MSSL News Page

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.

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. 

Reflecting on Earth’s albedo

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Global land surface albedo – or reflecting power of a surface – for 2011. This animation was created from processed satellite data acquired every eight days over the course of the year. Credits: ESA/UCL/GlobAlbedo

The amount of sunlight being absorbed or reflected by Earth is one of the driving forces for weather and climate. Satellites are providing this information with unprecedented accuracy.

Who won the annual MSSL cricket match?

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David Walton driving the ball during the 2013 MSSL cricket match. Photo by Yu Tao

Congratulations to the "MSSL 37 and Under Team" who won a closely fought match by 3 wickets over the "MSSL Over 37s Team". The annual cricket match is one of the social highlights of the year at MSSL, pitting students against supervisors and engineers against directors.

David Willetts visits UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory

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David Willetts MP taken by one of the Euclid test CCDs. This image marked the start of the CCD test and characterisation programme.

David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, visited UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory on Tuesday 13th August. The minister inspected a number of instruments which are being built at the laboratory for future scientific spacecraft, including Euclid, ExoMars and Solar Orbiter, as well as hearing about MSSL’s role at the heart of the UK and European space programme.

Magnetic star reveals its hidden power

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Artist's impression of a magnetar Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab

A team of astronomers including two researchers from UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory has made the first ever measurement of the magnetic field at a specific spot on the surface of a magnetar. Magnetars are a type of neutron star, the dense and compact core of a giant star which has blasted away its outer layers in a supernova explosion. 

Testing Penetrators at Pendine Sands

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Test penetrator attached to rocket sled

On 11th July a team of scientists and engineers led by Astrium UK and including MSSL/UCL, Qinetiq and the Open University conducted a high velocity penetrator trial at Pendine Sands in South Wales. The test item was fired into a ice target at ~340 m/s. The test is part of a more extensive programme that is funded by European Space Agency which follows an earlier successful set of trials related to future lunar exploration. In this test the important and novel thermal isolation was demonstrated which is essential for any future planetary mission since target sites on the Moon, Mars and the Jovian moons are extremely cold while the inner instrumentation within  the penetrator must remain near room temperature.

Solar tsunami used to measure Sun’s magnetic field

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A three-colour difference image made by combining three passbands from the AIA instrument onboard the SDO spacecraft. The different colours correspond to different passbands and are can be used to indicate temperature change as the tsunami sweeps across the Sun.

A solar tsunami observed by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and the Japanese Hinode spacecraft has been used to provide the first accurate estimates of the Sun's magnetic field.

MSSL at NAM2013 

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NAM2013 Logo. Courtesy University of St. Andrews/RAS

Staff and students from MSSL attended the RAS National Astronomy Meeting at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, this week, presenting 26 talks and posters on their latest scientific discoveries and technological advances in astronomy, solar physics and solar-planetary physics (listed below).

Huge flare caught by Hinode

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This still image of the 15 May 2013 solar flare, seen by Hinode, shows the huge energy unleashed in such events. Note that the greyscale observations from the satellite have been colourised in this image. JAXA, NASA, ESA and UKSA. Processed by Joten Okamoto

Researchers at MSSL have been monitoring a recent increase in solar activity using the Japanese Hinode mission. In this news article on the MAPS Faculty website, Prof. Louise Harra describes how Hinode makes observations of these dramatic solar events.

MSSL student experiment successfully launched on European rocket

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PoleCATS team members preparing the instrument for launch on the REXUS 14 rocket

Students from MSSL have created an experiment team and built a sounding rocket payload which flew to around 81.6 km altitude at 5.00am BST on Tuesday morning from Esrange in northern Sweden.

Herschel loses its cool, but the work continues

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The scientific instruments on board Herschel are housed inside the black tank below its 3.5m diameter main mirror. To observe far-infrared and sub-millimetre light, these instruments were cooled by a tank of liquid helium, which has now been exhausted. Image credit: ESA

Europe's Herschel Space Observatory has exhausted its supply of liquid helium coolant, after almost four years of scientific observations. Using Herschel data, astronomers have already made ground-breaking discoveries about the formation and evolution of stars, galaxies and planets. But this has only scratched the surface, and there is far more still to come from the immense archive. Scientists at UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) and Department of Physics & Astronomy have been at the forefront of this exciting mission, both by leading a number of the key scientific investigations carried out by the observatory, and for their prominent role in the design of the SPIRE instrument, one of the three instruments carried on board Herschel. The SPIRE (Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver) instrument, which, made images of the sky simultaneously in three submillimetre ‘colours’ and measured the spectral features of atoms and molecules, was built by an international consortium headed by the UK.

Space lasers used to reduce emissions

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Steel exiting a continuous caster at a Tata Steel plant

Laser based technologies developed to assist the landing of Mars Rovers could soon be used to help reduce CO2 and waste in Tata Steel making plants.

Three Royal Society University Research Fellows at MSSL

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The Royal Society

MSSL is proud to announce that Drs Lucie Green and Chris Arridge have both been awarded a prestigious Royal Society University Research Fellowship in the 2012 competition. Lucie and Chris will be joined by Dr Thomas Kitching who was awarded a University Research Fellowship last year and has moved to MSSL from the University of Edinburgh. All three will take up academic posts at MSSL on completion of their fellowships.

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Page last modified on 12 sep 11 09:55