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Space Weather: brought to you by solar prominence eruptions

Chiara Lazzeri

Physics and Astronomy


Year of study:

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Solar prominence are structures containing plasma that protrude from the Solar surface. They have been observed and studied for centuries, but recent advancements in technology have allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of their motion and physical characteristics. My research project involves the application of different techniques to study solar prominences, and more specifically, eruptive solar prominences. The study of these structures is important as their eruption, which consists in the release of large quantities of plasma, can affect the Earth, causing ‘space weather’ phenomena such as auroras or geomagnetic storms. These events can disrupt communications or damage satellites and power grids. My project involves the use of a mix of techniques to analyse the data, collected by IRIS, a NASA solar observation satellite: the images of the prominences collected by the spacecraft are used to understand their 2D movements with the use of tracking algorithms. The instrument also collects spectral data, i.e. information about the intensity of light emitted at different wavelengths. The use of this ‘spectroscopic’ data allows to determine the velocities of the plasma along the line of sight and, when used in combination with modelling, it allows to determine the characteristics of the plasma, such as temperature or density. Advanced techniques and models will be applied to the data and our results are expected to give us a deeper insight into the physics of eruptive prominences.

I am a 5th year Physics with Astrophysics student at the University of Glasgow. Over the course of my degree, I had the opportunity to study some of the most interesting things in our universe, but the thing that has fascinated me the most is space weather. It’s exciting how the Sun can be the cause of phenomena such as the beautiful northern lights or the disruptive geomagnetic storms. Research in this field is essential, especially as modern society is becoming increasingly reliant on technologies such as satellites and power grids, which are threatened by space weather events. My talk will be focused on the topic of my Master’s project, eruptive solar prominences: I hope to introduce the audience to the study of these structures and highlight their importance as one of the originating mechanisms of space weather events on Earth and other planets.

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