Physics of the Sun


The Sun constitutes a physics laboratory with complex interactions between its electrically conducting plasma and a strong magnetic field, in conditions that cannot be reproduced in our laboratories.

A new paradigm has been emerging that involves a connected view of the solar atmosphere linked by the magnetic field from the solar interior to the outer corona, as well as detailed local helioseismology in sunspots, loops and other magnetic features. The solar physics group of the IAC holds a leadership position in the investigation of the Sun in the framework of this global paradigm as exemplified by its role in major projects like the European Solar Telescope, the Solar Orbiter mission of ESA or the NASA-JAXA-IAC Chromospheric Ly-alpha Spectropolarimeter and the leadership of the European Network SOLARNET.

The group's expertise is at the forefront of the international research, striving in the coming years to understand how the magnetic fields emerge from the solar interior through the surface and rise to the upper atmosphere leaving in the meantime its imprint of complex interaction and releasing part of its energy to the medium. The IAC's expertise in the development of polarimetric instrumentation [TIP & LPSP ; Sunrise ; EST ; Solar Orbiter], in the development and application of diagnostic techniques for magnetized plasmas and in 3D numerical radiation-MHD modelling has established the team as one of the most competitive and scientifically prepared in the world.



To observe the physical structures and processes of the Sun and understand them in terms of the laws of dynamics, magnetism and radiation transfer, including the development of cutting-edge observational and computational techniques to reach those goals.

Specific goals 2020-2023:
  • To produce realistic one-, two- and three-dimensional models of key magnetic, dynamic and radiative processes in the solar atmosphere and convection zone using massively parallel computer facilities, in order to understand the physics underlying the solar structures and processes through suitable theoretical models.
  • To carry out forward modelling from numerical simulations to bridge the gap between observation and theory, taking into account all the physical mechanisms that produce polarization in solar spectral lines.
  • To develop novel diagnostic methods and inversion codes. Together with Bayesian inference tools, we will make a significant step forward on the quality of the information extracted from observations.
  • To support space projects (e.g., CLASP, Solar Orbiter, Sunrise3) via new developments in observations and theory, including the modeling of the CLASP2 ultraviolet spectropolarimetric observations in order to study the magnetism of the upper solar chromosphere.
  • To expand our understanding of the physics of the Sun by building a bridge between the knowledge gathered from solar observations and modeling, and the diversity of stars.


Specific goals 2016-2019:
  • To perform realistic 3D modelling of the dynamics and radiative processes in the solar atmosphere using massively parallel computers.
  • Develop new diagnostic methods based on radiative transfer of polarized light.
  • Carry out ground-breaking observations from new ground and space facilities with unprecedented spatial resolution, time cadence and polarimetric sensitivity.
  • Establish a model of Earth’s globally-averaged radiation balance.
  • Observational and theoretical studies of the solar photosphere and sunspots.


Main Scientific Outputs:


  • A study of the latest advances, both theoretical and observational, in the waves that propagate in the Sun's magnetic fields (published in the journal Living Reviews in Solar Physics).
  • A radiative transfer investigation on the magnetic sensitivity of the solar resonance line from Mg II k to 2795.5 Å has been carried out, which indicates that this line is especially suitable for probing the chromosphere in quiet and active regions of the Sun (published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters).



  • Using artificial intelligence techniques, a neural network has been developed capable of automatically measuring the horizontal movement of plasma in the solar photosphere with unprecedented resolution. The neural network is capable of detecting very small vortices in the solar atmosphere, only a few hundred kilometers in diameter, and which can last less than a minute. The results of the study have been published in Astronomy & Astrophysics.
  • The origin of solar spicules was discovered by combining simulations and images taken with NASA's IRIS spectrograph and the Swedish Solar Telescope at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (published in the journal Science).
  • The polarization of the ultraviolet radiation from the Sun has been measured for the first time with the CLASP (Chromospheric Lyman-Alpha SpectroPolarimeter) instrument. CLASP is an international experiment, which emerged as a result of theoretical research carried out at the IAC, and whose importance lies in the fact that it opens up a new window for exploring the magnetic field and geometry of the plasma in the transition region between the chromosphere and the Sun's corona. The first results of this experiment have been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.



  • Identified the presence of spiral wavefronts in sunspots, which start from the darkest area of the spot, called the umbra, and extend to the outermost regions of the penumbra. The observed waves have been interpreted as a manifestation of magneto-acoustic waves, which propagate from the solar interior to the upper atmospheric layers following the direction of the magnetic field lines (published in Astronomy & Astrophysics).


Scientific Outputs 2012 - 2015

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