Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union

Contributed Papers

Radio remote sensing of the corona and the solar wind

Steven R. Spanglera1 and Catherine A. Whitinga1

a1 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, 52242, USA email:


Modern radio telescopes are extremely sensitive to plasma on the line of sight from a radio source to the antenna. Plasmas in the corona and solar wind produce measurable changes in the radio wave amplitude and phase, and the phase difference between wave fields of opposite circular polarization. Such measurements can be made of radio waves from spacecraft transmitters and extragalactic radio sources, using radio telescopes and spacecraft tracking antennas. Data have been taken at frequencies from about 80 MHz to 8000 MHz. Lower frequencies probe plasma at greater heliocentric distances. Analysis of these data yields information on the plasma density, density fluctuations, and plasma flow speeds in the corona and solar wind, and on the magnetic field in the solar corona. This paper will concentrate on the information that can be obtained from measurements of Faraday rotation through the corona and inner solar wind. The magnitude of Faraday rotation is proportional to the line of sight integral of the plasma density and the line-of-sight component of the magnetic field. Faraday rotation provides an almost unique means of estimating the magnetic field in this part of space. This technique has contributed to measurement of the large scale coronal magnetic field, the properties of electromagnetic turbulence in the corona, possible detection of electrical currents in the corona, and probing of the internal structure of coronal mass ejections (CMEs). This paper concentrates on the search for small-scale coronal turbulence and remote sensing of the structure of CMEs. Future investigations with the Expanded Very Large Array (EVLA) or Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) could provide unique observational input on the astrophysics of CMEs.


  • Sun: corona, plasmas, turbulence, waves;
  • Sun: coronal mass ejections