Waves and Flows: Linking the Solar Photosphere to the Corona

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Mathematics and Physics

Abstract

The Sun is one of the most important objects for humankind, with solar activity driving "space weather" and having a profound effect on the Earth's environment. We can directly see the effects of the Sun's powerful radiation through fascinating sights on Earth, such as the aurora borealis. However, it was the paradoxical nature of our Sun's temperature structure that first captivated my attention. One of the greatest scientific problems plaguing physicists is the fact that the outer atmosphere of our Sun is much hotter than its surface. Common sense leads us to believe that the local temperature will decrease as we move away from the Sun's 6000 K surface temperature. However, the corona, an atmospheric layer a few thousand km above the surface, radiates with a temperature exceeding one million degrees. Efforts to understand the heating processes responsible have remained at the forefront of observational and theoretical research for over 50 years, producing a popular class of theory known as wave heating. This mechanism suggests that waves, generated near the solar surface through the continual churning of plasma, propagate upwards, ultimately dissipating their energy and heating the Sun's outer atmosphere. A good analogy is to envisage ocean waves that travel vast distances across the sea before crashing on to shorelines, ultimately releasing immense quantities of energy in the process. However, the solar atmosphere is highly magnetic in nature. Magnetic field strengths often exceed 0.3 Tesla (similar in strength to modern open MRI scanners found in hospitals), resulting in wave modes becoming highly modified, and producing magneto-hydrodynamic (MHD) phenomena.

It is my desire to help improve our understanding of the physical processes at work within the Sun's atmosphere, an object that is so influential to life on Earth. A natural consequence of understanding the effects of solar magnetism will be the ability to predict solar activity, something that will ultimately allow us to protect ourselves from fierce outbursts of space weather. To pursue this crucial agenda, we need to observe and model the processes occurring in the Sun's atmosphere on their intrinsic scales. The UK has recently benefitted from a new breed of high-resolution solar instrumentation, including the Rapid Oscillations in the Solar Atmosphere (ROSA), Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), Hinode, and IRIS facilities, which will allow for the first time fundamental processes associated with the release of magnetic energy to be studied at an unprecedented level of detail. As an STFC Fellow, I will use modern ground- and space-based telescopes containing a wide assortment of high-resolution imaging and spectroscopic instrumentation. The observational component of my research will focus on the distinction of individual MHD waves, allowing key characteristics to be evaluated. These include the modes of oscillation (longitudinal, transverse, etc.), velocities, plasma densities, and temperatures, which can be combined to provide detailed energy estimates. The rate at which energy is dissipated will be compared to the heating requirements of the corona, with the exact role waves play in the heating of the Sun's corona unequivocally determined. Fundamental parameters deduced from high-resolution observations will be incorporated into advanced computer simulations. Large computer clusters, with 200+ CPUs, will be used to examine the 3D effects of waves on magnetic fields which intertwine the entire solar atmosphere. Characteristics associated with the waves will be studied in simulated solar structures, with forward modelling techniques implemented to allow direct comparisons with the physical observations to be undertaken, culminating in much refined heating models of the solar atmosphere. With the rapid advancements made in the field of solar physics over the last number of years, the ability to finally resolve the atmospheric heating paradox is now a reality.

Publications

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Alvarez Gonzalez F. (2017) Project SunbYte: solar astronomy on a budget in Astronomy and Geophysics

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Christian D (2015) H a AND EUV OBSERVATIONS OF A PARTIAL CME in The Astrophysical Journal

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Grant Samuel D. T. (2018) Alfvén wave dissipation in the solar chromosphere in Nature Physics

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Houston S. J. (2018) The Magnetic Response of the Solar Atmosphere to Umbral Flashes in The Astrophysical Journal

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Jess D (2014) NANOFLARE ACTIVITY IN THE SOLAR CHROMOSPHERE in The Astrophysical Journal

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Jess D. B. (2016) Ultra-High-Resolution Observations of MHD Waves in Photospheric Magnetic Structures in Washington DC American Geophysical Union Geophysical Monograph Series

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Jess David B. (2017) An Inside Look at Sunspot Oscillations with Higher Azimuthal Wavenumbers in The Astrophysical Journal

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Keys P (2014) Dynamic properties of bright points in an active region in Astronomy & Astrophysics

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Keys Peter H. (2018) Photospheric Observations of Surface and Body Modes in Solar Magnetic Pores in The Astrophysical Journal

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Krishna Prasad S (2019) The Temperature-Dependent Damping of Propagating Slow Magnetoacoustic Waves in Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences

 
Title Nature Physics cover art 
Description An image from the HARDcam instrument (funded by STFC grant ST/L002744/1) was selected for the cover of the February 2016 edition of Nature Physics. 
Type Of Art Image 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Considerable interest has been created in the USA where the STFC-funded instrument is now based, with many new research groups wishing to collaborate and use scientific images captured from HARDcam. 
URL http://www.nature.com/nphys/journal/v12/n2/covers/index.html
 
Description This research has addressed the role of waves and oscillations propagating through the solar atmosphere. We have begun to use observations spanning the infrared through to X-rays to detect, track and quantify the energetics of wave motion in the Sun's atmosphere. We have used these waves to measure and map, for the first time, the magnitude of the coronal magnetic field. In addition, we have coupled theory and observations to find first-time evidence of rare magnetic shocks occurring in sunspot atmospheres.
Exploitation Route Our methods and techniques can be further refined by other research groups by incorporating parallel processing and GPU architecture. Higher resolution observations from upcoming telescopes will also help continue our work on even smaller spatial scales.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Education,Other

URL http://star.pst.qub.ac.uk/~dbj
 
Description The research undertaken in this grant has resulted in numerous public outreach and social events which have helped to raise the awareness of science to the general public. We have participated in numerous high-impact national events such as Stargazing Live and Jupiter Watch which attracted thousands of the general public.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Invited reviewer for the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO; Flanders Research Foundation)
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact The advisory panel provides awards to early-career researchers, who will feel the economic benefits through long-term employment.
 
Description Invited reviewer for the Polish National Science Centre
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact Panel provides funds for the hiring of staff and students.
 
Description Member of the National Solar Observatory's User's Committee
Geographic Reach North America 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Impact The guidance committee that I am a member of is responsible for providing millions of USD of funding to support research and telescope infrastructure across North America. Those who became employed following this grants round clearly experienced an economic impact, including those with industrial ties requiring manufacturing to proceed.
 
Description NASA peer review panel
Geographic Reach North America 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact The advisory panel that I was a member of was responsible for providing millions of USD of funding to researchers across North America. Those who became employed following this grants round clearly experienced an economic impact, including those with industrial ties requiring manufacturing to proceed.
 
Description NASA peer review panel
Geographic Reach North America 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact The advisory panel that I was a member of was responsible for providing millions of USD of funding to researchers across North America. Those who became employed following this grants round clearly experienced an economic impact, including those with industrial ties requiring manufacturing to proceed.
 
Description NASA peer review panel
Geographic Reach North America 
Policy Influence Type Participation in advisory committee
Impact This work has resulted in the award of research grants in North America, thus providing economic growth to areas of astronomical research.
 
Description Industry-linked award
Amount £2,398,846 (GBP)
Funding ID 059RDEN-1 
Organisation Randox Laboratories 
Sector Private
Country Global
Start 05/2017 
End 09/2021
 
Description STFC ERF standard grant
Amount £339,081 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/L002744/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2014 
End 07/2017
 
Description STFC Projects Peer Review Panel - large projects
Amount £1,902,471 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/L006308/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2014 
End 05/2018
 
Title Fourier filtering of high-resolution solar datasets 
Description The next-generation solar telescopes will produce TBs of data each day. It is therefore important to develop automated routines to filter/comb the data for features of particular interest. This tool will perform Fourier filtering on three dimensional datasets to isolate structures, wave modes and dynamics for subsequent scientific study. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Will form the basis of a toolkit designed for the next-generation DKIST telescope. 
URL http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2017ApJ...842...59J
 
Title Monte Carlo nanoflare statistics 
Description We have finalised a statistical approach that is able to link observations to the quantitative presence of nanoflares through Monte Carlo techniques. This code is now publicly available to all researchers following publication. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact New collaborative partnerships. 
URL https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-4357/aaf8ae/meta
 
Title Using magneto-hydrodynamic waves to map the coronal magnetic field 
Description These methods are a novel new technique to use the omnipresent nature of propagating magneto-acoustic waves in the Sun's corona to map the magnetic field strength several thousand kilometres above the solar surface. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Significant interest in our methods and programs, with additional publications currently under development. 
URL http://www.nature.com/nphys/journal/v12/n2/full/nphys3544.html
 
Description Collaborative Research 
Organisation California State University, Northridge
Department Department of Physics and Astronomy
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We acquired, analysed and interpreted data with the help of the above collaborations.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative partnership for research and subsequent publications.
Impact Multiple publications in refereed scientific journals.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaborative Research 
Organisation Catholic University of Louvain
Department Centre for Mathematical Plasma-Astrophysics
Country Belgium 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We acquired, analysed and interpreted data with the help of the above collaborations.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative partnership for research and subsequent publications.
Impact Multiple publications in refereed scientific journals.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaborative Research 
Organisation Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands
Country Spain 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We acquired, analysed and interpreted data with the help of the above collaborations.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative partnership for research and subsequent publications.
Impact Multiple publications in refereed scientific journals.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaborative Research 
Organisation Lockheed Martin
Department Advanced Technology Center
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We acquired, analysed and interpreted data with the help of the above collaborations.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative partnership for research and subsequent publications.
Impact Multiple publications in refereed scientific journals.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaborative Research 
Organisation National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We acquired, analysed and interpreted data with the help of the above collaborations.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative partnership for research and subsequent publications.
Impact Multiple publications in refereed scientific journals.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaborative Research 
Organisation National Institute for Astrophysics
Department Arcetri Observatory
Country Italy 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We acquired, analysed and interpreted data with the help of the above collaborations.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative partnership for research and subsequent publications.
Impact Multiple publications in refereed scientific journals.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaborative Research 
Organisation National Solar Observatory (NSO)
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We acquired, analysed and interpreted data with the help of the above collaborations.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative partnership for research and subsequent publications.
Impact Multiple publications in refereed scientific journals.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaborative Research 
Organisation Northumbria University
Department Mathematics and Information Sciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We acquired, analysed and interpreted data with the help of the above collaborations.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative partnership for research and subsequent publications.
Impact Multiple publications in refereed scientific journals.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaborative Research 
Organisation University of Calabria
Department Department of Physics
Country Italy 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We acquired, analysed and interpreted data with the help of the above collaborations.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative partnership for research and subsequent publications.
Impact Multiple publications in refereed scientific journals.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaborative Research 
Organisation University of Manchester
Department Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We acquired, analysed and interpreted data with the help of the above collaborations.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative partnership for research and subsequent publications.
Impact Multiple publications in refereed scientific journals.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaborative Research 
Organisation University of Oslo
Country Norway 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We acquired, analysed and interpreted data with the help of the above collaborations.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative partnership for research and subsequent publications.
Impact Multiple publications in refereed scientific journals.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaborative Research 
Organisation University of Sheffield
Department Automatic Control and Systems Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We acquired, analysed and interpreted data with the help of the above collaborations.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative partnership for research and subsequent publications.
Impact Multiple publications in refereed scientific journals.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaborative Research 
Organisation University of Sheffield
Department Solar Physics and Space Plasma Research Centre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We acquired, analysed and interpreted data with the help of the above collaborations.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative partnership for research and subsequent publications.
Impact Multiple publications in refereed scientific journals.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaborative Research 
Organisation University of St Andrews
Department School of Mathematics and Statistics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We acquired, analysed and interpreted data with the help of the above collaborations.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative partnership for research and subsequent publications.
Impact Multiple publications in refereed scientific journals.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Article published in Cosmos Magazine (2015) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I published a research-focused article in the international Cosmos Magazine, which attracts ~110,000 readers each month.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/early-warning-system-solar-flares
 
Description Article published in The Conversation magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I published an invited article in The Conversation magazine related to space weather, receiving ~90,000 reads.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://theconversation.com/new-early-warning-system-could-protect-earth-from-explosive-space-weathe...
 
Description Ask an Astronomer event at the STFC Roadshow 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A wide-range of amateur astronomers attended to ask questions and stimulate debate amongst the group.

Many people have asked for subsequent information, including invitations to deliver more public talks and seminars.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Café Scientifique panel member at BBC Stargazing Live 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Over 100 public attendees at each event (I was an invited panel member for 2 events) sparking over 1 hour of open questions.

Many members of the public have since contacted me asking for institutional visits and inviting me to more public events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description DNA of Innovation: Volume V 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I represented the School of Mathematics and Physics at the DNA of Innovation: Volume V public showcase event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Interview for NBC news 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I provided a scientific commentary on work published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/new-solar-flare-simulation-reveals-dazzling-beauty-dangerous-er...
 
Description NI Science Festival 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was asked to give one of the opening lectures for the 2016 NI Science Festival, which sparked many questions from school-age pupils. I have since emailed them more information, hopefully fuelling their interest in STEM subjects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.nisciencefestival.com/event.php?e=239
 
Description News report for Science Daily magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I was interviewed for a magazine article in Science Daily, which has a wide readership, which sparked more requests for information and interviews.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180306093302.htm
 
Description Press movie for the DNA of Innovation: Volume V showcase event (2015) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a press movie produced by QUB to draw media attention to The DNA of Innovation: Volume V showcase event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://star.pst.qub.ac.uk/~dbj/Press_Media/QUB_DNA_interview.mp4
 
Description Public talk to sixth-form students (Belfast 2016) 
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 Schools
Results and Impact 50 sixth-form pupils attended QUB to hear talks about career prospects in STEM subjects. My talk was received well and many pupils asked questions and requested followup material.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description QUB Open Day talks 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact I gave 2 talks to groups of secondary school students who were keen on applying for a degree in physics. My talks were 30 minutes long but each session produced nearly 20 minutes of questions each.

Many keen students applying for places at Queen's University Belfast.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Radio interview on East Coast FM 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I was interviewed by East Coast FM regarding an article I had published in Nature Physics in 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description STFC Roadshow at QUB 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I participated in the STFC roadshow demonstrations at QUB, and explained telescope workings to the general public and visiting media personnel.

Many people have asked for subsequent information, including invitations for more public talks and seminars.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://www.stfc.ac.uk/2740.aspx
 
Description Society for Popular Astronomy seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Over 50 attendees where amateur astronomers were able to openly discuss astrophysical research, sparking over 30 minutes of questions after my seminar.

An invitation to deliver another seminar in 2014.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description TV interview for BBC Newsnight 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interviewed to discuss the widespread interest in the BBC Stargazing Live week, and appeared on regional and national TV.

Attracted more public interest and visitors to Stargazing Live events later in the week.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Television interview for NVTV's Focal Point show 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was interviewed about science in Northern Ireland by NVTV's Focal Point TV programme.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://star.pst.qub.ac.uk/~dbj/Press_Media/NVTV_Focal_Point_18November2015.mp4