Development and application of a global magnetic field evolution model for the solar corona
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Magnetic ﬁelds are fundamental to the structure and dynamics of the Sun’s corona. Observations show them to be locally complex, with highly sheared and twisted ﬁelds visible in solar ﬁlaments/prominences. The free magnetic energy contained in such ﬁelds is the primary source of energy for coronal mass ejections, which are important—but still poorly understood drivers of space weather in the near-Earth environment. In this thesis, a new model is developed for the evolution of the large-scale magnetic ﬁeld in the global solar corona. The model is based on observations of the radial magnetic ﬁeld on the solar photosphere (visible surface). New active regions emerge, and their transport and dispersal by surface motions are simulated accurately with a surface ﬂux transport model. The 3D coronal magnetic ﬁeld is evolved in response to these photospheric motions using a magneto-frictional technique. The resulting sequence of nonlinear force-free equilibria traces the build-up of magnetic helicity and free energy over many months. The global model is applied to study two phenomena: ﬁlaments and coronal mass ejections. The magnetic ﬁeld directions in a large sample of observed ﬁlaments are compared with a 6-month simulation. Depending on the twist of newly-emerging active regions, the correct chirality is simulated for up to 96% of ﬁlaments tested. On the basis of these simulations, an explanation for the observed hemispheric pattern of ﬁlament chirality is put forward, including why exceptions occur for ﬁlaments in certain locations. Twisted magnetic ﬂux ropes develop in the simulations, often losing equilibrium and lifting off, removing helicity. The physical basis for such losses of equilibrium is demonstrated through 2D analytical models. In the 3D global simulations, the twist of emerging regions is a key parameter controlling the number of lift-offs, which may explain around a third of observed coronal mass ejections.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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