The corona is a layer of hot plasma that surrounds the Sun, traces out its complex magnetic field, and ultimately expands into interplanetary space as the supersonic solar wind. Although much has been learned in recent decades from advances in observations, theory, and computer simulations, we still have not identified definitively the physical processes that heat the corona and accelerate the solar wind. In this talk, I will summarize some of these recent advances and speculate about what else is required to finally understand the fundamental physics of this complex system. Much of my own work has involved modeling coronal heating as an outcome of the damping of Sun-generated waves and turbulent eddies. Although these models successfully reproduce many features of the observations, we still need to simulate a wider range of processes in order to successfully determine which ones are active on the real Sun. I will also discuss how this work feeds into the practical world of "space weather forecasting," and how it is being extended to better understand the high-energy activity and dynamic outflows of other stars. Lastly, I will conclude with future plans, including a brief review of new instruments over the next decade that will help us test (i.e., conclusively validate or falsify) our pie-in-the-sky theoretical ideas.
Steve Cranmer / University of Colorado Boulder
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