The outer atmosphere of the Sun, the corona, is a unique plasma laboratory. It provides key insights into fundamental universal processes (e.g. magnetic reconnection and particle acceleration). Yet, the very existence of the corona in itself is not well understood. It is composed of million Kelvin hot plasma trapped by magnetic fields, and overlies the much cooler 6000 K photosphere, the visible surface of the Sun. How do magnetic fields regulate mass and energy transport from the cool photosphere to sustain the overlying hot corona? This is a long-standing problem in astrophysics, which lacks a comprehensive explanation. The missing link in this puzzle is an observationally validated framework of how the corona is magnetically coupled to the photosphere.
The newly established research group ORIGIN, funded by the European Union, is geared toward tackling this challenging problem of developing a framework for coronal heating by probing the elusive photosphere-corona connection and comprehensively testing the importance of different magnetic processes in the heating of the outer solar atmosphere. The project will combine new and exciting data from the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) and the Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager (PHI), two of the remote-sensing instruments on the ESA-led Solar Orbiter space mission, to study how magnetic fields drive the hot solar corona.
L. P. Chitta, H. Peter, S. K. Solanki, P. Barthol, A. Gandorfer, L. Gizon, J. Hirzberger, T. L. Riethmüller, M. van Noort, J. Blanco Rodríguez, J. C. Del Toro Iniesta, D. Orozco Suárez, W. Schmidt, V. Martínez Pillet, and M. Knölker, "Solar Coronal Loops Associated with Small-scale Mixed Polarity Surface Magnetic Fields," Astrophysical Journal, Suppl. Ser. 229, 4 (2017).
The MPS is one of the leading institutes worldwide in building instruments for solar research, both for ground based observatories as well as for balloon and space-borne missions. Scientists and engineers of MPS conceive new observing methods and develop novel instruments of highest technological complexity. These instruments are built in house, tested, calibrated, and used at the best solar observatories in the world, or delivered to NASA and ESA to be launched to space.
The magnetic field in the solar atmosphere exceeds the geomagnetic field strength by four orders of magnitude. It greatly influences the processes of energy transport within the solar atmosphere, and dominates the morphology of the solar chromosphere and corona. Kinetic energy from convective motions in the Sun can be efficiently stored in magnetic fields and subsequently released - to heat the solar corona to several million degrees or to blast off coronal mass ejections.
The Solar Lower Atmosphere and Magnetism (SLAM) group covers many exciting subjects in solar physics, focussing on the development and testing of highly novel solar instrumentation, reduction and analysis of highest quality solar observations, or improving and developing advanced techniques for the analysis of solar observations.