Maria Weber

Simulations of Magnetic Self-Organization and Flux Emergence in Low-Mass Stars Across the Tachocline Divide
Contact information:
5640 S Ellis Ave
ERC 505
Chicago, IL 60637
Fellowship status:
Starting year: 2017
Fellowship institution: University of Chicago Astronomy & Astrophysics, Adler Planetarium
Research Interests:

M dwarfs are the most abundant stars in the solar neighborhood, and among the most magnetically active. It has been argued that the seat of the global dynamo in solar-like stars resides in the tachocline, a region of shear at the interface between the outer (and differentially rotating) convection zone and the inner (and solidly rotating) radiative interior. The range of M dwarfs encompasses both stars with tachoclines and smaller stars that are fully convective. Yet stars on either side of this 'tachocline divide' still effectively build magnetic fields, with this activity often increasing toward smaller M dwarfs. This magnetism is a subject of intense observational scrutiny as we search for habitable worlds around the smallest stars. I will perform simulations of 3D convective dynamo action and magnetic flux emergence to explore the role the tachocline plays in shaping the global magnetism built by M dwarfs and the self-consistent generation and emergence of magnetic fields that may produce their starspots. This work will also shed light on the extent to which the pattern of surface magnetism is shaped by the underlying dynamo, and may provide new insight on the role of the solar tachocline.

Education and Outreach Interests:

Astrophysicists are in a prime position to educate and inspire scientific inquiry in the public through our shared interest of looking up at the night sky and wondering about the nature of universe. We can make strides in increasing scientific literacy by providing ample public communication training for astrophysicists. Our efforts can be bolstered by investing in the creation of visual aids that convey a complexity of information beyond words, accessible to even the most varied audiences. I will work with Adler Planetarium to create visualizations of my research, interacting with museum visitors to refine these in real time. Further, I will experiment with 3D printing technology and virtual reality platforms as novel approaches to render astrophysical simulations in a transportable way, benefiting tactile learners and reaching underserved groups. At the University of Chicago, I will also develop a program to train students in the art of public science communication, with ample opportunity for practicum through the Space Visualization Lab at Adler Planetarium and Chicago-wide community events.