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Sun-Earth Day Presents: Ancient Observatories, Timeless Knowledge

Technology Through Time: Issue #26, Learmonth

Solar flares are unexpected explosions of solar energy, so round-the-clock views of the solar surface are the only way to catch them in their act. Remote observatories like Learmonth provide solar scientists with up to the minute data.


North West Cape of Western Australia, between the Indian Ocean and the Exmouth Gulf. Nearest town, Exmouth.
Longitude: 114d 36' E
Latitude: 22d 7' S


The observatory operates both an optical and a radio telescope system. The optical system uses a ten-inch diameter refracting telescope to observe the surface of the sun at several wavelengths in the visible spectrum. Analysts use this system to monitor solar flare activity, perform sunspot analysis and produce magnetic field maps of the sun's surface. The radio telescope uses three parabolic antennas with diameters of 28 feet, 8 feet, and 3 feet, and two fixed antennas to monitor radio emissions from the sun. This system measures eight frequencies ranging from 245 MHz to 15,400 MHz. Additionally, it monitors the frequencies between 30 and 80 MHz. Analysts use the radio telescope to detect and identify sudden increases in radio energy emitted by the sun that correlate to solar flares and other events that can impact operations, especially communications.

Learmonth Solar Observatory is jointly operated by IPS Radio and Space Services and by the US Air Force. The observatory is the site of one of six solar velocity imagers in the world-wide GONG (Global Oscillation Network Group) network operated by NOAO (U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatories).


Analyze optical and radio emissions from the sun and to monitor the near-earth space environment. Of particular interest are features on the sun such as solar flares and radio bursts emitted from the sun.



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Learmonth Solar Observatory