Physics projects for Y3 and Y4 students

Project description

Alfven waves in the solar atmosphere

(supervisor: Youra Taroyan)

Nature of project: theory, software

Available to students on full-time physics degree schemes or joint students.

Project description and methodology

Alfven waves are magnetic waves that are often invoked as the only candidates that can make the journey from the photosphere of the Sun to the corona without being strongly reflected or dissipated on their way. Other types of waves are expected to decay much more rapidly, since they steepen to form small length-scales.

Alfven waves are a result of the competing effects between magnetic tension and plasma inertia. Since their discovery in the 1940s Alfven waves have been studied in various contexts including the heating of laboratory plasmas and the solar atmosphere, the formation of spicules, and the acceleration of the solar wind.

The project will explore the properties of linear and nonlinear Alfven waves, their decay due to magnetic diffusion. The diffusion time will be estimated analytically for different wavelengths and for typical parameter values in the solar atmosphere to establish the likelihood of Alfven waves reaching the corona without significant loss of energy.

A successful project will develop beyond the above in one/some of the following directions:
A code will be provided for development. Numerical simulations will be performed to compare the diffusion time for linear and nonlinear Alfven waves with the analytically derived estimates. The project presents an excellent opportunity for those with basic understanding of computer programming to improve their programming skills.

When considering where to take your project, please bear in mind the time available. It is preferable to do fewer things well than to try many and not get conclusive results on any of them. However, sometimes it is useful to have a couple of strands of investigation in parallel to work on in case delays occur.

Additional scope or challenge if taken as a Year-4 project: A dispersion relation will be derived for linear Alfven waves to examine the effects of diffusion on the wave amplitude and frequency.

Please speak to Youra Taroyan if you consider doing this project.

Initial literature for students:

  1. Priest, E. Magnetohydrodynamics of the Sun, 2014, Cambridge University Press
  2. Cramer, N. F. The Physics of Alfven waves, 2001, Wiley VCH
  3. Alfven waves, in Encyclopedia of Geomagnetism and Paleomagnetism, 2007, Springer

Novelty, degree of difficulty and amount of assistance required

The project presents an excellent opportunity for those with basic understanding of computer programming to improve their programming skills. Assistance will be provided.

Project milestones and deliverables (including timescale)

milestoneto be completed by
Analytical estimates for the diffusion times end of October
Running the IDL code and understanding its structureChristmas
Simulation results, comparison with analytical estimatesend of February
Discussion of resultsEaster