Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Jan J. Sojka


The measurement of vector magnetic fields on the sun is one of the most important diagnostic tools for characterizing solar activity. The ubiquitous solar wind is guided into interplanetary space by open magnetic field lines in the upper solar atmosphere. Highly-energetic solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) are triggered in lower layers of the solar atmosphere by the driving forces at the visible ``surface'' of the sun, the photosphere. The driving forces there tangle and interweave the vector magnetic fields, ultimately leading to an unstable field topology with large excess magnetic energy, and this excess energy is suddenly and violently released by magnetic reconnection, emitting intense broadband radiation that spans the electromagnetic spectrum, accelerating billions of metric tons of plasma away from the sun, and finally relaxing the magnetic field to lower-energy states. These eruptive flaring events can have severe impacts on the near-Earth environment and the human technology that inhabits it. This dissertation presents a novel inversion method for inferring the properties of the vector magnetic field from telescopic measurements of the polarization states (Stokes vector) of the light received from the sun, in an effort to develop a method that is fast, accurate, and reliable. One of the long-term goals of this work is to develop such a method that is capable of rapidly-producing characterizations of the magnetic field from time-sequential data, such that near real-time projections of the complexity and flare-productivity of solar active regions can be made. This will be a boon to the field of solar flare forecasting, and should help mitigate the harmful effects of space weather on mankind's space-based endeavors. To this end, I have developed an inversion method based on genetic algorithms (GA) that have the potential for achieving such high-speed analysis.


This work revised and made publicly available electronically on July 22, 2011.

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