A NASA Fellowship Is Helping an NJIT Student Solve a Solar Mystery

Viacheslav Sadykov, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Physics, has come a long way to pursue research with the potential to advance our understanding of solar flares — immensely powerful, still-mysterious events on the Sun that can disrupt communications on Earth and damage power grids and orbiting satellites. Sadykov has come to NJIT from Russia, where he earned his master’s at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology in applied mathematics and physics. And the significance of his doctoral research is underscored by the support he recently received for this work in the form of a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship.

In the words of NASA, receiving this fellowship in heliophysics research is “a real mark of distinction.” More specifically, it will help Sadykov further his investigation of the phenomenon known as chromospheric evaporation, work that he is carrying out with the guidance of Professor of Physics Alexander Kosovichev. “My goal is to understand the physics of the strong plasma eruptions caused by extreme heating of the solar atmosphere, so-called chromospheric evaporation,” Sadykov says.

Sadykov, who has also spent time working at NJIT’s Big Bear Solar Observatory in California, explains that analysis of data from NASA’s IRIS satellite is integral to his research. IRIS is an acronym for Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph. The IRIS mission was launched in 2013 to continue investigation of the Sun, particularly the chromosphere, which is the layer of the Sun’s atmosphere between the lower photosphere and the outermost corona.

“The instrumentation on the IRIS satellite allows us to ‘see’ the extremely hot, 10-million-degree Celsius, evaporating plasma flows that are of special interest and learn more about the release of energy during solar flares,” Sadykov says. He adds that a significant outcome of this research could be more accurate models of the solar-flare process, and new understanding that may enhance our ability to correctly describe and anticipate the occurrence of the most energetic natural phenomenon in the solar system.      

In addition to his principal doctoral research in heliophysics, Sadykov is assisting Kosovichev and colleagues Associate Research Professor of Physics Gelu Nita and Associate Professor of Computer Science Vincent Oria with NJIT’s Multi-Instrument Database of Solar Flares. The project’s primary focus is on applying intelligent “big data” computing methodology to give the heliophysics community worldwide much better access to the fast-growing amount of information about flares and related phenomena being acquired by NASA space missions and ground-based observatories.