Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
The Sun and Heliosphere
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 33
Seminars / Tutorials 3 SEMINARS


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 3 Hours   Written Examination  70%
Semester Assessment 3 x Assignment Sheets  30%
Supplementary Assessment 3 Hours   Written Examination  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. explain the source of the Sun's energy

2. describe the flow of energy through the different zones of the Sun's interior

3. explain how helioseismology and neutrino counts give information on the Sun's interior

4. discuss the origins of solar activity in the solar interior

5. identify different features on the surface of the Sun under quiet and active conditions

6. recognise the problem posed by coronal heating

7. describe how to measure the electron density and velocity of interplanetary space

8. derive Parker's simple theory of the solar wind and list its limitations

9. estimate the location of the solar wind termination shock and list the limitations of the simple model used to calculate this position

10. recognise the important factors in Sun-planetary coupling over short and long time-scales

11. discuss the main features of Sun-comet coupling

Brief description

This module examines in detail the physics of our nearest star and its interaction with solar system objects and the local interstellar medium. Energy production and transport in the Sun are discussed, together with the causes and effects of solar activity, coronal heating, the emergence and evolution of the solar wind and its interaction with magnetised and unmagnetised objects and the interstellar medium. In recent years substantial advances have been in our understanding of the Sun and its extended atmosphere, including the first 3D views of the solar atmosphere from the STEREO mission.


Introduction - The Sun and the Heliosphere:
Energy flow through the Sun and Interplanetary Space. Radiation, particles and magnetic field.
Structure of the Sun. Nuclear processes in the core. Solar neutrinos. Radiative and Convective zones. Solar seismology. Photosphere and Chromosphere. Sunspots, faculae, plages, prominences, filaments. Flows in the convection region and the origins of solar activity. Active regions and eruptions. Measurement techniques.
Solar Atmosphere:
Corona. Coronal Heating, Plasma density in corona and interplanetary space. Scattering of light in the solar corona. Space-craft measurements. Irregularities in corona and interplanetary space : Coronal features. Coronal dynamics: Movement of visible features in the corona Doppler shift of spectral lines. Coronal Activity: Flares. Solar radio emission. Bursts. X-Rays. Particle emission. Measurement techniques and plasma diagnostics.
Solar wind and Heliosphere:
Parker's theory. Solar breeze and solar wind. Effect of conductivity and viscosity. Spiral structure of Interplanetary magnetic field. Acceleration of solar wind near sun. Non-uniform flow and shock fronts. Terminator Shock. Measurements of the solar wind:White-light drift measurements, interplanetary scintillation and in-situ measurements. Resolving the 3D structure of the solar wind.
Sun-Earth connections: Interaction with planetary magnetic fields. Terrestrial effects of solar variability. Long period variations in activity. Solar wind and cosmic ray shielding. "Space climate".
Comets and Meteoroids:
Structure of Comets : Core, Coma, Cloud, Dust Tail, Plasma Tail and Ion Loading. Comets and Meteor Showers.

Reading List

Recommended Text
Kivelson, Mg & Russell, CT (1995) Introduction to Space Physics Primo search Lang, KR (2001) Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Sun Cambridge University Press Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6