Magnetically driven activity in the solar corona: A path to understanding the energetics of astrophysical plasmas

AMS Citation:
Gibson, S. E., T. Bastian, H. Lin, B. C. Low, and S. Tomczyk, 2009: Magnetically driven activity in the solar corona: A path to understanding the energetics of astrophysical plasmas. Astro2010 Science White Papers , 8 pp,.
Date:2009-02-15
Resource Type:technical report
Title:Magnetically driven activity in the solar corona: A path to understanding the energetics of astrophysical plasmas
Abstract: Core question: What will breakthrough observations of magnetic fields in the Sun's corona teach us about the storage and explosive release of magnetic energy in astrophysical plasmas? Magnetism is important throughout the physical universe. Magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) and kinetic plasma processes have been studied in diverse astrophysical environments ranging from the Sun, through galactic molecular clouds, to black-hole accretion disks. The storage and release of magnetic energy is a universal process of plasma astrophysics, likely to occur where there are driving forces and multiple scales. Magnetic reconnection is thought to play a central role in energy conversion: energy stored in large-scale magnetic fields may be rapidly released as oppositely-directed magnetic fields are driven towards each other and topologically rearranged. The conditions under which magnetic reconnection is able to occur may be the deciding factor on how magnetic energy can be stored and ultimately released in a variety of plasma physical systems, including galaxies, stars, magnetospheres, and laboratory experiments. One dramatic and well-studied example of reconnection-driven energy release is a solar flare. Flares on other stars have also been observed that are (presumably) analogous, but orders of magnitude stronger in luminosity and temperature. In order to understand the mechanisms responsible for the implied large conversion of energy in stellar activity and related astrophysical processes, we must first understand magnetic energy storage and release at the Sun.
Peer Review:Non-refereed
Copyright Information:Copyright 2009 National Academy of Sciences.
OpenSky citable URL: ark:/85065/d7qr4znv
Author(s):
  • Sarah Gibson - NCAR/UCAR
  • Tim Bastian
  • Haosheng Lin
  • Boon Low - NCAR/UCAR
  • Steve Tomczyk - NCAR/UCAR
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