KC6033 - Solar Physics

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What will I learn on this module?

The aim of this module is to investigate the Sun, our nearest star, as the energy powerhouse of our solar system. You will consider fundamental solar processes, solar radiation and neutrinos, nuclear fusion reactions, the physics of the solar interior and solar atmosphere, the coronal heating problem, sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections, solar wind and space weather, geomagnetic storms and auroras, solar dangers and the Sun-Earth connection.

You will construct and apply mathematical models of the Sun to describe fundamental solar processes and phenomena, including the use of magnetic fluid dynamics and magnetism made visible.

Outline Syllabus

The Sun as a star
Solar radiation, solar constants, spectroscopy of the Sun, the Sun’s place in the Milky Way and universe, nuclear fusion reactions, solar neutrino problem, solar energy transfer, the solar atmosphere, sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections, solar wind and space weather, geomagnetic storms and auroras, solar dangers (including satellites), and the Sun-Earth connection.

The physics of the Sun
Review of magnetism and Maxwell’s equations, fluid description and magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) equations, magnetic induction, magnetic forces (Lorentz force), magnetism made visible, the vector potential, MHD waves (phase and group speeds), Alfvén waves, and mathematical models of the solar wind.

How will I learn on this module?

A wide range of learning and teaching approaches are used in this module. The module is delivered using a combination of lectures and seminars. Lectures are used to introduce essential theory and to work through example problems. Seminars will be used to analyse and discuss additional example problems. Problems will be set in advance of seminars, and these are of a similar nature to the examples provided in lectures. Lectures are used to allow you to develop knowledge of two main concepts of solar physics: the Sun as a star, and the physics of the Sun. You will be introduced to unanswered questions in solar physics, such as the coronal heating problem and the formation of sunspots. You will also learn about recently resolved issues, such as neutrino production inside the Sun’s core. Seminars support this process through worked examples and virtual demonstrations using multimedia resources. You will gain greater autonomy and independence through this module and are directed to seminal references which provide a basis for further student-led exploration of the state-of-the-art knowledge base. This process helps you to develop critical thinking skills for example forming judgements on the credibility and authority of a reference. It also provides valuable sector knowledge thereby increasing students’ employability.

Students will be assessed by coursework (30%) and a formal examination (70%). Coursework (an assignment/written report) will cover one chosen topic from the syllabus, for example the solar wind. The examination will cover all topics from the module.

Formative feedback will be provided on seminar work which will include problems designed to aid your understanding.

Written feedback will be provided on the coursework. Exam feedback will provided individually and also generically to indicate where the cohort has a strong or a weaker answer to examination questions.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

In addition to direct contact with the module team during lectures and seminars, you are encouraged to develop your curiosity by making direct contact with the module team either via email or the open door policy operated throughout the programme. You will also be regularly referred to supporting resources including relevant texts and multimedia relevant to the module. References to these resources will be made available through the e-learning portal and in lectures and seminars.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Analyse and critically evaluate the fundamental solar properties and processes, such as magnetic-plasma interactions.
2. Evaluate the Sun’s effect on the Earth.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. Construct and apply mathematical models of solar physical concepts, including models of the solar wind.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
4. Manage their own learning, through knowledge of available reading sources, including advanced texts and research papers and scientific databases.
5. Effectively and concisely communicate solar physics-based ideas in written form.

How will I be assessed?

SUMMATIVE
1. Coursework (30%) – 1, 2, 3, 4
2. Examination (70%) – 1, 2, 3, 5

FORMATIVE
1. Seminars KU1, KU2, KU3


Students will be assessed by coursework (30%) and a formal examination (70%). Coursework (an assignment/written report) will cover one topic from the syllabus. The examination will cover all topics from the module.

Formative feedback will be provided on seminar work which will include problems designed to aid student understanding. Written feedback will be provided on the coursework.

Pre-requisite(s)

None

Co-requisite(s)

None

Module abstract

In ‘Solar Physics’ you will investigate the Sun, our nearest star, as the energy powerhouse of our solar system. You will consider the physical processes of the solar interior and atmosphere, as well as learning about solar observations such as sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections. This you will do by constructing and applying mathematical models to describe fundamental solar observations and processes, which include the interaction between magnetic fields and plasma (hot charged gas).

You will be attending formal lectures during which you will become conversant with solar observations and theory. A written assignment during the course will cover one aspect about the Sun and will count 30% towards the final mark. The other 70% comes from a final written examination. ‘Solar Physics’ provides you with useful preparation for employment, for example in the increasingly important space sector, or as preparation for further study.

What will I learn on this module?

The aim of this module is to investigate the Sun, our nearest star, as the energy powerhouse of our solar system. You will consider fundamental solar processes, solar radiation and neutrinos, nuclear fusion reactions, the physics of the solar interior and solar atmosphere, the coronal heating problem, sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections, solar wind and space weather, geomagnetic storms and auroras, solar dangers and the Sun-Earth connection.

You will construct and apply mathematical models of the Sun to describe fundamental solar processes and phenomena, including the use of magnetic fluid dynamics and magnetism made visible.

Outline Syllabus

The Sun as a star
Solar radiation, solar constants, spectroscopy of the Sun, the Sun’s place in the Milky Way and universe, nuclear fusion reactions, solar neutrino problem, solar energy transfer, the solar atmosphere, sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections, solar wind and space weather, geomagnetic storms and auroras, solar dangers (including satellites), and the Sun-Earth connection.

The physics of the Sun
Review of magnetism and Maxwell’s equations, fluid description and magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) equations, magnetic induction, magnetic forces (Lorentz force), magnetism made visible, the vector potential, MHD waves (phase and group speeds), Alfvén waves, and mathematical models of the solar wind.

Course info

UCAS Code F3F5

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2019 or September 2020

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