Research Degrees

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Daisuke Kawata
d.kawata AT

Philippa Elwell
p.elwell AT


2018 MSSL Head of Department PhD project at MSSL, UCL 

One 3 year PhD studentship is available to work with the head of department, Prof. Andrew Fazakerley, at MSSL, UCL. The application deadline is 10 June 2018, but the applications are open till the position is filled. We strongly encourage the applicants to email Prof. Andrew Fazakerley and discuss about the project before they make the application. 

Physics of the Auroral Acceleration Region

Supervisor: Prof. Andrew Fazakerley (a.fazakerley [AT]

The aurorae (northern and southern lights) are beautiful, dynamic curtains of light seen in the night skies, usually in the polar regions. They are also the source of the Earth’s strongest radio emission, auroral kilometric radiation and rich in other space plasma phenomena. Aurorae and auroral kilometric (AKR) radiation are also seen at other magnetised planets such as Jupiter and Saturn. The processes that accelerate the electrons that produce the aurorae remain mysterious. It is difficult to explore the process or processes using numerical simulations, so spacecraft observations are crucial in order to test whether prevailing ideas are valid. This project will involve the analysis of the first multi-point observations in the “Auroral Acceleration Region”, at 4,000 to 12,000 km altitude at auroral latitudes, made by the ESA Cluster 4-spacecraft mission. Special operations were conducted using Cluster to make simultaneous measurements at different altitudes on closely neighbouring magnetic field lines, to search for evidence of electron acceleration and the processes that cause it. A second set of special operations were designed to make observations suitable for definitive tests of the theories of AKR generation by unstable electron distributions. Cluster’s PEACE electron instruments are provided by MSSL-UCL and have produced a key dataset for AAR studies. The proposed PhD research will involve surveying the AAR dataset, and then using data from PEACE and other instruments to address questions about what exactly happens in the auroral acceleration, and how the aurorae are ultimately driven by events in the magnetosphere. 

Desired Knowledge and Skills

Undergraduate level physics, including electromagnetism

Computational skills

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