Dr Helen Mason


  • 1993 - present: DAMTP, Assistant Director of Research
  • 1976 - present: DAMTP, Research Assistant/Associate
  • 2006 - present: Senior Tutor at St Edmund's College
  • 1987 - present: Fellow of St Edmund's College
  • 1982 - 1989: taught for the Open University
  • 1973 - 1976: Research Assistant, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University College London


Helen Mason's group has a very high international reputation in the field of solar physics with particular expertise is the analysis of the ultraviolet (UV) and X-ray spectrum from the solar atmosphere. The group carries out both theoretical simulations and observational work.

Over the past three decades, she has been involved in many solar space projects: Skylab, Solar Maximum Mission, Spacelab and YOHKOH. Over the past decade, she has been working as a co-investigator on a major ESA/NASA project - the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), which was launched in December 1995 and is still operational. The instruments on SOHO are used to monitor and study the solar interior, solar atmosphere and the solar wind. These observations, combined with those from other satellites in the near Earth environment, allow an unprecedented insight into the nature of the Sun and its interaction with the Earth. SOHO has provided some amazing and stunning observations and insights into the Sun, our star.

Her research group has played a very active role in the SOHO project and worked closely with the team at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory on the Coronal Diagnostic Spectrometer. She has made some major advances in solar physics with SOHO, including identifying the source the solar wind and studying the nature of coronal heating, in particular in solar active regions and flares. This is important for understanding and predicting space weather events (such as coronal mass ejections).

Helen is a founder member of a highly successful international collaboration (UK/USA/Italy) called CHIANTI - an atomic database for the analysis of astrophysical spectra. The CHIANTI project provides an important facility, which is now widely used by the solar and stellar physics communities. Helen's group takes an integrated approach to modelling solar physics phenomena, by linking its own theoretical models with atomic physics models (CHIANTI) to predict the observational characteristics of UV and X-ray spectra, for various instruments. This requires a very wide expertise in theory and observations.

Helen is currently working on an UK/USA/Japanese solar satellite, called Hinode, which was launched in 2006. Her group is also working closely with other Hinode teams, which is providing some fascinating results.

Outreach and Schools Activies

Helen has engaged in a multitude of outreach activities, in particular for school children. She gives talks at schools about the Sun. She has worked closely with the Millennium Maths Project , in particular the MOTIVATE project. She has also worked hard to encourage more females to study science and mathematics. Helen has participated in stands at Royal Society Summer exhibitions.

Helen led the production of a major website for UK schools called Sun|trek (www.suntrek.org), sponsored by STFC. Launched in 2007, Sun|trek is becoming very popular both nationally and internationally.

External Activities

From 2002 - 2006, Helen served on the PPARC (now STFC) Science and Society Advisory Committee and Chaired the Small Awards Panel.

Press Releases

Selected Publications

  • Janardhan, P., Tripathi, D. and Mason, H. E., 2008, The solar wind disappearance event of 11 May 1999: source region evolution Astron. Astrophys., 488, L1-4.
  • Dzifkov, E., Kulinov, A., Chifor, C., Mason, H. E., Del Zanna, G., Sylwester, J. and Sylwester, B., 2008, Nonthermal and thermal diagnostics of a solar flare observed with RESIK and RHESSI Astron. Astrophys., 488, 311-321.
  • Chifor, C., Young, P. R., Isobe, H., Mason, H. E., Tripathi, D., Hara, H., Yokoyama, T., 2008, An active region jet observed with Hinode Astron. Astrophys., 481, L57-60.
  • Tripathi, D., Mason, H. E., Young, P. R. and Del Zanna, G., 2008, Density structure of an active region and associated moss using Hinode/EIS Astron. Astrophys., 481, L53-56.
  • Dzifkov, E. and Mason, H.E., 2008, Computation of Non-Maxwellian Electron Excitation Rates for Ions of Astrophysical Interest: Fe xv A Test Case Solar Physics, 247, 301-320.
  • Young, P. R., Del Zanna, G., Mason, H. E., Dere, K. P., Li, E., Lini, M., Doschek, G. A., Brown, C. M., Culhane, L., Harra, L. K. et al, 2007, EUV Emission Lines and Diagnostics Observed with Hinode/EIS Public. Astron. Soc. Japan, 59, 857-864.
  • Young, P. R., Del Zanna, G., Mason, H. E., Doschek, G. A., Culhane, L. and Hara, H., 2007, Solar Transition Region Features Observed with Hinode/EIS Public. Astron. Soc. Japan, 59, 727-733
  • Doschek, G. A., Mariska, J. T., Warren, H. P., Culhane, L., Watanabe, T., Young, P. R., Mason, H. E. and Dere, K. P., 2007, The Temperature and Density Structure of an Active Region Observed with the Extreme-Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer on Hinode Public. Astron. Soc. Japan, 59, 707-712.
  • Doschek, G. A., Mariska, J. T., Warren, H. P., Brown, C. M., Culhane, J. L., Hara, H., Watanabe, T., Young, P. R. and Mason, H. E., 2007, Nonthermal Velocities in Solar Active Regions Observed with the Extreme-Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer on Hinode Astrophys. J., 667, L109-112
  • Chifor, C., Tripathi, D., Mason, H. E. and Dennis, B. R., 2007, X-ray precursors to flares and filament eruptions Astron. Astrophys., 472, 967-979.
  • Tripathi, D., Solanki, S. K., Mason, H. E. and Webb, D. F., 2007, A bright coronal downflow seen in multi-wavelength observations: evidence of a bifurcating flux-rope? Astron. Astrophys., 472, 633-642.
  • Schmelz, J. T., Nasraoui, K., Del Zanna, G., Cirtain, J. W., DeLuca, E. E. and Mason, H. E., 2007, Coronal Diagnostic Spectrometer Observations of Isothermal and Multithermal Coronal Loops Astrophys. J., 658, L119-122.
  • Cirtain, J. W., Del Zanna, G., DeLuca, E. E., Mason, H. E., Martens, P. C. H. and Schmelz, J. T., 2007, Active Region Loops: Temperature Measurements as a Function of Time from Joint TRACE and SOHO CDS Observations Astrophys. J., 655, 598-605.
  • Chifor, C., Del Zanna, G., Mason, H. E., Sylwester, J., Sylwester, B. and Phillips, K. J. H., 2007, A benchmark study for CHIANTI based on RESIK solar flare spectra Astron. Astrophys., 464, 323-330.