The Catholic University of America

April 9, 2008

CUA Professor Awarded $600,000 Grant for Work on Solar Eruption Research

Leon Ofman

Leon Ofman, an associate professor of physics at Catholic University, has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the Naval Research Laboratory to study phenomena involved in solar eruptions, which can cause magnetic storms on Earth that affect satellites and satellite communications.

His work will support the Solar-B Mission. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency launched the three-year mission in 2006 in collaboration with NASA, the European Space Agency and the Science and Technology Facilities Council to explore magnetic fields of the sun.

"We hope to learn how the magnetic fields evolve in the solar atmosphere (corona), and how the coronal material (mostly ionized hydrogen) is heated by the energy released from the magnetic fields," Ofman said.

Ofman will concentrate on analyzing data from the Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectometer (EIS) onboard the Hinode. He expects the data to yield insights on magnetic loops, and the acceleration of charged particles by currents generated by solar activity.

"We already have made an important discovery of waves in the magnetic loops caused by the eruptions," Ofman said, adding the waves have sufficient energy to heat the ionized material in the loops. He said that the phenomenon is roughly analogous to heating food in a microwave.

Ultimately, these findings and the data from the EIS are expected to lead to greater understanding about the causes of solar eruptions.

MEDIA: For more information, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy at 202-319-5600.