Understanding how solar eruptions begin and evolve through the solar atmosphere

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Mullard Space Science Laboratory

Abstract

Solar eruptions are among the most powerful events occurring in our solar system and have several well-defined signatures; solar flares, observed as huge bursts of radiation, coronal mass ejections (CMEs), observed as massive bubbles of plasma hurled into space and global wave- pulses that travel through the solar atmosphere, traversing the entire solar surface in less than an hour. The exact physical processes leading to these eruptions and how they interact with the surrounding solar atmosphere remain ambiguous and subject to intensive research. Understanding these processes will provide a unique insight into the basic physics underpinning the evolution of the Sun and its atmosphere. Even more importantly, it will greatly improve our ability to predict the geo--effectiveness of CMEs (i.e., their effects on the near-Earth environment; a phenomenon known as space weather), providing the requisite warning time for protecting sensitive electronics and power distribution networks in both space-based and ground-based assets. Current models designed to explain CMEs invoke the concept of a flux rope; a twisted bundle of magnetic field which is formed in the low solar atmosphere by the reconfiguration of the solar magnetic field through the convergence, collision and subsequent disappearance of small-scale opposite polarity features. Cool, dense plasma can often become trapped within these flux ropes as they form, and are observed as filaments in chromospheric H-alpha observations. While the processes involved in the development of these filamentary flux ropes are well established, how these structures suddenly become unstable and erupt catastrophically are not as well understood. The aim of this project is to investigate the processes involved in the initiation and early evolution of solar eruptions. This will involve examining the relationship between the different forces at play in the development of the filament; the magnetic field overlying the flux rope and the mass of the filament holding it down and the magnetic pressure of the flux rope forcing it up. By identifying the point at which this equilibrium no longer holds, it may be possible to predict when a filament will erupt. The evolution of this filament through the low solar atmosphere can then be studied to understand the role played by the local and global magnetic field in determining the ultimate direction of the associated CME. This project will use observations from the Solar Dynamics Observatory, Hinode's EUV Imaging Spectrometer and the Interface Region Imaging Spectrometer

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ST/N504488/1 01/10/2015 31/03/2021
1741115 Studentship ST/N504488/1 01/10/2016 31/03/2020 Jack Michael Jenkins
 
Description MSSL Travel Grant Feb 2018
Amount £400 (GBP)
Organisation University College London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 03/2018
 
Description RAS Travel Grant Feb 2018
Amount £800 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Astronomical Society 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2018 
End 06/2018
 
Description Zirin Scholarship to attend TESS in Virginia, USA
Amount $750 (USD)
Organisation American Geophysical Union 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 05/2018 
End 05/2018
 
Description Collaboration with group at NSO and CSUN 
Organisation California State University, Northridge
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I have contributed understanding about solar filaments
Collaborator Contribution Partners have contributed understanding and expertise in the operation of ground-based telescopes.
Impact Currently working on a publication
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with group at NSO and CSUN 
Organisation National Solar Observatory (NSO)
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I have contributed understanding about solar filaments
Collaborator Contribution Partners have contributed understanding and expertise in the operation of ground-based telescopes.
Impact Currently working on a publication
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with researchers at Observatoire de Paris on a publication 
Organisation Observatory of Paris
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I led the team that included members from Observatoire de Paris to the publication of a paper on the role of mass-draining on the eruption of solar prominences.
Collaborator Contribution The partners in this collaboration contributed mathematical skills to the project along with substantial contextual background material.
Impact One published paper in the Astrophysical Journal
Start Year 2018
 
Description Czech and Slovak Academy of Sciences 
Organisation Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
Department Astronomical Institute of Czech Academy of Sciences
Country Czech Republic 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborated on a research project that resulted in a paper
Collaborator Contribution Collaborated on a research project that resulted in a paper
Impact A peer-reviewed journal article
Start Year 2018
 
Description Czech and Slovak Academy of Sciences 
Organisation Slovak Academy of Sciences
Country Slovakia 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Collaborated on a research project that resulted in a paper
Collaborator Contribution Collaborated on a research project that resulted in a paper
Impact A peer-reviewed journal article
Start Year 2018
 
Description Participated in the International Day of Light 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A large event was put on at the Institute for Education at UCL in which high-school students were invited to take part. Here, they were exposed to scientific fields across astronomy and taught about how light plays a role in each case.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018