Colloquium

Understanding the Building Blocks of the Solar Wind and How They Fit Together: Heat Flux, Radiation, and Alfven-Wave Turbulence

A growing body of evidence suggests that the solar wind is powered to a large extent by an Alfven-wave energy flux that is generated by convective motions on the surface of the Sun. The solar wind and solar corona are also affected by the flux of heat, including conductive losses into the radiative lower solar atmosphere. Numerical simulations that account for the above physics are increasingly able to reproduce remote observations of the corona and solar wind. On the other hand, we still lack an analytic theory that provides formulas for key quantities such as the solar mass-loss rate. Analytic treatments are needed for several reasons. They deepen our understanding by distilling complex processes into their most essential elements, they show how different quantities scale with one another, and they encapsulate our understanding into a portable form that can be applied to other systems and used by anyone. In this talk, I will present a recently developed analytic theory of coronal heating and solar-wind acceleration that provides analytic formulas and intuitive explanations for the solar mass-loss rate, the solar-wind speed far from the Sun, the coronal temperature, the heat flux from the corona into the lower solar atmosphere, and the plasma density at the base of the corona.

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