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The nature of solar plumes and their link to the solar wind (Advert Reference: SF18/MPEE/MCLAUGHLIN)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

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. Depending upon progress and the specific strengths/interests of the PhD student, the project can focus on automated image-processing of solar observations or, with respect to the theoretical modelling, high-performance computing.

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 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. SF18/MPEE/MCLAUGHLIN) will not be considered.

Start Date: 1 March 2019 or 1 June 2019 or 1 October 2019

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 hold an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality and is a member of the Euraxess network, which delivers information and support to professional researchers.

Funding Notes

This is an unfunded research project


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

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