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Studying the Magnetic Reconnection of the Sun

NSF Award:

CAREER: Magnetic Reconnection--An Observational Investigation  (Montana State University)

REU Site: Solar Physics Program at Montana State University  (Montana State University)

Congressional Districts:
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Jiong Qiu of Montana State University (MSU) is trying to quantitatively determine the evolution of magnetic field topology and energy flow in solar magnetic reconnection events. Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental process in plasma physics, and it is believed to be correlated with the explosive energy release observed during solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Qiu has been developing innovative techniques to analyze state-of-the-art measurements of solar flare and magnetic field evolution, obtained both by ground-based observatories and by satellite instruments. These observed physical quantities provide important constraints to theoretical models of magnetic reconnection.

In collaboration with Dana Longcope and colleagues at MSU, Qiu has developed a new method called "reconnection sequence analysis," for quantitative analysis of solar magnetic reconnection. The new method seeks to correlate reconnection rates measured from flare signatures in the lower solar atmosphere, with individual magnetic source regions determined through the analysis of magnetogram data of the solar photosphere.

Qiu has redesigned a solar system astronomy course at MSU in order to familiarize her students with the methodology and philosophy of science, and enhance their research and scientific reasoning abilities. Qiu has designed and implemented novel lab projects that provide students with hands-on experience in astronomical observation and measurement.


  • X-ray telescope image of the sun
This x-ray telescope image of the sun is designed to capture images of the sun's outer atmosphere, the corona. The corona is the spawning ground for explosive activity, such as coronal mass ejections. Powered by the sun's magnetic field, this violent activity produces significant effects in the space between the sun and Earth.
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