MSSL News Page

Class of 2017 DRILL into a new mission

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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

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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

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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?

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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.

MAPS Faculty Teaching Awards 2017

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Each year the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Faculty recognises excellence in teaching by staff and teaching assistants at all levels within the faculty through the Faculty Teaching Awards.

IOP Medal and Prize for Prof. Lucie Green

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Prof. Lucie Green (courtesy: IOP)

Congratulations to Prof. Lucie Green who was awarded the IoP's 2017 Lise Meitner Medal and Prize for distinguished contributions to public outreach, via public lectures, science festivals, organising public events and open days, frequent radio and TV appearances including presenting, and writing a popular science book.

Training for Space Weather Forecasters at MSSL

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Participants and trainers for the Met Office Space Weather Forecasters training workshop at MSSL. (c) MSSL

MSSL hosted its first Training Workshop for Space Weather Forecasters this week. The 3-day course, designed in collaboration with the Met Office, provided space weather forecasters from the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre (MOSWOC) with the chance to explore some of the new science in solar-terrestrial physics with potential applications to space weather with experts from both the MSSL Solar Physics and Space Plasma Physics Groups.

Senior Promotion and Awards

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Dr. Jason McEwen, Dr. Raul Leal and Prof. Dhiren Kataria

MSSL is delighted to announce the following senior promotions within the department:

  • Dhiren Kataria has been promoted to Professorial Research Associate
  • Jason McEwen has been promoted to Reader in Astrophysics

UCL’s first satellite ‘UCLSat’ launched

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UCLSat in the test chamber at MSSL. Credit: UCL/MSSL

UCLSat, a satellite designed and built by UCL engineers and scientists, has been launched today from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India as part of an international mission called QB50.

PLATO adopted as ESA M-Class mission

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Credit: DLR

We are excited to announce that the PLATO exoplanet mission has been
formally adopted by the European Space Agency as their 3rd Medium Class mission at a meeting of its Science Planning Committee on the 19th June 2017. The PLATO mission is due for launch in 2026 and will operate for a minimum of four years during which it will observer planetary transits and stellar oscillations. By this means it will characterised a very large number of planetary systems and, together with ground-based follow-up observations, will determine the radius of the planets and the mass and age of the central star. The spacecraft will comprise 24 'Normal' cameras and two 'Fast' cameras with the sensors being supplied from the UK by Teledyne in Chemlsford. MSSL has the responsibility for the development and production of the front-end electronics for the 'Normal' cameras and the final characterization of the optical sensors. The project is funded within the UK by the UK Space Agency.

UK Gaia Teams win two Sir Arthur Clarke Awards

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UK Gaia Science Team, including six members from the UCL Mullard Science Space Laboratory, have won an Arthur Clarke Award.

UK Gaia Teams win two Arthur C Clarke Awards

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Last night (31 May 2017), the Gaia project picked up two ‘Arthurs’ at the annual UK Space Conference Gala Dinner held at the Victoria Warehouse in Manchester. The Sir Arthur Clarke Awards (the ‘Arthurs’) have been presented since 2005 and recognise significant contributions to space activities.

Magnetic helicity: key to unlocking the solar flare prediction problem?

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Legend: Artistic view of a solar eruption and of the embedded twisted magnetic field structure that carries away the ejected material.

Dr. Gherardo Valori (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory) recently developed a new method to measure magnetic helicity that is now applied to the testing of new diagnostic tools for the forecast of solar eruptions.

QB50 satellites deployed from ISS

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Three QB50 CubeSats being deployed from the ISS. Courtesy: NASA

Congratulations to the QB50 mission for the successful deployment of 11 CubeSats from the International Space Station. MSSL designed and built Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometers are carried by 2 of the CubeSats launched so far. More to come next week!

MSSL receives Euclid VIS Focal Plane Assembly

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Delivery of the Euclid VIS FPA to MSSL

The Euclid Visible Instrument (VIS) Focal Plan Assembly structural thermal model was delivered at MSSL on Wednesday 17th May. The VIS Instrument is one of two instruments on ESA's Euclid cosmology mission to investigate the evolution and composition of the universe, in particular the properties of dark energy, dark matter and gravity. 

Half a century of space at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory

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MSSL staff

Under the leadership of Harrie Massey (Quain Professor of Physics and head of the Physics Department), UCL became the leading UK university in space research during the 1950s. From this pioneering start sprung UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of its official opening this week.

Half a century of space at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory

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50 years of MSSL (cake by Sue)

Under the leadership of Harrie Massey (Quain Professor of Physics and head of the Physics Department) UCL became the leading UK university doing space research in the 1950s. From this pioneering start sprung UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of its official opening this week. 

Successful launch of first phase of QB50 CubeSats on their way to the International Space Station

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Originally conceived by the European Space Agency’s Dr Ruedeger Reinhard, QB50 is a European Union-funded mission to support universities and schools from all over the world in designing, building and launching their own small, affordable satellites called CubeSats to collectively study the physics and chemistry of the middle and lower thermosphere of the Earth for the first time.

Space Policy Workshop 2016

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In 2016 MSSL ran the first in what is planned to be a series of Space Policy Workshops. The report from that workshop is now available to download.

MAPS Faculty Postgraduate Prize Winners and Dean’s Commendations Announced

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Ekaterini Katsouri (L) and Thomas Armitage (R)

Congratulations to Thomas Armitage, winner of the 2016 Faculty Postgraduate Research Prize, and to Ekaterini Katsouri, winner of the 2016 Faculty Postgraduate Taught Prize.

Down close and personal: New project to run satellites nearer to Earth

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Discoverer satellite

A €5.7m project to develop technologies that will allow satellites to survive and operate at orbits closer to Earth than ever before – considerably lower than the international space station – has recently been launched.

Down close and personal: New project to run satellites nearer to Earth

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A €5.7m project to develop technologies that will allow satellites to survive and operate at orbits closer to Earth than ever before – considerably lower than the international space station – has recently been launched. The project, led by the University of Manchester, is funded under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme and will go a significant way to making satellites smaller, cheaper, dodge space debris and improve the quality of images they can send back. The Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL), the Department of Space and Climate Physics of UCL, is a key participant in the project along with 8 other institutes from 7 European countries. 

UCL secures STFC funding to teach next generation of data-science experts

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Panasas aisle (Credit: STFC)

After a very competitive selection process, UCL has been chosen by STFC to host the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Data Intensive Science (DIS) and Technologies, the first CDT funded by STFC.

PhDs available at MSSL

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MSSL PhDs 2017

MSSL currently has a number of PhD places available to start in the 2017-18 academic year. These positions are available across the range of disciplines and research areas at MSSL and are covered by RCUK funding.

MSSL Space Plasma Physics researchers celebrated by Royal Astronomical Society

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Prof. Chris Owen receiving the James Dungey Lectureship from RAS President John Zarnecki and host Jon Culshaw

We would like to offer our warmest congratulations to Professor Chris Owen and Dr. Zhonghua Yao, recipients of two prestigious awards from the Royal Astronomical Society. Prof. Owen will give the 2017 “James Dungey Lecture” and Dr. Yao was awarded the “Winton Capital Award” for research by a Post Doctoral Fellow in a UK institution whose career has shown the most promising development. Both Prof. Owen and Dr. Yao received their awards at the annual National Astronomy Meeting dinner, hosted by Jon Culshaw.

Dr Zhonghua Yao and Professor Chris Owen awarded Royal Astronomical Society prizes

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Dr Zhonghua Yao

The Winton Capital Award for Geophysics is awarded to Dr Zhonghua Yao. Dr Yao is an exceptional post-doctoral research associate, at the start of a stellar career. He has made significant scientific breakthroughs within the field of magnetospheric plasma physics using novel analysis techniques, and he has already proven himself to be a remarkably capable researcher with outstanding scientific insight. 

First signs of weird quantum property of empty space?

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The polarisation of light emitted by a neutron star

By studying the light emitted from an extraordinarily dense and strongly magnetised neutron star using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers may have found the first observational indications of a strange quantum effect, first predicted in the 1930s. The polarisation of the observed light suggests that the empty space around the neutron star is subject to a quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence.

Gaia sizes up 1.1 billion stars

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Artist’s impression of Gaia spacecraft, with the Milky Way in the background (Credit: ESA/ATG MEDIALAB; background image: ESO/S. Brunier)

Gaia, a European Space Agency satellite designed to unlock the secrets of the birth and evolution of the Milky Way, has released its first wave of data on the positions and brightness for about one billion stars. 

Report on Space Weather impacts to finance published

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UCL researchers have been applying their knowledge of “space weather” to help the the finance sector build their resilience to this natural phenomenon. Space weather refers to changes in the near-Earth space that are caused by the Sun. Huge explosions and eruptions in the Sun’s atmosphere reach out and cause changes in the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere, and this ultimately has knock-on effects to much of our modern technology, for example electricity distribution, satellite services and communications. A new report led by UCL lays out guidance on how to factor space weather risks into business resiliency planning for the finance sector, and discusses how businesses might be impacted.

MSSL Deliver First QB50 INMS

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From left-to-right: Duncan Rust, Alan Smith, Dhiren Kataria and Robert Wicks. Dhiren is holding the first QB50 INMS

Dhiren Kataria (centre-right) sets off to deliver the first of 12 Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometers (INMS) to the QB50 project. INMS is the latest in a long line of space particle detectors designed, built and tested by MSSL and follows the successful operation of a similar instrument on the UK's TechDemoSat-1 launched in 2014.

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