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The nature of solar plumes and their link to the solar wind (Advert Ref: FAC16-R/MATH/MCLAUGHLIN)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Prof J McLaughlin  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The solar wind is the stream of charged particles emanating from the Sun. Highly inhomogeneous in nature, its outflow extends over the Earth and the limit of its influence defines the outer boundaries of the solar system. It is known that coronal holes (regions of open magnetic field) are the source of the fast solar wind.

Solar plumes are observed as bright, ray-like structures inside coronal holes. They are regions of density enhancement and they are ubiquitous to coronal holes. Despite this, solar plumes are currently poorly understood. Solar wind models are sensitive to the properties of their source region and so plumes represent a gap in our understanding of the solar wind. Hence, investigating the nature of solar plumes is essential in order to accurately understand the solar wind, and a full understanding of the solar wind is critical for predicting geomagnetic storms and forecasting space weather.

The structure and dynamics of solar plumes can be well described by magnetohydrodynamics (MHD). MHD wave theory is a rich and fascinating area of study because, by the nature of the supporting plasma, it is based on the interplay of three different modes; namely Alfvén, fast and slow magnetoacoustic waves. Plumes are denser than the surrounding material and so are natural wave guides for the three MHD modes.

This PhD project will determine the fundamental properties of solar plumes and investigate their link to the solar wind. The project will involve the analysis of solar observations as well as detailed theoretical modelling.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
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

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

Please ensure you quote the advert reference above on your application form.

Deadline for applications: 1 November 2016

Start date: March 2017

Northumbria University is an equal opportunities provider and in welcoming applications for studentships from all sectors of the community we strongly encourage applications from women and under-represented groups.

Funding Notes

The studentship includes a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (in 2016/17 this is £14,296 pa) and fees (Home/EU £4,350 / International £13,000).


Thurgood, J.O., Morton, R.J. & McLaughlin, J.A. (2014)
First direct measurements of transverse waves in solar polar plumes using SDO/AIA (
Astrophysical Journal Letters, 790, L2
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