Solar REU Program:
 Title: Magnetic Structure and Dynamics of Quiescent Prominence Eruptions

Type of Project: Data analysis, statistics

Skills/Interest Required: Interest in analyzing space-based observations for a large data sample. No advanced programming skills required. The data analysis will be performed primarily using IDL.

Mentor: Dr. Yingna Su and Dr. Adriaan van Ballegooijen



Solar flares, prominence eruptions, and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are spectacular solar eruptions and the primary drivers of "space weather" at the Earth. It is well accepted that these phenomena are different manifestations of a single physical process thought to be powered by the release of magnetic free energy stored in the corona prior to the activity. To understand what triggers solar eruptions and how the energy is released, it is important to understand the 3D magnetic structure and dynamics of the coronal magnetic field prior to the eruption. There are two groups of competing models for pre-eruption magnetic field configuration, i.e., twisted flux rope and sheared magnetic arcade. Both group of models suggest the existence of twisted flux rope during the eruption, which is confirmed by in situ observations of magnetic fields in interplanetary magnetic clouds. However, the question remains when and how such flux ropes are formed.


The student will begin this project by a survey of quiescent prominence eruptions observed by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) aboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) launched February 2010. The high-cadence, high spatial resolution, and continuous full-sun observations of SDO allow us to study a large sample of quiescent prominence eruptions in unprecedented detail. In this survey, we will search for evidence of twisted flux rope surrounding prominences. If it is identified, we will address the following questions: When and how the flux rope is formed? Is the prominence located in or below the flux rope? For a few well-observed events, we will also study the dynamics of prominence plasmas prior to the eruption, in order to answer the question: What is the relationship between the horizontal and vertical fine structures in prominences, and to what extent do these structures reflect the direction of the local magnetic field?


Figure 1: A collage of prominence eruptions, which are observed at 304 Angstrom by SDO/AIA (a,b,c) and SOHO/EIT (d). From (a) to (d), the images are taken on: 2010 March 30; 2010 June 29; 2010 June 13, and 2000 January 18.


Section Photo