MSSL News Page

Auroras unlock the physics of energetic processes in space

Publication date:

Auroral beads forming along an arc (credit: ESA)

A close study of auroras has revealed new ways of understanding the physics of explosive energy releases in space, according to new UCL-led research.

Comet tails: charged dust blowing in the solar wind

Publication date:

Comet McNaught over the Pacific Ocean. Image taken from Paranal Observatory in January 2007.Credits: ESO/Sebastian Deiries


How a comet’s dust tail forms bands stretching millions of kilometres across the sky has been observed for the first time by UCL scientists. The study, published today in Icarus, reveals the charged nature of the dust particles and the important role of the Sun in forming the characteristic patterns. 

Congratulations to our new professors!

Publication date:

Congratulations to Sarah Matthews, Geraint Jones and Daisuke Kawata who have all been promoted to professor in this year’s round of senior academic promotions. All have been long-standing academics at MSSL, taking leading roles in our involvement in various missions and projects including the European Solar Telescope, Gaia and Plato. Prof. Matthews is leading the MSSL Equality and Diversity Initiative, including our Juno supporter award. Prof. Jones is an STFC Outreach Fellow, developing the new MSSL podcast ‘Thinking Space’ and the Astrojots project. Prof. Kawata is MSSL’s graduate tutor, supporting our PhD students.

Welcome to our 2018 PhD students

Publication date:

2018 Intake of PhD students at MSSL

MSSL welcomes our new PhD students who joined us at the end of September. Our new students are funded by UCL, STFC, ESA, the Royal Society, industry and through international funding and will be working in the research groups across the lab. We wish them well in their studies and time here.

Space weather research to space weather forecasting

Publication date:

MSSL research has long focussed on the science behind space weather - a research area that helps us understand how emissions from the Sun impact the technology that modern society relies on. The department also has an engineering programme to supply the instrumentation needed for this research. To disseminate knowledge about the physical drivers of space weather, the department offers training courses. Recently, space weather forecasters at the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre have been recipients of a specially designed programme. This course has been highlighted by UCL Consultants as a case study of UCL working with industry.

MSSL Space Plasma student wins poster award at SHINE meeting

Publication date:

PhD student Lloyd Woodham receiving his Outstanding Poster Contribution award at the SHINE meeting in Florida

Lloyd Woodham from the Space Plasma Physics Group was one of five award winners at the Solar, Heliospheric & Interplanetary Environment (SHINE) Conference for his outstanding poster contribution. The SHINE meeting, held in Cocoa Beach, Florida, focussed on the upcoming science goals and questions that may be answered from the Parker Solar Probe mission launched just a few days ago.

MSSL with UKSA at Farnborough Airshow

Publication date:

Eleni, Alex and George with the UCL ExoMars PanCam test model at the Farnborough International Airshow

Students, post-docs and engineers from MSSL took part in the UK Space Agency (UKSA) public event at the Farnborough International Airshow this weekend. The UKSA stand aimed to engage members of the public in the wide-range of space activities taking part in the UK and to show the multitude of pathways into the space industry. 

Provost's visit to MSSL

Publication date:

Prof. Andrew Fazakerley presents Prof. Michael Arthur with a picture taken by the PanCam engineering model

UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur visited MSSL today (6 July 2018), with Dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MAPS) Professor Ivan Parkin and Faculty Manager Donna Williamson.

Preparing SXI for ESA/CAS SMILE mission

Publication date:

The SMILE SXI team meeting at MSSL

Over the last two days the international team developing the Soft X-ray Imager (SXI) for the ESA/CAS SMILE mission has gathered at MSSL to present and discuss progress in the design (and in some case prototyping) of the various subsystems that make up the instrument. SMILE is a new joint mission between the European Space Agency and Chinese Academy of Science planned for launch in the early 2020s. It will provide novel observations of Earth's magnetosphere by examining x-rays that are emitted when the solar wind impacts on Earth's magnetic field and an exosphere of neutral particles that expands out into space.

RAS Keith Runcorn Thesis Prize runner-up from MSSL

Publication date:

Dr. Nadine Kalmoni was a runner-up for the 2017 RAS Keith Runcorn Thesis Prize for her doctoral thesis entitled "The role of magnetospheric plasma instabilities in auroral and substorm dynamics". The prize, named in honour of the late Keith Runcorn, is awarded annually for the best PhD thesis in solar-system sciences and geophysics.

Magnetic field collisions around Saturn reveal planetary differences

Publication date:

Artist's impression of Cassini and Saturn's magnetosphere. Credit: ESA

Magnetic reconnection – the explosive reconfiguration of two magnetic fields – occurs differently around Saturn than around Earth, according to new findings from the international Cassini mission involving UCL researchers.

PhD Opportunities in Astrophysics and Space Science

Publication date:

Department of Space & Climate Physics (Mullard Space Science Laboratory in the beautiful countryside in Surrey,http://www.ucl.ac.uk/mssl/about-mssl/find-us/travel-by-car), University College London is currently accepting the applications for several STFC studentships and one Head of Department studentship, commencing in September 2018. 

Reaching out to schools for the International Day of Light

Publication date:

Eleni Bohacek, PhD student at MSSL, talking to secondary school students about her work on the PanCam camera that will take 3D images of the surface of Mars

On May 15th 2018, MSSL organised a secondary schools event to celebrate UNESCO’s International Day of Light. The event was sponsored by Nature Communications and Nature and was attended by 240 year 7 and 8 students. During the day students were able to listen to talks that discussed the chemistry of how light is made, the importance of light in the development of modern humans and how light is generated and used by animals. A series of hands-on activities were also run during the day by scientists, engineers and archaeologists from across UCL. 

Gaia's 3D census of over one billion stars in our Milky Way

Publication date:

Gaia's sky in colour (Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC)

The positions and distances of over one billion stars in our Milky Way Galaxy have been released by the European Space Agency Gaia mission involving UCL researchers, creating the first 3D census of our home galaxy and opening a new window on the Universe.

MSSL student wins Dean's Commendation

Publication date:

Dr. Nadine Kalmoni, winner of a 2018 MAPS Dean's Commendation for her PhD work

Congratulations to Dr. Nadine Kalmoni for being named as one of this year's MAPS Postgraduate Prize Dean's Commendations.

UCL secures key role in ESA mission concept to monitor space weather

Publication date:

Future lagrange mission (ESA/A. Baker)

A new European Space Agency (ESA) mission concept to help reduce the global risk of damage caused by space weather will be worked on by teams from across the UK with UCL playing a pivotal role in developing instruments on board the spacecraft.

Prof. Mark Cropper awarded RAS 2018 Service Award for Astronomy

Publication date:

Prof. Mark Cropper

MSSL's Professor Mark Cropper was one of two UCL astrophysicists to receive prestigious Royal Astronomical Society awards this year.

CSIRO and ICARA (Curtin University) in Australia collaborate with UCL’s CDT to develop next-generation data science techniques for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA)

Publication date:

A ‘radio colour’ view of the sky above a ‘tile’ of the Murchison Widefield Array radio telescope, located in outback Western Australia. The Milky Way is visible as a band across the sky and the dots beyond are some of the 300,000 galaxies observed by the telescope for the GLEAM survey. Red indicates the lowest frequencies, green the middle frequencies and blue the highest frequencies. Credit: Radio image by Natasha Hurley-Walker (ICRAR/Curtin) and the GLEAM Team. MWA tile and landscape by Dr John Goldsmith / Celestial Visions.

Luke Pratley from the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) has been awarded £10,000 from STFC to visit CSIRO and ICARA (Curtin University) in Perth, Australia, to apply new data science techniques from the framework of compressive sensing for imaging observations made by the Murchison Wide-Field Array (MWA) – a radio telescope attempting to detect the first stars forming in the Universe. New imaging algorithms that have been developed at UCL by Luke Pratley and Jason McEwen have been shown to work very well on real observations from existing radio interferometric telescopes, including the VLA and ATCA.  In collaboration with UCL’s Research Software Development Group these algorithms have  been distributed and multi-threaded, so they can cope with the large data rates from the MWA. This will pave the way for applying new data science techniques for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which will be the world’s largest radio telescope, with higher resolution and sensitivity than ever before.

Prof. Louise Harra to give 2018 Robinson Lecture at Armagh Observatory

Publication date:

Prof. Louise Harra

MSSL's Prof. Louise Harra will be giving the prestigious 2018 Robinson Lecture for the Armagh Observatory. Louise, who is co-PI of the Extreme-UV Imager for the Solar Orbiter mission, will be talking about Solar Orbiter, its mission goals, how we will get there, and why we are doing it. 

MSSL Alumni Celebrate 60 years of Skylark

Publication date:

MSSL Alumni Chris Rapley, John Zarnecki and Ken Pounds with former director Alan Smith at the launch of the Skylark exhibit

MSSL Alumni Chris Rapley, John Zarnecki and Ken Pounds came together with former director Alan Smith to celebrate 60 years since the start of the UK's Skylark rocket programme at a new exhibit at the Science Museum. The Skylark programme signalled the start of the British space age. All four worked on numerous experiments launched on Skylark rockets during their times at MSSL.

Probing the nature of the neutrino using SuperNEMO

Publication date:

Inspection of one of the tracker modules at UCL MSSL by members of the UCL team

One mile beneath a mountain in the French Alps, an international team involving UCL scientists is hoping to unlock more secrets of the mysterious neutrino using a new, cutting-edge experiment called SuperNEMO.

Jupiter’s X-ray auroras pulse independently

Publication date:

Jupiter’s south pole, as seen by NASA’s Juno spacecraft from an altitude of 32,000 miles (52,000 kilometers) (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles)

Jupiter’s intense northern and southern lights pulse independently of each other according to new UCL-led research using ESA’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatories.

SMILE mission gets £3 million boost

Publication date:

A space mission called SMILE (Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer), jointly developed by the European Space Agency and the Chinese Academy of Sciences with major UK involvement from UCL, has received additional funding from the UK Space Agency.

Revolutionary techniques developed by MSSL Imaging scientists show the location of the Beagle 2 Lander on the surface of Mars in the finest detail ever

Publication date:

Super-resolution restoration technique in image (a) lander, parachute candidate and rear cover candidate arrowed, and zoomed-in view of the lander (b) and parachute target (c). Image credit: MSSL/UCL/HiRISE/NASA

In a paper published this week in the peer review journal from the Royal Society Open Science are details of the image stacking and matching techniques developed by the MSSL imaging group, including Prof. Jan-Peter Muller with PhD student Yu Tao, and work on measuring the reflectances of different surface objects by PhD students Si-Ting Xiong and Kiky Putri.

Prof. Andrew Fazakerley is the new director of MSSL

Publication date:

[broken image]

Professor Andrew Fazakerley has recently been appointed as Head of the Department of Space and Climate Physics, also known as UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL).

Andrew has been at MSSL for more than 20 years. His scientific background is in the area of space plasma physics, but he has also been involved in space mission preparation and operation for much of this time.

“I am looking forward to my new role at MSSL, which is the UK’s largest university space science laboratory. I will be helping our unique team to continue to achieve excellence in scientific research, space instrumentation and teaching, and to explore new opportunities in all those areas. We have current roles in many orbiting missions, including the recently launched UCLsat. Only a few weeks ago, we said farewell to our instrument on the Cassini mission at Saturn."

Prof. Lucie Green interviewed on R4 The Life Scientific

Publication date:

MSSL's Prof. Lucie Green was interviewed by Jim Al-Khalili on BBC Radio 4's The Life Scientific. Lucie talked about her first love, art, and how she came to be a solar physicist studying events that can potentially impact life and technology on Earth.

Class of 2017 DRILL into a new mission

Publication date:

Class of 2017

In the culmination of a year’s hard work, the students of the MSc Space Science and Engineering programme have applied everything they have learnt to put together a new mission proposal that would meet the cost cap of an ESA M-class mission. During the final 6 weeks of the course, the students worked together in a Group Project to respond to an announcement of opportunity to propose a lunar sample return mission. A 60,000 word proposal later, they successfully presented 'DRILL: a lunar sample return mission to the far side of the moon' to a panel of experts from SSTL, the University of Manchester, STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Lab and QMUL.

MSSL PhD Student presented award at international SHINE meeting

Publication date:

Georgina Graham

Joint MSSL and ESA PhD student Georgina Graham was awarded the Outstanding Student Poster Award at the Solar Heliospheric and INterplanetary Environment (SHINE) 2017 Workshop in Saint-Sauveur, Quebec, Canada. SHINE is a very strongly discussion driven conference  with a unique style that sets it apart from many other annual conferences. SHINE workshops are driven by community interest and controversy, with the aim of engaging both established members of the field and students in conversations about current issues with data, theories and models. 

New clue to solving the mystery of the sun’s hot atmosphere

Publication date:

The largest active region of the solar cycle on 23 October 2014 (credit: NASA)

The elemental composition of the Sun’s hot atmosphere known as the ‘corona’ is strongly linked to the 11-year solar magnetic activity cycle, a team of scientists from UCL, George Mason University and Naval Research Laboratory has revealed for the first time. 

Has Cassini found a universal driver for prebiotic chemistry at Titan?

Publication date:

Titan's atmospheric haze

An important type of molecule that helps produce complex organic material has been detected within Titan’s hazy upper atmosphere by a UCL-led team as part of the international Cassini-Huygens mission.

Search UCL News

Page last modified on 27 may 15 10:40