Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Steven R. Spangler
Knowledge of the coronal magnetic field is crucial for understanding (1) the heating mechanism(s) of the solar corona, (2) the acceleration of the fast solar wind, and (3) the structure and dynamics of coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Observation of Faraday rotation (FR) is one of the best remote-sensing techniques for determining plasma properties in the corona and can provide information on the plasma structure of a CME shortly after launch, shedding light on the initiation process. I used the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) to make sensitive Faraday rotation measurements to investigate the general plasma structure of the corona, properties of coronal plasma inhomogeneities and waves, and transients associated with coronal mass ejections. To enhance my measurements of FR transients, I also developed an algorithm in the Common Astronomy Software Applications (CASA) package to mitigate ionospheric Faraday rotation.
In August, 2011, I made FR observations at 5.0 and 6.1 GHz of the radio galaxy 3C 228 through the solar corona at heliocentric distances of 4.6 - 5.0 solar radii using the VLA. Observations at 5.0 GHz permit measurements deeper in the corona than previous VLA observations at 1.4 and 1.7 GHz. These FR observations provided unique information on the magnetic field in this region of the corona. My data on 3C 228 provide two lines of sight (separated by 46 arcseconds, 33,000 km in the corona). I detected three periods during which there appeared to be a difference in the Faraday rotation measure between these two closely spaced lines of sight, which I used to estimate coronal currents; these values (ranging from 2.6 to 4.1 GA) are several orders of magnitude below that which is necessary for significant coronal heating (assuming the Spitzer resistivity). I also used the data to determine upper limits (3.3 and 6.4 rad/m⁻²along the two lines of sight) on FR fluctuations caused by coronal waves. These upper limits are comparable to and, thus, not inconsistent with the theoretical models for Alfvén wave heating of the corona by Hollweg et al. (2010).
To support the needs of the low frequency radioastronomical community as well as my own research of coronal FR transients, I developed a new calibration algorithm for CASA that uses GPS-based global ionosphere maps of the Total Electron Content (TEC) to mitigate ionospheric Faraday rotation. The Earth's ionosphere introduces direction- and time-dependent effects over a range of physical and temporal scales and so is a major source for unmodeled phase offsets for low frequency radioastronomical observations. It has become common practice to use global ionospheric models derived from the Global Positioning System (GPS) to provide a means of externally calibrating low frequency data. However, CASA, which was developed to meet the data post-processing needs of next generation telescopes such as the VLA and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), did not have the capability to make ionospheric corrections before I implemented this calibration algorithm. I investigated several data centers as potential sources for global ionospheric models and chose the International Global Navigation Satellite System Service data product because data from other sources are generally too sparse to use without additional interpolation schemes.
I employed these ionospheric corrections in reducing VLA observations made in August, 2012, at 1 - 2 GHz of a “constellation” of radio sources through the solar corona at heliocentric distances that ranged from 5 - 15 solar radii. Of the nine sources observed, three were occulted by CMEs: 0842+1835, 0900+1832, and 0843+1547. In addition to my radioastronomical observations, which represent one of the first active hunts for CME Faraday rotation since Bird et al. (1985) and the first active hunt using the VLA, I obtained white-light coronagraph images from the LASCO/C3 instrument aboard SOHO to determine the Thomson scattering brightness, BT. BT is proportional to the electron plasma density and provides a means to independently estimate the plasma density and determine its contribution to the observed Faraday rotation. A constant density force-free flux rope embedded in the background corona was used to model the effects of the CMEs on BT and FR.
In the case of 0842+1835, the flux rope model underestimated the peak value in BT and did not reproduce the decreasing BT inside the inner cavity region of the CME; however, there was satisfactory agreement between the model and the observed FR. The single flux rope model successfully reproduces both the observed BT and FR profiles for 0900+1832. 0843+1547 was occulted by two CMEs. Therefore, I modeled observations of 0843+1547 using two flux ropes embedded in the background corona. The two flux rope model successfully reproduces both BT and FR profiles for 0843+1547 and, in particular, the two flux rope model successfully replicates the appropriate slope in FR before and after occultation by the second CME and predicts the observed change in sign to FR > 0 at the end of the observing session. I briefly discuss the plasma densities ( 6 - 22 x 10³ cm⁻³) and axial magnetic field strengths (2 - 12 mG) inferred from my models and compare them to the modeling work of Liu et al. (2007) and Jensen et al. (2008), as well as previous CME FR observations by Bird et al. (1985).
Corona, Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), Faraday rotation, Radio Astronomy
Copyright 2016 Jason Earl Kooi