University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Spotlight

Celestial Weather Man

Sam Schreiner
Sam Schreiner
Alex Schumann
                                                       

Sam Schreiner is studying to be a weatherman of sorts. He is a student in the field of Heliophysics, the physics of the sun’s heliosphere and the objects (including the Earth) that interact with it. Specifically Sam been studying the “weather patterns” of particularly violent sun storms called Coronal Mass Ejections (CME).

As part of a Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) grant, Sam is building a system to detect and hopefully predict when Coronal Mass Ejections will reach the earth. A CME that reaches the Earth can disrupt the planet’s magnetosphere to the point that it can interfere with power grids and radio transmissions. Schreiner says that NASA is also interested in predicting CMEs they can damage spacecraft and be dangerous to humans in space. CMEs also affect the aurora borealis or northern lights.

Schreiner studies thousands of images from several telescopes including STEREO and SOHO. Since the various telescopes record many events every week, he has a lot of data to sift through. He uses piece of software he modified to pick the best potential events and records their speed and trajectory. The ideal subject is one that has been spotted on multiple instruments from several angles.

As an undergraduate in the physics program, Schreiner is in the unique position to do impactful research at such an early stage in his career. He has been working on this project for more than a year and will be a junior in the fall of 2010. Apart from his advisor, space physicist Cindy Cattell, he works with several physics graduate students who have familiarity with much of the data he uses. His project for the most part is independent. Sam says he appreciates the UROP grant because it allowed him to work full time over the summer on his CME detector when the School might not have had funds to pay him. His paper on CMFs was recently submitted to the journal "Solar Physics."

Sam is originally from Lino Lakes Minnesota. He plans to pursue a graduate degree in Aerospace Engineering. He is also the recipient of the 2010 Edmond G. Franklin Scholarship in Physics.