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CSI 769 - Fall 2010
 Solar and Heliospheric Physics 

Dr. Jie Zhang
corona magnetic field

Home (Last Modified: Aug. 26, 2010)

Syllabus (print version in PDF)

Prerequisites: Classical Mechanics (PHYS 303), Electromagnetic Theory (PHYS 305), Analytical Geometry and Calculus (MATH 213), or permission of instructor
Credits:  3

Date: Thursday
4:30 PM to 7:10 PM
Place: Research Bldg 1, room 301

Instructors:     Prof. Jie Zhang
Contact Info:
 (703)993-1998 (phone),  jzhang7@gmu.edu (e-mail)
Office Hour:    3:00 PM to 4:00 PM, Thursday, or by appointment
Office:               Room 351, Research Bldg 1

Description: This course provides an advanced understanding of physics processes that govern space plasma, with a focus on understanding the structure and dynamics of Sun’s atmosphere. The topics include magnetic field (3-D extrapolation, helicity, nullpoint and separator), magnetohydrodynamics (MHD), magnetic reconnection, flare dynamics, coronal mass ejections, shock and particle acceleration, and solar wind. After taking this course, students should (1) have a deep understanding of magnetism and MHD physics, (2) understand the physical mechanisms leading to energetic eruptions, (3) learn state-of-the-art computational tools to model physical processes and compare with observations. This course is intended for graduate students who are interested in space science and astrophysics.


  • Introduction/Overview: Solar Physic and Space Weather
  • Maxwell and MHD Equations
  • Magnetic Field 1: potential and force free field, helicity
  • Magnetic field 2: 3-D morphology, null points, separators
  • Magnetic reconnection 1: current sheet
  • Magnetic reconnection 2: Magnetic annihilation
  • Magnetic reconnection 3: Steady reconnection
  • Magnetic reconnection 4: unsteady reconnection
  • Solar application 1: classic models of flares and CMEs
  • Solar application 2: state-of-the-art models of flares and CMEs
  • Heliosphere and solar wind
  • Shock and particle acceleration
  • ICMEs and magnetic clouds

Homework:  There will be weekly assignments.       

Project:  Students are required to conduct two  research projects that involves in-depth physics, advanced data analysis, intensive computation and literature study. The following two projects are suggested: (1) calculating coronal magnetic field using PFSS model, and (2) CME tracking based on STEREO observations and 3-D magnetic field configuration

Exams: one midterm and one comprehensive final exam

Grades:  Homework (25%), Projects (25%), Midterm (25%), Final Exam (25%)

Class URL:  http://solar.gmu.edu/teaching/2010_CSI769/

Text Book (required):                

  • “Magnetic Reconnection – MHD Theory and Applications”, Eric Priest and Terry Forbes, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-03394-2, 2000

Supplement Reference Books:

  • “Physics of the Solar Corona”, Markus J. Aschwanden, Praxis Publishing, ISBN 3-540-30765-6, 2006
  • “An Introduction to Plasmas and Particles in the Heliosphere and Magnetospheres”, May-Britt Kallenrode, 2004
  • "Plasma Physics for Astrophysics", Russell M. Kulsrud, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-12073-0, 2005
  • Online resources

Computational Tools: