is a research project funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation.
One of the greatest challenges of 21st century astrophysics is to understand the magnetism of the Sun, and in so doing to develop the tools needed for the exploration of the magnetic activity in other types of stars across the Hertzsprung-Russel diagram. It is only on the Sun where, with the present technology, we can explore with sufficient detail a domain of physics that is not accesible via laboratory experiments on Earth. This physics is of crucial importance to explain much of the phenomenology observed in other astrophysical objects. Deciphering the complexity of solar magnetic fields and their dynamical and energetic effects should help to solve some of the key problems of astrophysics, such as:
- The turbulent nature of magnetic fields at the spatial scales where the fundamental astrophysical processes occur.
- Dynamo processes, by which magnetic fields are generated everywhere in the Universe.
- Heating of outer stellar atmospheres, and the origin of solar and stellar winds.
- Plasma instabilities, which lead to mass ejections.
- Origin of solar irradiance variability and the impact of solar magnetic activity on near-Earth space weather.
For all these reasons a group of scientists with complementary experiences in theoretical astrophysics, instrumentation, observational techniques, and numerical simulations agreed to join their efforts by working within the framework of the Project “Solar Magnetism and Astrophysical Spectropolarimetry”, funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MICINN). Its main objectives for the period 2011-2013 are:
- To develop and apply to spectro-polarimetric observations the diagnostic and modeling tools necessary to decipher the physics of the solar chromosphere, and to understand its dynamical and magnetic coupling with the underlying (cooler) photosphere and the overlying (hotter) corona.
- To carry out the detailed design of the European Solar Telescope and to consolidate our coordination role of this European effort.
- To study the dynamic behaviour and the temporal variability of the smallest observable magnetic features in "quiet" and active regions of the solar atmosphere, by applying image reconstruction techniques to high-spatial resolution observations.
- To lead the field of radiative transfer simulations in three-dimensional magneto-hydrodynamical models of stellar atmospheres, with emphasis on the polarization of spectral lines produced by the Hanle and Zeeman effects.
- To perform observational and theoretical investigations on the generation and propagation of magneto-acoustic waves in the solar atmosphere, with the aim of clarifying its possible influence on chromospheric and coronal heating.
- To collaborate with JAXA and NASA on a joint rocket experiment designed to measure linear polarization in the Lyman-alpha line, due to scattering processes in the solar transition region.
- To carry out investigations on the diagnostic potential of spectropolarimetry in chromospheric and coronal lines in order to help define the instrumentation of future space missions aimed at measuring the magnetic fields of the outer solar atmosphere (chromosphere, transition region and corona).
- To apply our know-how on solar spectropolarimetry to other areas of astrophysics, with particular interest on exploring magnetic fields in the hot stars of planetary nebulae and in circumstellar envelopes.