Solar Intern Program Project:
 Title: Finding the source of ion beams in the solar wind.

Type of Project: Data analysis

Skills/Interest Required: 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.


Section Photo