The dynamic topology of the solar corona : mapping the Sun’s three dimensional magnetic skeleton
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Observations of the surface of the Sun reveal multi-scaled, mixed magnetic features that carpet the entire solar surface. Not surprisingly, the global magnetic fields extrapolated from these observations are highly complex. This thesis explores the topology of the Sun’s global coronal magnetic fields. The magnetic skeleton of a magnetic field provides us with a way of examining the magnetic field and quantifying its complexity. Using specialised codes to find the magnetic skeletons which were written during the course of this work, we first examine potential field extrapolations of the global solar coronal magnetic field determined from observed synoptic magnetograms from the Heliospheric Magnetic Imager on the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The resolution of the PFSS models is found to be very important for discovering the true nature of the global magnetic skeleton. By increasing the maximum number of harmonics used in the potential field extrapolations and, therefore, the grid resolution, 60 times more null points may be found in the coronal magnetic field. These high resolution fields also have a large global separator network which connects the coronal magnetic field over large distances and involves between 40 % and 60 % of all the null points in the solar atmosphere. This global separator network exists at both solar minimum and solar maximum and has separators that reach high into the solar atmosphere (> 1R☉) even though they connect null points close to the solar surface. These potential field extrapolations are then compared with magnetohydrostatic (MHS) extrapolations of the coronal magnetic field which also provide us with information about the plasma in the corona. With a small component of electric current density in the direction perpendicular to the radial direction, these MHS fields are found to have a plasma beta and pressure typical of the corona. As this small component of electric current density grows, the heliospheric current sheet is warped significantly and the magnetic field, plasma beta and pressure become unphysical. Torsional spine reconnection is also studied local to a single null point. First using a dynamical relaxation of a spiral null point under non-resistive magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) to a MHS equilibrium is form in which a current layer has built up around the spine lines. Then the reconnection under resistive MHD in this current sheet is studied. The current about the spine lines is dissipated and the magnetic energy is mainly converted into heat directly as the field lines untwist about the spine line.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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