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Solar prominences: unraveling the ultimate condensation catastrophe

Project description

A quest to decipher solar prominences

The most spectacular solar eruptions recorded in history invariably involved the violent ejection of a prominence: a giant, cool and dense plasma cloud that formed spontaneously within the solar corona. The role of the dominant prominence mass in coronal mass ejections is poorly understood. Surprisingly, little is also known about prominence formation and disappearance. High-resolution ab initio simulations are needed to provide answers to intriguing riddles regarding prominences. Armed with state-of-the-art software, the EU-funded PROMINENT project plans to resolve prominence-related mysteries, confront historic and forthcoming observations and train a new generation of solar physicists.

Objective

The most spectacular solar eruptions recorded in history - such as the Grand Daddy Prominence eruption on the 4th of June 1946 - invariably involve the violent ejection of a prominence: a giant, cool and dense plasma cloud that formed spontaneously within the million-degree solar corona. The role of the dominant prominence mass in all magnetically mediated coronal mass ejections is poorly understood, and yet a typical prominence easily outweighs our Earth population in mass (and the Earth itself in size). While they pervade the solar corona in all shapes and sizes, surprisingly little is known on their formation and ultimate disappearance. At the advent of two revolutionary space missions to the inner reaches of our heliosphere (Parker Probe and Solar Orbiter), a dedicated effort on ab initio prominence simulations beyond current resolution limits is needed. This must provide conclusive answers to intriguing riddles: How, where and why does the solar corona spontaneously condense to form these gigantic structures? What is the magnetic field topology throughout the prominence body, and how can it support their weight against solar gravity? What causes the fine structure (so-called threads and barbs) throughout the prominence body, and what is the role of the mysterious solar tornadoes often found at their feet? Can we use their natural oscillation frequencies seismologically? Is it feasible to predict their eruption, and can one quantify their role in space weather contexts? Armed with state-of-the-art, grid-adaptive software to efficiently exploit current and next generation supercomputers, we will resolve these mysteries, confront historic and forthcoming observations, and train a new generation of solar physicists. Along the way, we unravel fundamental processes relevant in many astrophysical contexts: how do radiatively driven, thermal instabilities induce catastrophic, non-gravitationally mediated condensations?

Host institution

KATHOLIEKE UNIVERSITEIT LEUVEN
Net EU contribution
€ 2 331 250,00
Address
OUDE MARKT 13
3000 Leuven
Belgium

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Region
Vlaams Gewest Prov. Vlaams-Brabant Arr. Leuven
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Total cost
€ 2 331 250,00

Beneficiaries (1)