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  Can a star’s internal oscillations power their coronae (Advert reference: RDF20/EE/MPEE/MORTON)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Dr Richard Morton  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Understanding how the atmospheres of cool, magnetised stars are powered is a long-standing astrophysical mystery. In particular, there is an ongoing effort to identify the mechanisms that enable their corona to reach temperatures in excess of a million degrees and accelerate hot winds to speeds of a million miles per hour. One of the most promising mechanisms involves the transport of energy by magnetic waves, known as Alfvén waves, often considered to be solely driven by the turbulent convective motions in the star’s photosphere. However, recent observational studies by the research team here at Northumbria University suggest that a reasonable fraction of the Alfvénic waves are actually excited at the base of the corona by the internal acoustics oscillations of the star. The provides a potentially new pathway for energy transport and may play a key role in determining the thermodynamics of the corona. The PhD project aims to examine the process of energy transfer that must occur in the lower part of the star’s atmosphere for this pathway to be in action. The project will use numerical models that aim to solve the magnetohydrodynamic equations, along with state-of-the-art coronagraphic observations of the Sun, to examine this apparently fundamental pathway of energy transfer, leading to new insights into the behaviour in cool stars’ atmospheres. The research will be in close collaboration with partners at the High Altitude Observatory, NCAR (USA) and Harvard Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics (USA). We are primarily looking for applicants with a degree in Mathematics, Physics or Astrophysics. Previous experience of numerical modelling, observational data analysis and computer programming is desirable but not essential.

This project is supervisor by Dr Richard Morton. The second supervisor will be Professor James McLaughlin.

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF20/EE/MPEE/MORTON) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 24 January 2020

Start Date: 1 October 2020

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Students Home/EU/Worldwide, and covers full fees and a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2019/20, this is £15,009 pa).


Morton, R. J., Weberg, M., & McLaughlin, J. A., ‘A basal contribution from p-modes to the Alfvénic wave flux in the Sun’s corona’ Nature Astronomy, 2019, vol. 3, 223

Morton, R. J., Tomczyk, S. & Pinto, R. ‘Investigating Alfvénic wave propagation in coronal open-field regions’ Nature Communications, 2015, vol. 6, 7813

Morton, R. J., Tomczyk, S. & Pinto, R. ‘A Global View of Velocity Fluctuations in the Corona below 1.3 R_sun with CoMP’ Astrophysical Journal, 2016, vol. 828, 89

Weberg, M., Morton, R. J. & McLaughlin, J. A., ‘An Automated Algorithm for Identifying and Tracking Transverse Waves in Solar Images‘ Astrophysical Journal, 2018, vol. 852, 57

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