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Investigating Magnetosonic Shocks

Students from Graveney School with Orbyts Fellow Abid Razavi

The solar wind is a stream of particles that continuously streams out of the Sun and travels across our entire heliosphere; far extending our solar system. These particles exist in a state of matter known as a plasma. Different plasma populations travel at different speeds and have different properties depending on several factors, such as the location or method of ejection from the Sun. Interactions between two plasma regions creates discontinuities at the boundaries between them. When the difference in speeds between the two regions is particularly high an interplanetary magnetosonic shock occurs. These shocks accelerate particles and generate populations with high energies which can have a lasting effect on the solar wind.

Using data from the Solar Orbiter, a joint ESA and NASA space mission, we aim to use the mathematical description of the boundary conditions between the plasma regimes to identify shocks. This involves understanding how density, velocity and magnetic field strength can be affected by this phenomenon. We then compare several features of the shock to the distance the shock occurred from the Sun to test if certain features are more prevalent further from the Sun. This will enhance our understanding of shocks and help to answer key questions involving the development of the solar wind.

Project Page Picture Credit: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team/ ESA & NASA; CSL, IAS, MPS, PMOD/WRC, ROB, UCL/MSSL
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