Why Space Weather Matters and How Forecasting Will Improve in the DSCOVR Era
Doug Biesecker, NOAA/NWS/Space Weather Prediction Center
Space Weather is a growing enterprise, with growing recognition of its importance inside and outside government. The largest concern is with the electric power grid, but impacts to Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are also significant. Other areas of impact include satellites and human space flight, and high frequency communication for aviation, mariners, and emergency responders, among many. The NOAA National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) is the nation’s official source of space weather watches, warnings and alerts. SWPC does this with a 24×7 staffed operation that monitors the Sun, solar wind, and geospace environment taking advantage of a broad suite of observations and models to provide the best forecasts possible. In conjunction with the growing recognition of space weather, NOAA launched its first mission, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), out of the Earth’s orbit to an orbit about the L1 Lagrange point. This is also NOAA’s first satellite mission where space weather is the primary mission and DSCOVR marks the first of what is expected to be a long series of space weather monitoring satellites. NOAA is also bringing numerical space weather models into the mix of models running on the nation’s supercomputers. Numerical space weather models have demonstrated the ability to improve the onset time of space weather storms and will, for the first time, allow regional geomagnetic forecasting. Instead of describing conditions on Earth with a single number, customers will have forecasts tailored to their location.
Magnetic Influences on Coronal Heating and the Solar Wind
Lauren Woolsey, Harvard University
The physical mechanism(s) that generate and accelerate the solar wind have not been conclusively determined after decades of study, though not for lack of possibilities. The long list of proposed processes can be grouped into two main paradigms: 1) models that require the rearranging of magnetic topology through magnetic reconnection in order to release energy and accelerate the wind and 2) models that require the launching of magnetoacoustic and Alfvén waves to propagate along the magnetic field and generate turbulence to heat the corona and accelerate the emanating wind. After a short overview of these paradigms, I will present my ongoing dissertation work that seeks to investigate the latter category of theoretical models and the role that different magnetic field profiles play in the resulting solar wind properties with Alfvén-wave-driven turbulent heating. I will describe the computer modeling in 1D and 3D that I have done of bundles of magnetic field (flux tubes) that are open to the heliosphere, and what our results can tell us about the influences of magnetic field on the solar wind in these flux tubes, including the latest time-dependent modeling that produces bursty, nanoflare-like heating. Additionally, I will present the latest results of our study of chromospheric network jets and the magnetic thresholds we are finding in magnetogram data.
Star formation in the vicinity of the supermassive black hole at the Galactic Centre
Dr. Mark Wardle, Macquarie University
The disruptive tidal field near supermassive black holes overcomes the self-gravity of objects that are less dense than the Roche density. This was once expected to suppress star formation within several parsecs of Sgr A*, the four million solar mass black hole at the centre of the Galaxy. It has since become apparent that things are not this simple: Sgr A* is surrounded by a sub-parsec-scale orbiting disk of massive stars, indicating a star formation event occurred a few million years ago. And on parsec scales, star formation seems to be happening now: there are proplyd candidates and protostellar outflow candidates, as well as methanol and water masers that in the galactic disk would be regarded as sure-fire signatures of star formation. In this talk, I shall consider how star formation can occur so close to Sgr A*.
The stellar disk may be created through the partial capture of a molecular cloud as it swept through the inner few parsecs of the galaxy and temporarily engulfed Sgr A*. This rather naturally creates a disk of gas with the steep surface density profile of the present stellar disk. The inner 0.04 pc is so optically thick that it cannot fragment, instead accreting onto Sgr A* in a few million years; meanwhile the outer disk fragments and creates the observed stellar disk. The isolated young stellar objects found at larger distances, on the other hand, can be explained by stabilisation of clouds or cloud cores by the high external pressure that permeates the inner Galaxy. A virial analysis shows that clouds are indeed tidally disrupted within 0.5 pc of Sgr A*, but outside this the external pressure allows self-gravitating clouds to survive, providing the raw material for ongoing star formation.