MSSL News

Research Excellence Framework 2014 Results

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MSSL is delighted to be part of the top-rated university in the UK in the Research Excellence Framework, and to be listed as one of the top physics departments in the UK.

Research Associate in Information Engineering

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We are seeking an excellent postdoctoral researcher in physics, mathematics, electrical engineering or computer science to develop novel information theoretic techniques (e.g., sparse and statistical signal processing, applied computational mathematics), motivated by their use for extracting scientific information from observational data. Signals defined on the sphere are prevalent in a diverse range of fields, including cosmology, geophysics, acoustics, and computer graphics, for example. In cosmology, observations made by the ESA Planck and Euclid satellites live on the celestial sphere, leading to very large and precise spherical data-sets, the robust analysis of which can reveal a great deal about the nature of our Universe. The project will initially focus on the analysis of signals defined on the sphere, such as those obtained by Planck and Euclid, but can be extended to incorporate the interests and expertise of the successful applicant.  

Research Associate in Inverse Problems

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We are seeking an excellent postdoctoral researcher in physics, mathematics, electrical engineering or computer science to develop novel approaches to solve inverse problems in the context of big-data. In particular, these approaches will be used to image the data acquired by radio interferometric telescopes, such as the forthcoming Square Kilometre Array (SKA). The SKA promises exquisite radio observations of unprecedented resolution and sensitivity, supporting a diverse range of science, from the search for extra-terrestrial life to testing Einstein’s theory of general relativity, to uncovering the mysteries of the dawn of the first galaxies in the Universe. However, the SKA poses tremendous big-data challenges that must first be overcome. Inverse problems will be solved in the context of the recent revolutionary theory of compressed sensing, using sparse regularisation techniques and leveraging advanced convex optimisation algorithms, while exploiting high-performance computing architectures.

Mechanical Design Engineer

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Applications are invited for the above post in the Mechanical and Thermal Engineering group at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory of University College, to support the Laboratory’s space science instrumentation programme.  

MSSL Awards 2014

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George Seabrook, winner of the Elizabeth Puchnarewicz Award 2014

Staff and students gathered to celebrate their achievements at the annual MSSL Awards Ceremony on 20th November, 2014. This event recognises the achievements of staff and students across the range of activities undertaken by MSSL. This years awards went to:

Electronics Design Engineer

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The focus of this particular post is the development, characterisation & documentation of electronics for the extreme Ultraviolet Imager (“EUI”) on the ESA “Solar Orbiter” spacecraft. The electronic system consists of fast data processing using  field programmable gate arrays supported by bespoke data compression devices. Communication with the spacecraft is managed by Spacewire. LabView from National Instruments is widely used in our ground check-out systems and we use EDA design tools from Mentor Graphics.

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

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.

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