New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge

The Consequences of Coronal Mass Ejections

Team: 4

School: AIMS@UNM

Area of Science: Astrophysics


The star at the center of our solar system, Sol, is an almost perfect sphere of light-emitting plasma. The fusion that lights this star is not a passive process, and often produces massive clusters of charged particles and radiation, called coronal mass ejections. Occasionally, these clusters impact Earth.

The Sun has magnetic fields that are always in a state of flux, dividing and reconnecting with astronomical results. Coronal mass ejections are a frequent result of these tumultuous magnetic fields, occurring on average five to six times a day during the solar maxima. During such an event, as much as 1.6x1012 kg of charged helium and hydrogen particles, as well as radiation, are ejected from the corona at high speed away from Sol. Occasionally this mass is directed towards the Earth, and interferes with technology. Satellites, areosats, and landlines are affected by these disturbances.

Our group's goal is to model the impact that coronal mass ejections have upon the Earth and surrounding space. Studying the impact of the disruptive nature of coronal mass ejections could benefit those who rely upon technology for power or communication.

Our group plans to create an N-Body simulation of these particle clouds that accurately measures the amount of radiation and charged particles that would reach the Earth in different situations. We are also attempting to model the secondary impacts that would result from such events, such as the ejections' impact on technology, changes in atmospheric drag, and aurora locations.

Team Members:

  Randall Van Why
  Louis Jencka
  Stefan Klosterman
  John Kileen
  Nicolas Ponder

Sponsoring Teacher: Michael Harris

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