Thesis Open Access

Magnetic Influences on the Solar Wind

Woolsey, Lauren

Thesis supervisor(s)

Cranmer, Steven

This is a Dissertation presented to the Department of Astronomy at Harvard University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the subject of Astronomy and Astrophysics.


The steady, supersonic outflow from the Sun we call the solar wind was first posited in the 1950s and initial theories rightly linked the acceleration of the wind to the existence of the million-degree solar corona. Still today, the wind acceleration mechanisms and the coronal heating processes remain unsolved challenges in solar physics. In this work, I seek to answer a portion of the mystery by focusing on a particular acceleration process: Alfven waves launched by the motion of magnetic field footpoints in the photosphere. The entire corona is threaded with magnetic loops and flux tubes that open up into the heliosphere. I have sought a better understanding of the role these magnetic fields play in determining solar wind properties in open flux tubes. After an introduction of relevant material, I discuss my parameter study of magnetic field profiles and the statistical understanding we can draw from the resulting steady-state wind. In the chapter following, I describe how I extended this work to consider time dependence in the turbulent heating by Alfven waves in three dimensional simulations. The bursty nature of this heating led to a natural next step that expands my work to include not only the theoretical, but also a project to analyze observations of small network jets in the chromosphere and transition region, and the underlying photospheric magnetic field that forms thresholds in jet production. In summary, this work takes a broad look at the extent to which Alfven-wave-driven turbulent heating can explain measured solar wind properties and other observed phenomena.


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