A team at the University of Michigan has developed a new space weather model called EEGGL, short for the Eruptive Event Generator (Gibson and Low), in an effort to help researchers better understand how the Sun will affect near-Earth space, and potentially improve our ability to predict space weather.
EEGGL helps map out the paths of coronal mass ejections or CMEs (magnetically structured clouds) before they reach Earth. It is part of a much larger new model of the corona, the Sun’s outer atmosphere, and interplanetary space, developed by a team at the University of Michigan.
Built to simulate solar storms, EEGGL helps NASA study how a CME might travel through space to Earth and what magnetic configuration it will have when it arrives. The model is hosted by the Community Coordinated Modeling Center, or CCMC, at NASA’s GSFC.
The new model is known as a “first principles” model because its calculations are based on the fundamental physics theory that describes the event – in this case, the plasma properties and magnetic free energy, or electromagnetics, guiding a CME’s movement through space, NASA explains.
The model begins with real spacecraft observations of a CME, including the eruption’s initial speed and location on the Sun, and then projects how the CME could travel based on the fundamental laws of electromagnetics. Ultimately, it returns a series of synthetic images, which look similar to those produced of actual observations from NASA and ESA’s SOHO or NASA’s STEREO, simulating the CME’s propagation through space.
These animated images show the propagation of a CME as it erupts from the sun and travels through space, comparing actual NASA and ESA’s SOHO satellite observations on the right to the simulation from the new CME-modeling tool at the Community Coordinated Modeling Center on the left. SOHO observed this CME on March 7, 2011. Credit: NASA/CCMC/University of Michigan/Joy Ng
Taking into account the magnetic structure of a CME from its initiation at the Sun could mark a big step in CME modeling. Various other models initiate CMEs solely based on the kinematic properties, that is, the mass and initial velocity inferred from spacecraft observations. Incorporating the magnetic properties at CME initiation may give scientists a better idea of a CME’s magnetic structure and ultimately, how this structure influences the CME’s path through space and interaction with Earth’s magnetic fields – an important piece to the puzzle of the Sun’s dynamic behavior.
All of the CCMC’s space weather models are available for use and study by researchers and the public through runs on request. In addition, EEGGL, and the model it supports, is the first “first principles” model to simulate CMEs including their magnetic structure open to the public.
Featured image credit: NASA/CCMC/University of Michigan/Joy Ng