3D simulation of magnetic islands dynamics during solar flare events

Miho janvier

Nationality French

Year of selection 2011

Institution Observatoire de Paris

Country France

Risk Environment

Post-Doctoral Fellowship

2 years

The whims of a star

Does the prospect of the world coming to an end scare you? Rest assured, there are more pressing matters at hand, such as the whims of our old friend the Sun.
Did you know that the sun is a changeable star, which follows an 11-year behavior cycle during which its intensity varies, thus changing the risks for the Earth?
The evolution of the sun’s activity is directly linked to changes in its magnetic topology. Regions of intense magnetic activity—aka sunspots—appear as dark patches on the sun’s surface, regularly releasing massive amounts of energy during so-called solar flares. Associated with these flares are violent bursts of plasma, otherwise known as coronal mass ejections which travel within solar winds until they reach the Earth. These induce geomagnetic storms with the power to disrupt entire electrical grids, satellites and commercial flights.

Yet, the start of a new solar cycle in 2008 marked the beginning of a three-year period of intense activity, which is of major interest to Dr. Janvier. Indeed, with heightened solar activity, the number of unpredictable magnetic disruptions is bound to increase, and this is where her work on 3D simulation steps in.
First, Dr. Janvier is investigating and performing 3D modeling of the dynamics involved in magnetic reconnection—the crucial point where magnetic field lines come so close to each other that they connect and release a massive burst of energy. This “reconnection” phenomenon is the focus of her work and, in the long run, the key to a better understanding of space physics as well as plasmas involved in the generation of nuclear fusion power. Secondly, this highly transient “reconnection” episode is believed to be one of the most efficient ways to convert stored-up magnetic energy into heating and thermal energy.
Considering that her achievements cover both fusion science and astrophysics, Dr. Janvier’s work may not only lead to better predictions of space weather and a better understanding of nuclear fusion, but it also may result in better prevention of the consequences of geomagnetic storms on human lives and infrastructures.

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