr. Sami K. Solanki prepared his doctoral thesis at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich (Switzerland). In the following years, he worked in Zurich, at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and from 1998 onwards as a professor at the University of Oulu. In 1999, Solanki was appointed Director of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (then Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy). In 2009 he also became a distinguished professor at the School of Space Research at the Kyung Hee University in South Korea.

The University of Oulu awards its honorary doctorates every four years to a group of selected researchers, who have distinguished themselves by particularly valuable contributions to their field of research. This year, 23 scientists were honored in this way. The award is part of a three-day ceremony, in which the university also conferred the doctorate degree to 283 young researchers. The event follows an old tradition and took place this year as part of the celebration of the centennial of Finnish independence.

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