Title: Finding the source of ion beams in the solar wind. |
Type of Project: Data analysis
Interest in analyzing space-based observations,
strength in statistical physics, E&M a plus. Though not prerequisites,
skills and prior experience in statistical analysis and computer
programming (especially in IDL) will be helpful.
Mentor: Dr. Michael Stevens and Dr. Justin Kasper
Interplanetary space is not a vacuum, but a bubble carved out by the hot,
ionized gas emanating from our sun at supersonic speeds. The solar wind
near earth is usually not in equilibrium- instead, its peculiar
thermodynamic state carries clues as to how plasma is energized in the
sun's corona and how magnetic fields and particles exchange energy in
astrophysical settings. The Wind spacecraft, at an interplanetary vantage
point just sunward of Earth, measures distributions of ions from which the
temperature, density, and velocity of the solar wind are deduced. Beyond
these attributes, however, we find that hydrogen and helium frequently
exhibit multiple temperatures simultaneously, with two or more
interpenetrating "beam" components. The physical process that creates
these beams in the solar wind is an open question in space physics.
n this project, the student will contribute to the re-analysis of data
from the Solar Wind Experiment (SWE) on board Wind. The student will use a
new, developmental data analysis tool to identify and classify
multi-thermal behavior in the solar wind ions, building a new data set for
the study of ion beams, interpenetrating flows, and interaction between
waves and particles in the solar wind. According to the interest and
talents of the student, there will be an opportunity either (1) to delve
into algorithms and the improvement of data analysis for spacecraft
missions, or (2) to focus on statistical analysis of the new data set,
deducing the conditions that produce multi-thermal behavior in the solar
wind and adjudicating the plausibility of existing theories. The student
will gain familiarity with space physics and basic plasma physics, as well
as space-based measurement techniques.
Figure: An artist's conception of the solar wind impacting the Earth's magnetosphere.