Fast Magnetic Reconnection in Solar Flares – Preparing for Solar-C


   Department of Space & Climate Physics

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  Prof Sarah Matthews  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The Sun is our closest star, and with space now firmly established as part of our society’s environment, its unique proximity has inescapable consequences for us. While its radiation provides the energy source of our whole ecosystem, our understanding of how the variations in that radiation control, e.g. our climate, still contains huge gaps. As well as the long-term variations in the solar output, the Sun exhibits a cycle of activity the constituents of which are explosive events which release energy. This explosive energy release occurs on a myriad of scales, from nanoflares to huge eruptive flares, which are accompanied by the bulk eruption of plasma and magnetic field known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and whose impacts can be seen globally across the Sun and throughout the heliosphere. The most extreme of these events constitute the largest examples of explosive energy release within our solar system, during which upwards of 1026 J of energy is released. Solar flares comprise a key component of space weather, and yet despite their key importance and the extensive range of observations available from space and the ground, several open questions remain.

Magnetic reconnection is the primary process by which energy release occurs in solar flares with current theories predicting that this occurs in a current sheet high in the corona. While there are many observable signatures predicted by our models, observations of the site and details of reconnection process remain a challenge, particularly spectroscopic observations. However, recent advances in modelling and new techniques for indirectly inferring the conditions in the current sheet provide further opportunities for studying this process.

The project will initially utilise existing spectroscopic data from the Hinode EIS, IRIS, Solar Orbiter EUI, SPICE and STIX instruments, as well as from ground-based telescopes where available to advance our understanding of the magnetic reconnection processes occurring in solar flares. As we move towards Solar Maximum the student will also have the opportunity to propose and acquire new observations The research undertaken will form part of the solar group’s preparatory work for the Solar C EUVST mission currently under development and scheduled for launch in 2028. The student undertaking this project would thus participate both in the international Hinode EIS and Solar C EUVST teams, including attending team meetings and collaborative visits.

Desired Knowledge and Skills 

  • Undergraduate or MSc degree in physics, astrophysics, or related area is desirable, but curious and motivated students with other backgrounds will also be considered.
  • Previous experience of data analysis, as well as good writing and presentation skills, are also desirable but not essential.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class Bachelor’s degree, or a second-class Bachelor’s degree together with a Master's degree from a UK university in a relevant subject, or an equivalent overseas qualification.

Additional eligibility requirements

The STFC studentship will pay your full tuition fees and a maintenance allowance for 3.5 years (subject to the PhD upgrade review).

Additional information

This project is based in the Department of Space & Climate Physics, located at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) in Holmbury, Surrey. MSSL is located in remote countryside in Surrey. There is limited public transport to reach the site. Before you apply to study for a PhD in our department, please check our location carefully and consider how you will regularly commute to MSSL.

How to apply

Our STFC studentships starting in September 2024 are open for applications until 26th January 2024.  

For details of how to apply please refer to our website: PhD Opportunities | UCL Department of Space and Climate Physics - UCL – University College London


Mathematics (25) Physics (29)
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 About the Project