Thursday, March 28, 2024

A University of Iowa physicist has won funding from NASA to further study the forceful interactions when the super-charged wind from the sun slams into the Earth's magnetic fields.

Greg Howes, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, will study the plasma physics that occur at magnetic reconnection, the points where the solar wind meets the Earth’s magnetosphere. Howes’ research team has developed the field-particle correlation technique. Using this technique, direct measurements of the electromagnetic fields and of the protons and electrons that constitute the solar wind plasma can be combined to learn how these particles are accelerated through the process of magnetic reconnection.

“Ultimately, this project aims to illuminate the detailed mechanisms at play in magnetic reconnection that leads to the heating of the solar wind plasma or the acceleration of particles to high energy, giving us a peek into the physics that governs intense events on the sun such as massive solar flares," Howes says.

The three-year award is for $525,000.