Solar Energetic Particles and Space Weather

Supervisor: Prof. Silvia Dalla

Solar eruptive events often accelerate ions and electrons to high energies. These Solar Energetic Particles (SEPs) may escape the Sun’s atmosphere and travel through space to reach locations near Earth. SEPs are a radiation risk to humans and spacecraft instrumentation, and are therefore an important component of Space Weather.

SEPs are known to be associated with solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), but a number of fundamental questions related to their acceleration and propagation are unanswered at present. In particular, the mechanisms by which SEPs are able to reach widely separated locations, across the average magnetic field of interplanetary space, remain unclear.

A project is available to study the acceleration and propagation of SEPs, with the overall aim to improve forecasts of their associated radiation risk, within Space Weather. The project will be making use of data from two new solar missions: Parker Solar Probe (launched in 2018) and Solar Orbiter (launched in 2020). Both these spacecraft will provide new unprecedented measurements of SEPs close to the Sun that will be analysed within the project. State-of-the-art 3D test particle simulation codes developed within the group will be used to model SEP propagation and aid the interpretation of data.