School of Physics and Astronomy

Exploring the Sun's Plasma Environment with the Parker Solar Probe Spacecraft

Research Group:Space, Solar, and Astrophysical Plasmas

Number of Students:1

Length of Study in Years: 3-4 years

Full-time Project: yes


STFC or College studentship

Project Description:

The Sun's atmosphere, the solar corona, remains one of the last major areas of the solar system to be directly explored by a spacecraft, but over the next few years this will change with the NASA Parker Solar Probe (PSP) mission. This spacecraft is undergoing a series of orbits around the Sun that take it closer in to reach a final distance of less than 10 solar radii from the surface and at QMUL we are members of the PSP science team. The solar corona, and the solar wind that is produced, are in a plasma state, and there many aspects of the plasma physics in this environment that remain to be understood - for example the nature of plasma turbulence, magnetic reconnection, heating, and plasma kinetic behaviour.

Parker Solar Probe. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

Image: The Parker Solar Probe. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben.

This project will involve the analysis of data from Parker Solar Probe to study the nature of these processes in this new environment, as well as any new unexpected discoveries, and the potential role that they play in major unanswered questions of plasma astrophysics, such as coronal heating and solar wind acceleration. Although primarily an observational project, there will also be a strong link to theory and numerical simulations. As the first PSP data are starting to be returned, now is an excellent time to get involved in this exciting and historic mission.


Master's degree in physics or a related field.

SPA Academics: Dr Chris Chen