Properties of the Near-Sun Solar Wind

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Physics

Abstract

The solar wind is a hot, tenuous plasma that flows from the Sun into deep space. At the Earth, its interaction with our planet's magnetic field causes the aurora but can also damage satellites and disrupt communications and power grids. Although the solar wind can be sampled with a number of spacecraft, and we have ground based measurements of the Sun's surface and atmosphere, there is still much that we do not know about how the Sun creates the solar wind and how it evolves between its source and its arrival at the Earth.

In 2017, the European Space Agency will launch Solar Orbiter, which will travel closer to the Sun than ever before, within Mercury's orbit, to measure the solar wind in the inner solar system. Imperial are building the magnetic field instrument for Solar Orbiter.

In preparation for the launch of Solar Orbiter, it is planned to re-visit earlier measurements of the solar wind near the Sun, from the twin Helios spacecraft that were in operation in the 1970's and 1980's. These measurements are high quality, but advances in computer power in the last thirty years mean that they offer rich pickings for new discoveries. There is also more recent data from the Messenger spacecraft in orbit around Mercury.

We will be using Helios and Messenger data to study fundamental properties of the solar wind in the inner solar system: small scale solar wind structures; the interactions of different solar wind streams; and the development of shocks and turbulence.

Publications

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Burrell A (2018) Snakes on a Spaceship-An Overview of Python in Heliophysics in Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics

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Horbury T (2018) Short, large-amplitude speed enhancements in the near-Sunfast solar wind in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Perrone D (2019) Radial evolution of the solar wind in pure high-speed streams: HELIOS revised observations in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Stansby D (2018) Number density structures in the inner heliosphere in Astronomy & Astrophysics

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Stansby D (2019) Alpha particle thermodynamics in the inner heliosphere fast solar wind in Astronomy & Astrophysics

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Stansby D (2019) Diagnosing solar wind origins using in situ measurements in the inner heliosphere in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ST/N504336/1 01/10/2015 31/03/2021
1708618 Studentship ST/N504336/1 01/10/2015 31/03/2019 David Stansby
 
Title HelioPy 
Description HelioPy is a python software package for automatically downloading and importing common datasets in heliospheric physics. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2017 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Aside from my personal use, I am aware of several other people who have started using the software for their work. 
URL http://docs.heliopy.org/en/stable/
 
Title pfsspy 
Description A python package for computing Potential Field Source Surface magnetic field models of the Sun. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2019 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact First documented and open source packaged for carrying out potential field source surface modelling of the Sun. 
URL https://github.com/dstansby/pfsspy