Discovery Magazine

Photo Credit: Sterling & Farid (2008)

Doctoral Fellowship ( Norton Orange): Identification and Analysis of Dynamic Transients in Sun's Transition Region Atmosphere

The study of solar plasmas has made substantial advances over the last two decades due to the abundant availability of data from the near-constant monitoring of the Sun from space, the advent of more realistic 3-dimensional magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) models of solar plasmas and fields, and the analyses of large numbers of individual structures that constitute solar plasmas. Nonetheless, many questions yet remain. In particular, the nature of the Sun's transition region (TR) atmosphere ($4.3 < \log T_{e} < 6.0$), the details of the processes that energize and sustain the Sun's hot atmosphere, and the processes that accelerate solar plasmas to form the solar wind.

It has been suggested that the most viable approach to improving our understanding of the responsible processes(s) that generate/heat the solar corona lies in identifying the fundamental atmospheric phenomena occurring within solar plasmas and determining their roles in coronal heating, wind acceleration and mass ejection. However, distinguishing and identifying fundamental phenomena in the solar plasmas is complicated by the sheer number of events occurring at any given moment (~100,000), and large temperature range of optically thin solar atmospheric plasmas in which they occur (4.3 < log T_e < 7.0). Furthermore, confidently identifying fundamental solar atmospheric phenomena requires the use of data from multiple instruments including spectroscopic, narrow band, multi-thermal and magnetograms all at high spatial and temporal resolutions to overcome instrumental limitations and observational techniques.

This work will advance human understanding of the solar corona through the analyses of thousands of individual TR plasma structures using an automated software tool that will developed as a part of this project. As a consequence we will learn more about the heating and dynamics of solar atmospheric phenomena, the role of the TR in generating coronal and chromospheric structures, the contributions of TR stuctures to solar variability, and the role of feedback in the solar atmosphere.