Scientists can now gain a better understanding of space weather – the dreaded solar winds and flares – thanks to the development of high spatial resolution observation and computing methods. For the first time, it will thus be possible to study the interrelated events that occur on the sun and trigger solar activity.
To this effect, a current project funded by the FWF is in the process of developing new methods that can generate three-dimensional images and will allow scientists to study the chronological sequence and evolution of processes taking place in the sun’s interior. These new methods will make it possible to link detailed observational data about the sun with complex computer simulations of solar activity.
The sun’s surface is turbulent and constantly in motion: Dynamo effects create magnetic fields which, together with currents, travel outward towards the sun’s surface, thereby determining the sun’s activity. The solar activity in turn influences how much radiation reaches the earth. Long-term variations of this activity can also affect the earth’s climate.
A Flood of Data About Solar Wind
The team headed by project leader Prof. Arnold Hanslmeier is particularly interested in what are known as solar magnetic flux tubes. These flux tubes were discovered only a few years ago and are a precursor of solar flares. Prof. Hanslmeier explains: "It is believed that flux tubes form underneath the sun’s surface a few days before a solar flare erupts. Yet the forces that generate these flux tubes remain largely unknown." The team is also interested in the heating mechanisms that occur on the sun’s surface and directly affect the sun’s lower atmosphere.
The methods being developed by Prof. Hanslmeier will make it possible to link data gained from high-resolution telescopic images with data generated by complex computer simulations. The conventional computation methods that are currently available are actually lagging behind the rapid development of solar telescopes and computer power, as the project leader explains: "New high-resolution solar telescopes generate such vast amounts of data that it is impossible to analyse all of the data individually. That requires automated processes – which is exactly what we are now developing. These processes will allow us to achieve unimaginable temporal and spatial resolution when computing solar dynamics. We are particularly excited about the upcoming opportunity to work with Europe’s largest solar telescope on the Canary Islands."
Segmented & Computed
More specifically, the aim of the project is to develop 2D and 3D algorithms that can calculate extremely small segments of solar magnetic flux tubes using imaging- and simulation data. This research is complemented by comparable segmentations of convective upward and downward flows of the sun’s hot plasma. Prof. Hanslmeier explains the purpose of these calculations: "Segmentation allows us to represent the solar magnetic flux tubes and convection currents as three-dimensional images. At the same time, we can observe how this three-dimensional representation evolves over time. This gives us an essential link between actual observations and theoretical simulations." For the team headed by Prof. Hanslmeier, this link is the key to gaining a better understanding of the mechanisms that lead to the formation of flux tubes and subsequently cause these flux tubes to develop into solar flares.
The findings of this FWF-funded project will therefore be a vital tool for scientists to not only better understand the intensity of solar flares and solar winds, but to also detect this solar activity sooner and take the necessary precautions. In light of the threat that strong solar winds can pose for essential electric infrastructure in space and here on earth, the significance of these findings will go far beyond fundamental scientific insight.
Prof. Arnold Hanslmeier
University of Graz
Institute of Physics
8010 Graz, Austria
+43 / 316 / 380 - 5275
Austrian Science Fund FWF
Haus der Forschung
1090 Vienna, Austria
+43 / (0)1 / 505 67 40 - 8111
Copy Editing & Distribution
PR&D – Public Relations for Research & Education
1090 Vienna, Austria
+43 / (0)1 / 505 70 44
Dr. Katharina Schnell | PR&D – Public Relations for Research & Education
127-year-old physics problem solved
22.08.2019 | Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Physicists create world's smallest engine
22.08.2019 | Trinity College Dublin
Theoretical physicists at Trinity College Dublin are among an international collaboration that has built the world's smallest engine - which, as a single calcium ion, is approximately ten billion times smaller than a car engine.
Work performed by Professor John Goold's QuSys group in Trinity's School of Physics describes the science behind this tiny motor.
Together with the University of Innsbruck, the ETH Zurich and Interactive Fully Electrical Vehicles SRL, Infineon Austria is researching specific questions on the commercial use of quantum computers. With new innovations in design and manufacturing, the partners from universities and industry want to develop affordable components for quantum computers.
Ion traps have proven to be a very successful technology for the control and manipulation of quantum particles. Today, they form the heart of the first...
Experimental progress towards engineering quantized gauge fields coupled to ultracold matter promises a versatile platform to tackle problems ranging from condensed-matter to high-energy physics
The interaction between fields and matter is a recurring theme throughout physics. Classical cases such as the trajectories of one celestial body moving in the...
Soft robots have a distinct advantage over their rigid forebears: they can adapt to complex environments, handle fragile objects and interact safely with humans. Made from silicone, rubber or other stretchable polymers, they are ideal for use in rehabilitation exoskeletons and robotic clothing. Soft bio-inspired robots could one day be deployed to explore remote or dangerous environments.
Most soft robots are actuated by rigid, noisy pumps that push fluids into the machines' moving parts. Because they are connected to these bulky pumps by tubes,...
Researchers at TU Graz are working together with European partners on new possibilities of measuring vehicle emissions.
Today, air pollution is one of the biggest challenges facing European cities. As part of the Horizon 2020 research project CARES (City Air Remote Emission...
16.08.2019 | Event News
14.08.2019 | Event News
12.08.2019 | Event News
22.08.2019 | Life Sciences
22.08.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
22.08.2019 | Physics and Astronomy