The most spectacular solar eruptions recorded in history - such as the Grand Daddy Prominence eruption on the 4th of June 1946 - invariably involve the violent ejection of a prominence: a giant, cool and dense plasma cloud that formed spontaneously within the million-degree solar corona. The role of the dominant prominence mass in all magnetically mediated coronal mass ejections is poorly understood, and yet a typical prominence easily outweighs our Earth population in mass (and the Earth itself in size). While they pervade the solar corona in all shapes and sizes, surprisingly little is known on their formation and ultimate disappearance.

At the advent of two revolutionary space missions to the inner reaches of our heliosphere (Parker Probe and Solar Orbiter), a dedicated effort on ab initio prominence simulations beyond current resolution limits is needed. This must provide conclusive answers to intriguing riddles: How, where and why does the solar corona spontaneously condense to form these gigantic structures? What is the magnetic field topology throughout the prominence body, and how can it support their weight against solar gravity? What causes the fine structure (so-called threads and barbs) throughout the prominence body, and what is the role of the mysterious solar tornadoes often found at their feet? Can we use their natural oscillation frequencies seismologically? Is it feasible to predict their eruption, and can one quantify their role in space weather contexts?

Armed with state-of-the-art, grid-adaptive software to efficiently exploit current and next generation supercomputers, we will resolve these mysteries, confront historic and forthcoming observations, and train a new generation of solar physicists. Along the way, we unravel fundamental processes relevant in many astrophysical contexts: how do radiatively driven, thermal instabilities induce catastrophic, non-gravitationally mediated condensations?

Main funding info

Programme Funding Horizon 2020 – EU 1.1
Project dates September 1, 2019 – August 31, 2024
Sub Programme Area ERC-2018-AdG
Grant agreement ID 833251
Contract type ERC-AdG
Budget € 2 331 250