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Modelling solar flares and active regions

Project SunFlare
Research Area Astro Sciences
Principal Investigator(s) Prof. Åke Nordlund
  • University of Copenhagen, Niels Bohr Institute, Denmark
  • Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, Tenerife, Spain
  • Instutute for Solar Physics, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, USA
  • Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, Garching, Germany


The Sun is a fascinating astrophysical object, given its closeness to us, its remarkable level of activity, and the intricate physics of its different layers. The study of the Sun and heliosphere is necessary to understand the structure and evolution of the stars; it is also of practical importance to know the environment in which the Earth moves and the perturbations to which its magnetosphere is subjected (space weather). Right now Europe has a unique opportunity for progress thanks to a new generation of computational tools and observational facilities with unprecedented capabilities and to recent advances in theory.

The overarching aim of this research is to understand the dynamics of solar flares and solar active regions – sunspots and the neighbourhoods of sunspots – and their interaction with the solar convection zone, on scales that range from less than 10 km to more than 100,000 km, using both 3-D MHD simulations and 3-D relativistic charged particle (particle-in-cell code) simulations to realistically model solar active region physics. The results from these simulations are to be used for modelling and interpreting direct observations of solar active region phenomena, including solar flares and the general heating of the solar corona, and also to function as test beds for rigorous validation of helioseismic inversion methods that allow observational diagnostics of sub-surface solar layers.

The project uses mainly two well-proven MPI- (and hybrid MPI/OpenMP-) codes that parallelize well to thousands of CPU cores; a staggered mesh code (the Copenhagen StaggerCode) for MHD-simulations, and the Copenhagen PhotonPlasma Code, which is a relativistic particle-in-cell (PIC) code with modular provisions for particle-particle interactions (Coulomb collisions, Bremsstrahlung, Compton scattering, etc.).

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