Dynamics of Complex Magnetic Fields: From the corona to the solar wind

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Mathematical Sciences

Abstract

This project, entitled "Dynamics of Complex Magnetic Fields: From the corona to the solar wind'', is a continuation of a successful collaboration between the researchers of the Universities of Dundee and Durham on the entangled nature of magnetic fields in the solar atmosphere. The corona, the outer atmosphere of the Sun, is a dynamic plasma permeated by a magnetic field. This magnetic field is responsible for creating long-lived structures such as coronal loops, for heating the corona to its multi-million degree temperatures, and for explosive events such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections. These powerful explosions lead to major space weather events at Earth, creating the Northern and Southern lights but also having the potential for damaging economic impacts on engineered systems, ranging from satellites and communication systems to power grids and pipelines. It is becoming apparent that forecasting the occurrence and impact of space weather events cannot rely on static extrapolation models but requires a deep understanding of the dynamical behaviour of the Sun's magnetic field. Details of the complex, three-dimensional magnetic fields in the Sun's corona are a critical part of the space weather chain of events. At the same time, it is important to understand the manner in which these magnetic structures evolve in the solar wind as they are carried out towards Earth. This consortium aims to address these questions, as part of a wider goal in the scientific community of understanding the formation of structures in astrophysical plasmas.

Different projects within the consortium will focus on different aspects of the chain of events. We will address problems such as: How can we best model the build-up of coronal magnetic structure over time? What is the nature of the twisted magnetic "flux ropes" that form in the corona, and how does their structure evolve as they erupt and form coronal mass ejections? Where is the source of the non-steady slow component of the solar wind? What is the mechanism that makes the Sun's corona so hot? What controls the lowest energy state to which the coronal magnetic field can relax, and therefore how much energy is available to heat the plasma? Can we predict the equilibrium structure of the corresponding relaxed states? Common to each of these questions is the challenge of understanding dynamical, multi-scale processes in the Sun's coronal magnetic field.

We will use a combination of numerical simulations and mathematical modelling to tackle these questions, primarily using the non-linear partial differential equations of magnetohydrodynamics. Importantly, the modelling will take input from the latest generation of solar telescopes - several of our models will be directly "data-driven", and observations will be used to validate output (from global simulations of the coronal magnetic field to predictions of the slow solar wind and structure of magnetic clouds at Earth). Combined, the results will help to predict and explain events in the solar corona and to answer STFC's Science Roadmap Challenge B:2 ("How does the Sun influence the environment of the Earth and the rest of the Solar System?"), as well as to understand some of the basic plasma physical processes that go on throughout the Universe.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Research Project Grant
Amount £156,445 (GBP)
Funding ID RPG-2017-169 
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 09/2020
 
Description STFC Impact Acceleration Account
Amount £4,000 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2016 
End 03/2017
 
Description ISSI team on Global Non-Potential Magnetic Models of the Solar Corona 
Organisation International Space Science Institute (ISSI)
Country Switzerland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I led the successful proposal to ISSI to run an International Team on this topic, and have led the team activities in two meetings at ISSI, Bern, Switzerland.
Collaborator Contribution Team members have attended the meetings and contributed research to the project.
Impact Two international team meetings, and a number of spin-off collaborations and publications. We are currently preparing a publication based on the group project.
Start Year 2015
 
Description ISSI team on reconstructing solar and heliospheric magnetic field evolution over the past century 
Organisation International Space Science Institute (ISSI)
Country Switzerland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Team member, providing expertise in flux transport simulation.
Collaborator Contribution Simulations and observations/data analysis.
Impact Joint paper with Virtanen et al.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Met Office 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Developing numerical simulations of the solar wind for improved space weather forecasting.
Collaborator Contribution Assisting in development, running models, analysis, hosting meetings.
Impact Meetings, developing new numerical code (in progress). Has led to two joint publications so far: Edwards,Yeates, Bocquet & Mackay (2015) and Mackay, Yeates, Bocquet (2016).
Start Year 2013
 
Description NASA/LWS flux ropes 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I am consultant on a NASA/LWS targeted science team on Flux Ropes, led by Mark Linton (US Naval Research Laboratory). I have done modelling work, and attended two team meetings (in the US and in the UK).
Collaborator Contribution Collaborators have done modelling and observational work.
Impact Work is still underway.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Royal Observatory of Belgium 
Organisation Royal Observatory of Belgium
Country Belgium 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Providing numerical simulation of the magnetic field in the solar corona.
Collaborator Contribution Providing observational data (PROBA2 satellite) for comparison, and training in using the data.
Impact Seminar talk. Multidisciplinary: involves applied mathematics and observational solar physics. We had a workshop on "coronal fans" at ESA in Madrid, in November 2016, and plan a follow-up workshop in the summer.
Start Year 2014
 
Description UCLA Basic Plasma Science Facility 
Organisation University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Department Physics and Astronomy
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Applied our analysis techniques to experimental magnetic field data from interacting flux ropes.
Collaborator Contribution Carried out the experiment.
Impact None so far. Multi-disciplinary involving laboratory plasma physics and solar physics/applied mathematics.
Start Year 2013
 
Description University of Oulu 
Organisation University of Ottawa
Department Department of Physics
Country Canada 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provided flux transport model for historical magnetogram study.
Collaborator Contribution Provided historical data.
Impact We are applying for an ISSI team, and have a joint publication under review.
Start Year 2015
 
Description "Into the red dragons lair" workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk on "Friction, flux ropes and field line helicity" at international workshop on space weather, held in Wales.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Applied maths seminar. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Gave seminar on "An inverse problem from solar physics" to wider applied maths researchers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Attended Bz working group. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Attended Bz working group in Arlington, Virginia (USA), organised by US Air Force Office for Scientific Research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description ISSI International Team 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Led International Team at the International Space Science Institute on "Global non-potential magnetic models of the solar corona". Organising two meetings in Bern, Switzerland, and coordinating project to bring multiple research groups together (about 10 representatives). Led to new study and intercomparison of models.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017
 
Description Poster at UKMHD 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Poster at UKMHD 2017 meeting in Durham.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Research presentation at ISSI meeting on Magnetic Helicity, Switzerland 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Gave invited presentation to working group on magnetic helicity at ISSI, Bern. Took part in discussions of group research project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.issibern.ch/teams/magnetichelicity/
 
Description SHINE workshop, New Mexico 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presented and discussed my research as part of SHINE workshop, USA. Audience included wide range of plasma physicists interested in heliosphere. At the same meeting, I co-chaired the session on magnetic maps.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Seminar at Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics, University of Warwick 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Seminar talk about my work to a broad audience of plasma physicists.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Seminar at DAMTP 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Research seminar talk on "Impact of magnetic topology on plasma dynamics" at DAMTP Astrophysics Seminar, University of Cambridge.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Seminar at Glasgow University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Gave Applied Mathematics Seminar about my research at Glasgow University, to a broad audience of applied mathematicians.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Seminar at Naval Research Laboratory, USA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Research seminar at NRL, Washington DC on "Friction, flux ropes and field line helicity: modelling CME initiation"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk at Bz workshop, New Mexico 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Gave research presentation at Bz workshop organised by US Air Force.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Talk at Helicity Thinkshop, Tokyo 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk on "Field line helicity as a tool for coronal physics" at Helicity Thinkshop 3, Tokyo (Japan).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk at MREP 2017 meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk at conference in honour of M. Proctor's requirement, University of Cambridge.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk at National Astronomy Meeting, Hull 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk on "Can we drive coronal evolution models from magnetic maps?" at National Astronomy Meeting, Hull.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk at RAS Discussion Meeting on Solar Orbiter. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk "Reconstructing the coronal magnetic field: a model comparison" at specialist discussion meeting on upcoming Solar Orbiter mission.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk at RAS specialist discussion meeting, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Gave presentation about my research at RAS specialist discussion meeting on Flux Emergence.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.maths.gla.ac.uk/~dmactaggart/ras.html
 
Description Talk at UKMHD meeting, Glasgow 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk about my research to national audience from all areas of MHD.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016