Explore the science of the sun.

What does a Heliophysicist do?

Named for “Helios,” the Greek god of the sun, a Heliophysicist is often known as a Solar Physicist, which is a fancy name for a “Sun Scientist.”

If you’re a Heliophysicist you know a lot about Earth’s favorite star. For example, the sun is the largest object in the solar system, containing more than 99.8 percent of the solar system’s total mass. It’s approximately 4.5 billion years old. It’s 109 times the size of earth. And it’s really, really hot (about 27 million degrees Fahrenheit, to be exact). And that’s just the beginning.

Employed by colleges, universities, museums, research labs, and government agencies, including the likes of NASA, you use telescopes, satellites, and computer programs to observe and analyze the sun from different places on earth—mountaintops, for instance, or the North and South poles. You might even work from space (at least two Heliophysicists flew aboard the Space Shuttle). Your goal: understanding why the sun looks and behaves the way it does, and predicting what it will do in the future, which of course impacts life on earth since the sun sustains it.

Like other Scientists, you spend most days developing hypotheses, then designing, executing, and raising funds for research that tests them. If you work at a university, you may also teach heliophysics. In addition, you write scholarly papers on solar science, and present your research findings at scientific conferences. Always, however, your eye is on the sun (not directly, of course, lest you go blind!).