Montana State University

MSU Solar Astronomy & Space Physics REU Program

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REU Sample Project:

Evolution of Solar Active Regions from Full-surface Observations

Author: Brendan Gallagher, REU 2017 participant (Physics major, George Mason University)  

Abstract:  To understand and predict solar activity, magnetic field measurements are essential. The Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) of the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has provided magnetic field measurements but only in the hemisphere facing the Earth. The STEREO mission launched in 2006 carries two spacecraft that observe the Sun from different view angles. In this study, we analyze images of the Sun in the 304\AA\ passband taken simultaneouly by the two Extreme UltraViolet Imagers (EUVI) on-board STEREO and by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) on-board SDO. From these images, synchronic EUV Carrington maps are constructed at a 12-hour cadence and spanning for 4 years from May 2010 to April 2014. We use an automated approach to identify plage regions in the synchronic EUV Carrington maps (Liewer et al. 2017), and study their evolution during the first half of the solar cycle 24. These plage regions are compared with NOAA sunspot records and radial magnetic field measurements by HMI, and have proven to be a good proxy of solar active regions. With the full-surface synchronic EUV maps, active regions can be tracked continuously throughout their life time. Our analysis suggests that large active regions, which have large integrated EUV intensities as well as large amounts of unsigned magnetic flux, appear to cluster at certain longitudes, after correcting their drifts associated with the differential rotation.

This work is presented at the Triennial Earth-Sun Summit Meeting in May, 2018, at Leesburg, VA.

What do former REU students say about the program?

"I would highly recommend the Solar Physics REU program. The program gives you a real insight into what research is really like ... " more  


Applications for Summer 2021 are closed. Please come back in the fall to apply for the 2022 summer program.

  • Provide high-quality state-of-the-art research experience.
  • Develop independence, creativity, and interest in physics and astronomy graduate study.
  • Demonstrate how academic knowledge acquired in classes relates to real-world research problems.
  • Develop and strengthen practical research skills.
  • Encourage participation by under-represented students in STEM research and career.


Most projects involve analysis of data from current space missions such as Hinode, SDO , STEREO , and IRIS , past space missions including Yohkoh, SOHO, TRACE, and RHESSI, and ground-based observatories. Experience has shown that data analysis projects are suitable for most undergraduates at the sophomore or junior level.  Additionally, each year there are a few opportunities in solar magneto-hydrodynamics, and space hardware development.
List of 2021 projects


The summer months in Montana offer outstanding opportunities for outdoor recreation and other activities associated with the university and the community. Surrounded by spectacular mountains and rivers, Bozeman is within easy driving distance of Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.


Our program gives participants an opportunity to develop skills for contemporary research under the guidance of internationally known physicists. These REU experiences help students make informed decisions about graduate school and careers in academia, research, and STEM fields.

Training and Education

The first week of our program includes training in the unix/linux/Solaris computing environment and programming languages as tools for numerical modeling and data analysis.  Lectures by MSU faculty and visiting professors cover a variety of subjects related to the research program. Participants are also trained in public speaking and communications. The last week of our program includes participant presentations of research results. Successful projects lead to presentations at conferences and publications in journals. For a more detailed look at the program, see the calendars for 2018 and 2017.


Participants must be full-time undergraduates, typically finishing their sophomore or junior years, and will not graduate before 2021 summer. Applications from underrepresented groups are particularly welcomed. Application is restricted to US citizens or permanent residents.

Practical Details

The summer 2021 program will run from June 1 through August 6. Time-critical first and last week activities and summer housing limitations preclude other start and end dates. Stipends will be $6000 plus a $500 food allowance for the ten week program. Domestic travel costs to and from Bozeman (up to coach air fare) from home or campus are covered and university residence hall lodging (single room dorm) is provided.