Flow-driven Instabilities of the Sun-Earth System

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Engineering Computer Science and Maths

Abstract

Waves on the sea or in the clouds are some of the most simple, yet beautiful, natural dynamic phenomena on Earth. They sometimes roll-up and form growing whirls. These phenomena occur due to a large flow difference at the transition between the air and water or cloud, which makes the boundary unstable. Similar instabilities also take place in space, when the filling plasma, a mixture of charged particles, is exposed to various sources of flows. The solar wind, for instance, is a continuous stream of plasma flowing away from the Sun. The magnetic field of the Earth forms a protective bubble called the magnetosphere, which is affected by large disturbances in the solar wind. The boundary between the solar wind and the magnetosphere is notably subject to large boundary motions. These motions may be the response to the changing force of the solar wind, like a fluttering windsock. They may also be growing whirls, that could involve a mixture of the two plasmas. In the solar wind, one can find massive clouds of material, called Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). CMEs are ejected from the solar atmosphere at hundreds of km per second, and are associated with outflows, another source of abrupt flow changes and instabilities. Very similar outflows are generated inside the magnetosphere. Space observations are challenging to analyse, the complexity of plasma physics makes them interesting to study and understand. I have long been fascinated by the natural world and its impact on us. The Sun affects life on Earth in many ways. Dangerous, high energy, charged particles are often produced in the CME disturbances. The magnetosphere shields us from most harmful solar effects. However, the large disturbances in the solar wind affect our climate and causes, for instance, communication drop-outs, power outages and radiation exposure on transatlantic flights. In the Sun's outer atmosphere, the solar corona, there are relatively cool, dense clouds of gas, which we call the solar prominences (or filaments). Prominences are in constant motion and display a relatively fast dynamic and turbulent flow system. Sometimes prominences erupt off the Sun, along with CMEs. From space, we can observe prominences night and day without interruption. Doing so, I have discovered prominences which oscillate quite slowly, so slowly that it is almost impossible to detect it continuously from Earth. The oscillations seem connected to prominence eruptions. Is there a link between the two types of dynamics, fast and slow? Is this link relevant to other flow instabilities in space? How are the prominences formed and why do they erupt? How is the solar wind accelerated? How does the solar wind get through the apparently closed field lines of the Earth's magnetic field? To find out, I propose to get a better picture of the flow instabilities in regions of the Sun-Earth system, where they seem to play a major role. All these phenomena are observed with a telescope or with a satellite measuring the plasma properties in space. Such observations present complementary perspectives. Their ever-increasing number and quality (e.g. Solar Dynamics Observatory) make it the right time to compare the phenomena, find their common features and their differences. I find it both exciting to develop a unifying view (combining my past experiences in both research fields) and important for our society to shed light on the processes at work in key regions of the Sun-Earth system.

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
ST/I003649/1 01/02/2012 30/06/2013 £432,816
ST/I003649/2 Transfer ST/I003649/1 01/07/2013 31/01/2017 £314,676
 
Title 3D prints of Comet 
Description 3D prints of Comet 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact Designed and delivered comet workshops associated with the use of the 3d object: impacting/supporting Widening Participation for CEMPS through initiating and creating 'Space in Your Hands' Consortium and innovative Outreach Activities, incorporating the use of 3D printing technology. 
 
Description Response in RAS Consultation for House of Commons Science and Technology Committee 'Inquiry into the Science Budget'
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description AXA Postdoctoral Fellowship
Amount £85,714 (GBP)
Funding ID 2014-AXA Postdoctoral grant-Judith De patoul 
Organisation AXA 
Department AXA Research Fund
Sector Private
Country France
Start 04/2015 
End 08/2017
 
Description College PhD Studentship
Amount £73,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Exeter 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2015 
End 03/2019
 
Description Kevin Westfold Distinguished Visitor
Amount $5,000 (AUD)
Organisation Monash University 
Department Monash Centre for Astrophysics
Sector Academic/University
Country Australia
Start 07/2014 
End 08/2014
 
Description Open Innovation Link Fund award
Amount £1,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Exeter 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2015 
End 07/2015
 
Description STFC Exeter 2018 DTP
Amount £150,664 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/S505389/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 09/2022
 
Description STFC Introductory Solar System Plasmas Summer School 2018, University of Exeter
Amount £16,880 (GBP)
Funding ID 4070203850 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2018 
End 01/2019
 
Description Sponsorship for IAU Symposium 335 - 'Space Weather of the Heliosphere: Processes and Forecasts'
Amount $3,000 (USD)
Organisation Scientific Committee on Solar Terrestrial Physics 
Sector Public
Country Canada
Start 07/2017 
End 07/2017
 
Description Sponsorship for IAU Symposium 335 - 'Space Weather of the Heliosphere: Processes and Forecasts'
Amount € 20,000 (EUR)
Organisation International Astronomical Union 
Sector Learned Society
Country France
Start 07/2017 
End 07/2017
 
Description Sponsorship for IAU Symposium 335 - 'Space Weather of the Heliosphere: Processes and Forecasts'
Amount € 1,000 (EUR)
Organisation Committee on Space Research 
Sector Public
Country France
Start 07/2017 
End 07/2017
 
Description Sponsorship for IAU Symposium 335 - 'Space Weather of the Heliosphere: Processes and Forecasts'
Amount £3,000 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Astronomical Society 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2017 
End 07/2017
 
Description Sponsorship for IAU Symposium 335 - 'Space Weather of the Heliosphere: Processes and Forecasts'
Amount £2,000 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2017 
End 07/2017
 
Description Sponsorship for IAU Symposium 335 - 'Space Weather of the Heliosphere: Processes and Forecasts'
Amount £100 (GBP)
Organisation Institute of Physics (IOP) 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2017 
End 07/2017
 
Description Sponsorship for IAU Symposium 335 - 'Space Weather of the Heliosphere: Processes and Forecasts'
Amount € 2,000 (EUR)
Organisation European Geosciences Union 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country Germany
Start 07/2017 
End 07/2017
 
Description Sponsorship for IAU Symposium 335 - 'Space Weather of the Heliosphere: Processes and Forecasts'
Amount $1,000 (USD)
Organisation International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy 
Sector Private
Country Switzerland
Start 07/2017 
End 07/2017
 
Description Cluster Guest Investigator (PI) 
Organisation ESA - ESTEC
Country Netherlands 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Cluster GI proposal on 'Magnetopause boundary layer: evolution of plasma and turbulent characteristics along the flank' selected for dawn run in Spring 2016.
Collaborator Contribution Proposal Co-Investigators. ESA Cluster operation team.
Impact In progress
Start Year 2014
 
Description ISSI Team 214 (Flow-Driven Instabilities of the Sun-Earth System) 
Organisation International Space Science Institute (ISSI)
Country Switzerland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution ISSI Team Leader (Flow-Driven Instabilities of the Sun-Earth System)
Collaborator Contribution Team members, Young Scientists, External Experts
Impact http://www.issibern.ch/teams/flowsunearth/
Start Year 2012
 
Description Exeter Maths School Year10 Summer Residential Workshop (University of Exeter) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 40 pupils attended the Exeter Maths School Year 10 Summer Residential Workshop to the University, "Getting close to a Comet and closer to the Sun", and the school reported increase in understanding afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://emps.exeter.ac.uk/outreach/exetermathsschool/
 
Description IAUS335 Education Program 'Space Weather of the Heliosphere' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact * A day of hands-on workshops and short talks for schools.
* A twilight Continuing Professional Development (CPD) session for teachers.
* Two short public talks ending with a 'fun fair' for children.
* Public talk on Space Weather at the Norman Lockyer Observatory. § Long-term exhibition on History of Space Science in the Old Library

https://aandg.org/blog/three-days-of-international-outreach-on-space-weather
https://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/university/title_593730_en.html
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/iaus335/education-program/
 
Description Maths Explore Day (CEMPS, University of Exeter) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 26 pupils (Year 11) attended for CEMPS Maths Explore Day to the University, and the students reported change in understanding and sparked interest.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://emps.exeter.ac.uk/outreach/
 
Description Monthly Maths Challenge (Exeter Maths School) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Type Of Presentation Paper Presentation
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Monthly Maths Challenge n.5 "Seeing solar storms in STEREO", April 2014, courtesy C. Foullon, http://www.exetermathematicsschool.ac.uk/competition/

Monthly Maths Challenges are part of a targeted outreach programme developed and delivered specifically for those students who clearly demonstrate a mathematical aptitude to thrive in a specialist mathematical environment. One of the aims of the Exeter Mathematics School (EMS) is to raise aspirations among mathematically able young people.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://emps.exeter.ac.uk/outreach/exetermathsschool/
 
Description Ottery St Mary School Space Week 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A class of ~40 teenage girls attended the workshop, and the students reported change in understanding and sparked interest.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://emps.exeter.ac.uk/outreach/
 
Description Public Outreach Lecture (MoCA, Melbourne, Australia) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards.

Talk inspired astronomy amateurs and children to further their interest in the subject.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://moca.monash.edu/outreach/foullon.html
 
Description Public Outreach Lecture SpaceExe Student Society; 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://youtu.be/QfKe0NCC7Ec
 
Description Public stand for Bristish Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Sparked Public interest
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016