MSSL News

Electronic Technician

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The purpose of this particular post is to assist more senior engineers, so they can delegate straightforward and less demanding tasks whilst enabling the post holder to learn about electronic engineering for space science instruments and advance their own career.

Pioneering work helps to join the dots across the known universe… and the human brain

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Artist’s impression of the Square Kilometre Array at night (Credit: SKA Organisation)

A team of astrophysicists, engineers and computer scientists are spearheading research on imaging techniques which will potentially not only unlock secrets from the far reaches of the universe, but also impact modern medicine.

Mars has macroweather too

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Mars from Hubble Space Telescope (Credit: ESA/NASA Source: ESA)

But weather forecasting on the Red Planet is likely to be even trickier than on Earth

Mars has the same three-part pattern of atmospheric conditions as Earth, finds a new study by researchers at UCL and McGill University. This includes weather, which changes day-to-day due to constant fluctuations in the atmosphere; climate, which varies over decades and a third regime called macroweather, which describes the relatively stable regime between weather and climate.

Waiting for the Philae landing...

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Philae descending to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November 2014. Image: ESA/ATG medialab

The Planetary Science group at UCL-MSSL are eagerly awaiting the Philae landing planned for Wednesday this week. Professor Andrew Coates is a co-investigator in the Rosetta Plasma Consortium (RPC) on the orbiter, which will be monitoring the plasma environment during the descent and landing, and has already been making measurements of the comet plasma environment since achieving orbit in August. He will be an invited guest at ESOC for the landing itself.

'Arthur' Awards for MSSL's Harra and Green

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Prof. Louise Harra and Dr. Lucie Green of MSSL's Solar Physics Group were each awarded an 'Arthur' by the British Interplanetary Society at an event held at the Royal Aeronautical Society on Wednesday. The Sir Arthur C Clarke Awards, sponsored by the Arthur C Clarke Foundation, are awarded annually and recognise notable or outstanding achievements and contributions to all space activites.

Upflowing Gas from the Sun’s Active Regions – Can it Reach Earth?

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Research presented last week at the European Solar Physics Meeting, held at Trinity College Dublin, shows how scientists are solving a 60-year old paradox relating to our Sun’s million degree atmosphere. A super-sonic solar wind blows out from the atmosphere in regions where a strong magnetic field should instead keep it confined. The key to unravelling the contradiction has been found to lie in magnetic wind tunnels that channel hot gas from regions where it is trapped, to regions where it can escape into the Solar System

Research Associate for Euclid Weak Lensing Science

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We are seeking an experienced postdoctoral researcher in cosmology to make key contributions to the Euclid weak lensing science programme. Euclid is a paradigm-changing ESA satellite mission. It will survey 75% of the extra-galactic sky in optical and near infra-red bands, resulting in resolved observations of 1.5 billion galaxies for weak lensing measurements. This will enable the expansion history and growth of structure to be mapped to unprecedented accuracy allowing definitive statements on the nature of dark energy to be made, and to test Einstein gravity on cosmic scales. 

Tom Pollard wins Best Doctoral Poster at UCL Festival for Digital Health

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Tom Pollard's winning post from UCL’s Festival for Digital Health (small)

Tom Pollard, who works on an interdisciplinary project between the Mullard Space Science Laboratory and University College Hospital, won the prize for ‘Best Doctoral Poster' at the UCL’s Festival for Digital Health (http://www.fdh.ucl.ac.uk/). The Festival seeks to connect researchers across disciplines and features two weeks of events highlighting UCL’s world-class research in computer science, engineering, medicine and health service delivery.  

Fast-flowing gas curtails galaxy’s glow

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Image of the galaxy NGC 5548 taken at the MDM Observatory 1.3m telescope (Courtesy of Dr Misty Bentz)

The bright core of a spiral galaxy has unexpectedly dimmed, according to a new study by an international team of astronomers including Graziella Branduardi-Raymont and Megan Whewell of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory. 

All the Sky – All the Time: UK astronomers debate involvement in the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST)

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Model of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Credit: LSST Consortium

Astronomers gathered in Portsmouth for the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting have today been excitedly discussing the possibility of widespread UK involvement in the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project.  UCL MSSL joined LSST earlier this year through an institutional memorandum of agreement.  The LSST will be sited at Cerro Pachón in the Chilean Andes and will have a primary mirror 8.4 metres in diameter, making it one of the largest single telescopes in the world, as well as the world’s largest digital camera, comprising 3.2 billion pixels.   It will achieve first light in 2020 and its main sky survey will begin in 2022.  

ExoMars Landing Sites Narrowed Down - And PanCam Appears on BBC News

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Artist's impression of the ExoMars rover. Copyright: ESA

The first landing site selection workshop for the Esa-Roscosmos ExoMars rover was held on 26-28 March at ESAC near Madrid. Prof Andrew Coates of the Planetary Science Group attended the meeting, as Principal Investigator of the PanCam instrument on the rover. MSSL leads the international PanCam team which includes hardware from Germany and Switzerland, with important contributions from Austria, as well as the UK. PanCam includes a pair of wide angle cameras (WACs) for stereo imaging and a High Resolution Camera (HRC) for zoom capability. PanCam provides geological and atmospheric context for the mission.

Gaia Live!

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Gaia Live!

Megan Whewell, George Seabroke and Daisuke Kawata visited the UCL Academy, and explained about the European Space Agency’s new astrometry mission, Gaia (launched on 19th December 2013). This is a part of a Pan-European outreach event for the Gaia mission, Gaia Live in school (http://great.ast.cam.ac.uk/great-itn/gaialive) organised by the GREAT-ITN network, of which MSSL is one of the associate nodes. During the event, 34 schools in different countries in Europe linked up with ESA, and learned about the Gaia mission, which will map a billion stars in our Milky Way. 

MSSL student wins UCL poster competition

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All images and text copyright their author and MAY NOT be used for any purposes without the express permission of the original author. All Rights Reserved, 2014.

MSSL student Jason Hunt won 1st prize in the Built Environment, Engineering Sciences and Mathematical & Physical Sciences category in the UCL Graduate School Research Poster Competition 2013/14 for his poster entitled PRIMAL: Mapping the Milky Way from Gaia data. The competition highlights the excellent work done at UCL, showcasing a variety of different projects from different subject areas including Radiation Therapy, Ecology and Galactic Astrophysics.

ESA selects Plato as its next science mission

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Artist’s rendition of ESA’s space-telescope PLATO eying into new, exotic worlds, a planetary sys-tem with gas giants and Earth-like planets resembling our Earth – and several more distant stars with planets orbiting them. Credits: DLR (Susanne Pieth)

Plato will discover Earth-like planets in our part of the galaxy and add a whole new dimension the the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. Each of the PLATO telescopes will comprise a focal plane of light sensitive detectors made by the UK company e2v. These specially designed devices will be the largest ever flown in space. The associated detailed characterisation of the devices together with their readout electronics, will be developed at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, part of University College London. Professor Alan Smith, director of MSSL said ‘This is a wonderful mission and MSSL are excited to by part of it.  Our role is essential to the mission and builds upon similar involvements in earlier ESA missions”. The mission science is led by Don Pollacco from Warwick University, Cambridge University has a major role in the complex image processing software while the Open University will be engaged with public outreach.

Astronomers find solar storms behave like supernovae

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The plasma falling into the Sun split apart into 'fingers', like ink dops falling through water Photo credit: NASA/SDO

Researchers at UCL have studied the behaviour of the Sun's coronal mass ejections, explaining for the first time the details of how these huge eruptions behave as they fall back onto the Sun’s surface. In the process, they have discovered that coronal mass ejections have a surprising twin in the depths of space: the tendrils of gas in the Crab Nebula, which lie 6500 light-years away and are millions of times larger.

UCL and Big Data: funding announcement

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Big Data

UCL is involved in a number of projects under the £73 million ‘Big Data’ initiative announced today by the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts MP.

Kimberley Birkett awarded 2013 Outstanding Student Paper Award (OSPA) at the AGU Fall Meeting

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birkett-poster
Congratulations to PhD student Kimberley Birkett, who won the prestigious award for her poster ‘Modelling Cometary Sodium Tails’ at the AGU Fall Meeting 2013.

Prof. Louise Harra awarded RAS Chapman Medal

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Prof. Louise Harra

Professor Louise Harra, of UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory, has been responsible for much excellent and far-reaching research in solar physics, especially in the exploitation of extreme-UV and X-ray spectroscopy and solar plasma diagnostics to understand the active solar atmosphere. Since September 2006, she has been Principal Investigator of the UK’s EUV Imaging Spectrometer on the Hinode satellite mission, and has taken a leading role in exploiting its observations. 

ESA’s Billion Star Surveyor: UCL’s contribution

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Gaia payload module Credit: Astrium SAS

On Thursday 19 December at 09:12 GMT, a satellite designed to unlock the secrets of the birth and evolution of the Milky Way Galaxy will be launched by the European Space Agency.

New Results from Cryosat

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Cryosat, the European satellite first proposed at MSSL, has been delivering an unprecedented view of the seasonal growth and retreat of sea ice since its launch in 2010. A new Cryosat study presented in San Fransisco to the Americal Geophysical Union shows that there was 50% more sea ice in the Arctic this summer compared to 2012. This surprising result emerged from research by PhD student Rachel Tilling from the NERC Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM) at UCL and is covered on the BBC News website.

PhD Opportunities at MSSL

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Department of Space & Climate Physics (Mullard Space Science Laboratory in the beautiful countryside in Surrey), University College London is currently accepting the applications for several PhD positions commencing in September 2014.

CSM signs Agreement of Collaboration with Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, Star City, Russia

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Members of the CSM and GCTC

During the November 2013 visit to Star City in preparation for joint projects, the Centre for Space Medicine took collaboration with the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre to the next level and signed the Agreement of Collaboration, undersigned by Krikalev Sergey Konstantinovich, Head of State Organization “Gagarin Research & Test Cosmonaut Training Centre”.

China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation visits MSSL

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Delegation from the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation visit MSSL

On Wednesday 31st October, MSSL hosted a delegation from the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation. We discussed with the delegation MSSL's Technology Management programme as well as the development of in-situ plasma detectors with Prof. Alan Smith, Michael Emes and Dhiren Kataria. A number of the delegation also had a tour of the recently revamped clean rooms at MSSL.

ExoMars Rover uses PanCam to explore Atacama Desert

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AU PanCam Emulator (AUPE) as deployed in the volcanic caldera on Tenerife

This week saw the most ambitious test yet of the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Rover, when - remotely controlled by scientists in the UK - it explored the Atacama Desert in South America.

The shocking truth about solar eruptions

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The Solar atmosphere, observed in ultraviolet light by the Solar Dynamics Observatory Atmospheric Imaging Assembly. Observations from SDO form part of the analysis in this research. Credit: NASA/SDO

The Sun gives light and heat that makes life possible on Earth. That said, our nearest star can have more sinister effects, sometimes unleashing huge eruptions of hot gas, called coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which carry billions of tons of matter travelling at millions of kilometres an hour into space. These storms can be accompanied by solar radio bursts, and if they head in Earth’s direction, they can cause damaging effects on many of the technologies that we rely on in our everyday lives, such as communications satellites and mobile phone networks. 

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