Solar Intern Program Project:
 Title: Statistics of Flare Evolution

Type of Project: Data analysis, statistics

Skills/Interest Required: Interest in analyzing observations for a large sample of events. Some programming experience would be useful but is not strictly necessary. The work will be conducted primarily using IDL and Python.

Mentor: Dr. Henry "Trae" Winter III and Dr. Katharine Reeves



Solar flares are the largest explosions in the solar system. The largest flares can release 1033 ergs of energy. That is 10 million times more energy than all of the nuclear weapons ever created. How the Sun transmits, stores, and then releases so much energy is not well understood. In this project we will study a large number of solar flares in order to better understand the mechanisms of energy storage and release better.


It is difficult to determine exactly when a solar flare will occur. In the past, the most advanced telescopes had a very limited field of view and missed the majority of flares. This meant that a very few flares were studied in great detail. The solar observing Atmospheric Imaging Array (AIA) suite of telescopes launched onboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) satellite has drastically changed the nature of flare observations. The full Sun is now observed in amazing detail 24 hours a day, 7 days a week providing ~3 terabytes of uncompressed data a day. In order to handle this massive influx of data automated tools have been created to detect and analyze events on the Sun. The "Flare Detective" records about 65 flare events a day or over 23,000 events over the mission lifetime so far. This has created a tremendous data set that has only barely been mined. In this project, we will study a large number of flares using advanced statistics. We will study how flares erupt and their impact on surrounding regions. We will also determine the relationship between large flares and the smaller "mini-flares" that are ubiquitous on the Sun.


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