Flowing from the Sun: Modern Views of Heliospheric Research

Dr Claire Foullon

Proleptic Senior Lecturer
STFC Advanced Fellow in Heliophysics
University of Exeter


Waves on the sea or in the clouds are some of the most simple, yet beautiful, natural dynamic phenomena on Earth. They sometimes roll-up and form growing whirls. These phenomena occur due to a large flow difference at the transition between the air and water or cloud, which makes the boundary unstable. Similar instabilities also take place in space, when the filling plasma, a mixture of charged particles, is exposed to various sources of flows. The solar wind, for instance, is a continuous stream of plasma flowing away from the Sun. The magnetic field of the Earth forms a protective bubble called the magnetosphere, which is affected by large disturbances in the solar wind. The boundary between the solar wind and the magnetosphere is notably subject to large boundary motions. These motions may be the response to the changing force of the solar wind, like a fluttering windsock. They may also be growing whirls, that could involve a mixture of the two plasmas. In the solar wind, one can find massive clouds of material: those are ejected from the solar atmosphere at hundreds of km per second, and are associated with outflows, another source of abrupt flow changes and instabilities. While modern space observations can be challenging to analyse, the complexity of plasma physics makes them interesting to study and understand.


Dr Claire Foullon is senior lecturer with over 10 years research experience in solar and space physics. She currently holds an STFC Advanced Fellowship in the UK. She has acquired her research experience and studied while residing in England, Belgium, Scotland, and prior to that France.

Dr Foullon studies our solar-earth environment. She works with remote and in-situ spacecraft data to reveal properties measured on the Sun or in space, and she combines observations and data analysis with magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) theory. Dr Foullon's research goal is to understand MHD instabilities, governed by magnetized flows, common to space, solar and astrophysical plasma environments, and to develop the framework for space weather applications.