FWF - MMC - Modeling the magnetic cores of solar storms

  • Möstl, Christian, (Co-Investigator (CoI))

Project: Research project

Project Details


The Sun produces solar storms, clouds of plasma containing strong magnetic fields which are episodically ejected from its outermost layer. In the space between the planets, they decelerate and expand, and given the right direction, they may sweep over the Earth to produce colorful aurorae in the night sky. Seldomly, their impacts can lead to problems with modern technology such as failures in power grids and global navigation systems. This project is devoted to a better physical understanding of the magnetic fields at their cores, which have a relatively ordered structure in contrast to the turbulent medium they are embedded in, the solar wind. If the solar storm core collides with the Earths magnetic field and only if the storms magnetic field points in the right direction, energy is transferred to the magnetic field of the Earth. Thus, the ordered structures at the storm cores must be better understood in order to predict their effects at the Earth and other planets.

We will establish a new type of simulation that can model these cores based on the hypothesis that their shape can be represented by an extremely large bent tube with an embedded special type of magnetic field. Our method represents a new way of modeling solar storms which has several advantages, such as that is computationally very quick, so it can be applied many times with different parameters, and it is designed to be used one day for forecasting solar storm effects at Earth. Especially the wealth of just recently available data from spacecraft residing between the Sun and the Earth makes this project groundbreaking, as we now can test our new model with data of many storms that show a solar storm hitting two or more planets consecutively, for instance first Mercury, then Venus and later Earth. This allows to greatly reduce the free parameters of the simulation in order to find robust results on how solar storms move and evolve between the Sun and the Earth.

As a bonus, the Parker Solar Probe is planned to be launched in 2018 and will be the first spacecraft to temporarily reside inside the orbit of Mercury, which could result in unprecedented observations of solar storms close to the Sun. Our new simulation is ideally suited to interpret these groundbreaking observations, which may allow to decipher how the Sun produces the ordered structures in the storm cores and how they propagate towards the Earth.
Effective start/end date1/03/2031/08/20