Observations to help astrophysicist understand sun's Alfven waves

Jan 22, 2013
This is a NASA X-ray image of the sun. Credit: NASA

UT Arlington physics professor Zdzislaw E. Musielak has been awarded a three-year, $301,339 National Science Foundation grant to investigate Alfvén waves in the Sun, a phenomenon vital to understanding Earth's nearest star.

"The Sun is the source of energy that sustains all life on Earth, but there is much that remains unknown about it," said Musielak, a two-time winner of the international Humboldt Prize for his research into the sun and solar-type stars. "With this research, we hope to explore one of the great mysteries – what forces fuel the heat of the Sun's and the basic physical processes for creating its magnetic influence on Earth and other planets."

Alfvén waves are magnetic named after Hannes Alfvén, who received a Nobel Prize in 1970 for their prediction. Their existence helps explain why the Sun's corona, or upper atmosphere, is hotter than the solar surface. Understanding Alfvén waves is also crucial to explaining the speed of solar winds, a stream of highly-charge particles released into space by the Sun.

The existence of Alfvén waves has been verified in many laboratory experiments. Until recently, neither ground-based observations nor could unambiguously prove their existence on the Sun.

NASA's Hinode and the Swedish Solar Telescope recently broke the observational barrier – detecting clear signatures of Alfvén waves in different parts of the . The discovery has triggered extensive theoretical studies around the world.

Musielak and his team plan to use FLASH code, a publicly available, multi-physics, multi-scale simulation code developed at the Flash Center for Computational Science at the University of Chicago.

"Dr. Musielak is respected internationally for his contributions to astrophysics," said Pamela Jansma, dean of the UT Arlington College of Science. "With support from the National Science Foundation, his new work will help scientists around the world further their understanding of the Sun."

Alexander Weiss, chairman of the UT Arlington physics department, said: "The funding of Dr. Musielak's proposal is a strong endorsement by his peers of the high quality and importance of his work."

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User comments : 11

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Q-Star
3.7 / 5 (6) Jan 22, 2013
Oh my, this ought to be a good one. I hope the wife has enough tin-foil for me to fashion a new hat with.
Maggnus
4 / 5 (4) Jan 22, 2013
Come on Q, surely you're not suggesting someone is going to comment just because of one name?
gwrede
4 / 5 (4) Jan 22, 2013
If this article doesn't beat any human-made kook-bait by far, I'll simply give up my PhysOrg account. !!
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (3) Jan 22, 2013
I presume, most of us don't visit this place just to become familiar with redistribution of money with grant agencies. We are looking for results, not for money spending.
StarGazer2011
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 22, 2013
About time they started looking at large scale plasma effects, cosmology will be quite different in 50 years; same as it ever was :) Hooray for humans and our wonderful science; fields do get trapped in dogma pretty regularly but it seems to be a temporary state.
Q-Star
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 22, 2013
Come on Q, surely you're not suggesting someone is going to comment just because of one name?


Just title of the article should cause spasms of joy and giddy jollification.
Q-Star
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 22, 2013
I presume, most of us don't visit this place just to become familiar with redistribution of money with grant agencies. We are looking for results, not for money spending.


How much money are you spending? I mean you personally?

By the by: It would be my guess that you are probably a beneficiary of some that redistributed money. I mean, who pays for your meds?, your care and maintenance? Who funds the research that you are a part of?
GSwift7
3 / 5 (6) Jan 23, 2013
About time they started looking at large scale plasma effects, cosmology will be quite different in 50 years


This really isn't anything new. We've just never had the computing power or observations to model it in much detail before. As the article states, the things he is trying to model are based on theory developed in the 60's (awarded Nobel in 1970). Now that we have expanded our computer power, AND have some observational data to constrain parts of the model, it makes perfect sense that someone should attempt to model it.

Of course the model will still be somewhat incomplete, but it may lead us closer to an understanding of what is going on beyond the parts we can directly observe by helping to constrain certain variables.

The tough part will be testing the model against everything else we know about the sun. I'm curious how successful he will be.
rubberman
1 / 5 (1) Jan 23, 2013
Agreed with GS (once again).

This can only improve the solar model.

cantdrive85
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 23, 2013
As the article states, the things he is trying to model are based on theory developed in the 60's (awarded Nobel in 1970). GSwift


Actually, his first published work on plasma waves was in 'Nature' in 1942. But as with much of the research he produced throughout his life, it was largely overlooked and for a time mocked.
"During Alfvén's visit he gave a lecture at the University of Chicago, which was attended by [Enrico] Fermi. As Alfvén described his work, Fermi nodded his head and said, 'Of course.' The next day the entire world of physics said. 'Oh, of course.'"
— Alex Dessler
Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988), 195.
This example shows how science is full of lemmings, with VERY few original or critical thinkers. Alfven, Arp, Tesla, and many others are cast aside to the detriment of real scientific discovery, we are in the "dark ages" dominated by the theoretical beliefs of the mathematicians.
vidyunmaya
1.7 / 5 (6) Jan 24, 2013
It is a welcome trend-to understand-Cosmos Quest by alfven and IEEE Space Plasmas groups since 1984
Search more-Space Cosmology Vedas Interlinks