A major challenge in space science is understanding how highly localized regions, far smaller than 1 degree at the Sun, are the source of solar wind structures spanning more than 20 degrees near Earth. The Sun’s atmosphere is divided into “open” regions, called “coronal holes,” where solar wind plasma streams out freely and fills the solar system, and “closed” regions, where the plasma is confined by the solar magnetic field. The boundary between these regions extends outward as the heliospheric current sheet (HCS). Measurements of plasma composition imply that the wind near the HCS originates in closed regions; mysteriously, however, this type of wind is sometimes seen far from the HCS as well. In her dissertation research, Dr. Aleida Higginson performed groundbreaking numerical simulations that showed that for certain coronal hole topologies commonly observed in the corona, closed-field plasma released in a highly localized region at the Sun ends up forming huge arcs of slow wind in the heliosphere. Her work revealed a new and highly important property of the Sun–heliosphere magnetic connection.
—Spiro Antiochos, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
I would like to thank the award committee and the Space Physics and Aeronomy section of AGU for this honor. Thank you also to my advisers, Spiro Antiochos, Thomas Zurbuchen, Susan Lepri, and Rick DeVore. You have shared so much of your time with me, teaching me how to work through research challenges and the importance of celebrating our successes. As a graduate student I had the privilege of dividing my time between the University of Michigan and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Thank you to Michigan for providing a rigorous and encouraging learning environment, and thank you to Goddard for giving me the experience of never being more than two floors away from a world expert on any topic within heliophysics. I truly have one of the coolest jobs ever and often find myself in awe that I get paid to figure out how the Sun works. I have found a wonderful home in the field of heliophysics, and I look forward to many years of discovery with scientists of the highest caliber.
—Aleida Higginson, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor