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Can a star’s internal oscillations power their coronae (Advert Reference: RDF20-R/EE/MPEE/MortonRichard)

Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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Dr R Morton No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Newcastle United Kingdom Applied Mathematics Astronomy Astrophysics Computational Physics Environmental Physics Fluid Mechanics Mathematical Modelling Space Science

About the Project

Understanding how the atmospheres of cool, magnetised stars are powered is a long-standing astrophysical mystery. In particular, there is continued effort to identify the mechanisms that heat star’s corona to temperatures of a million degrees. Similar mechanisms are thought generate stellar winds - hot plasma streaming from stars that reaches speeds of millions mph. One of the most promising mechanisms involves magnetic waves, known as Alfvén waves, which are often considered to be solely driven by the turbulent convective motions in the star’s photosphere. However, recent studies suggest that a sizeable fraction of the Alfvén waves are actually excited at the base of the corona by the star’s internal acoustic oscillations. This would be a new pathway for energy transport and could play a key role in determining the thermodynamics of the corona.

The PhD project will 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 achieve this, the candidate will use state-of-the-art numerical models to solve the magnetohydrodynamic equations, leading to new insights into the behaviour in cool stars’ atmospheres. The research will be in collaboration with partners at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (Spain), with opportunities to spend extended visits there. Furthermore, there is a strong focus on the professional and personal development of the candidate, with resources available for training, including attending workshops, courses travel to international conferences. The candidate will be part of the RiPSAW project, which has been funded by a UKRI Future Leader Fellowship (Grant ref. MR/T019891/1)

We are primarily looking for applicants with a degree in Mathematics, Physics or Astrophysics. Previous experience of numerical modelling and computer programming is desirable but not essential. For further information on the opportunity please contact Dr Richard Morton ([Email Address Removed]).

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.

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-R/EE/MPEE/MORTONRichard) will not be considered.

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

Deadline for applications: 7 January 2021

Start Date: Ideally 1 June 2021 (but there is flexibility for an earlier or a later start date)

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Students Worldwide, and covers full fees and a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2020/1, this is £15,285 pa). Support is provided as part of RiPSAW, which has received funding from a UKRI Future Leader Fellowship (Grant ref. MR/T019891/1).


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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