MSSL News

MSSL Space Plasma Physics researchers celebrated by Royal Astronomical Society

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Dr. Zhonghua Yao and Prof. Chris Owen

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.

SMILE SXI Research Associate

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A new postdoctoral position has been created at UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL, based at Holmbury St. Mary, near Dorking in Surrey), the home of UCL’s Department of Space and Climate Physics. For administrative purposes the Department is part of the UCL Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MAPS). The position will entail creating and analysing science and instrument simulations in the context of the SMILE (Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer) mission which is currently under joint development by the European Space Agency and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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. 

Mechanical Designer

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Applications are invited for the post of Mechanical Designer in the mechanical and thermal engineering group at MSSL to support the Laboratory’s space science instrumentation. 

Flight Test Facilities Engineer

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Applications are invited for a position in the Flight Test Facilities Group at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London. The group is currently involved in testing hardware for a number of ESA space missions, including Exomars, Solar Orbiter, Euclid and Plato. The successful applicant will provide support to these space flight hardware test campaigns, as well as being responsible for the maintenance and day-to-day running of MSSL’s flight test facilities and cleanrooms. The successful applicant should hold a degree in engineering or equivalent and have experience of working with space flight hardware. The post is for 2 years in the first instance, continuation subject to grant funding. The salary is on UCL Salary Grade 7, ranging from £31,076 - £38,183per annum depending on experience.

Research into Jupiter's X-ray aurora

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A new postdoctoral position has been created jointly by UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL, based at Holmbury St. Mary, near Dorking in Surrey, the home of UCL’s Department of Space and Climate Physics) and the Department of Physics and Astronomy (P&A), based at UCL’s London campus in Gower Street. For administrative purposes both Departments are part of the UCL Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MAPS). The position will entail the analysis and interpretation of Chandra and XMM-Newton data (archival and from forthcoming approved observations) of the planet Jupiter, with special emphasis on the X-ray aurora, the processes that generate it and their dependence on the solar wind and local magnetospheric conditions.

Research Associates in the Solar Orbiter SWA Operations Team (2 posts)

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We seek to appoint two individuals to join the Operations team for the Solar Orbiter Solar Wind Analyser (SWA) Investigation.  In the first instance (prior to launch), these posts will be centrally involved in the full software and hardware development of the SWA operations facility and capability, which must be designed and built to handle all SWA commanding, data handling, calibration and archiving, and instrument health monitoring activities prior to the launch of the mission.  Close collaboration with the ESA Science Operations Centre and Mission Operations Centre teams and SWA partners in Rome, Toulouse, Texas and Michigan will be required.

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.

Professor Claire Carmalt appointed as new Head of Department for Chemistry

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Professor Claire Carmalt

The Faculty is delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Claire Carmalt as the new Head of Department for UCL Chemistry. The appointment will be effective as of next academic year (2016-17). She will be the 18th Head of Department for Chemistry and the first woman appointed to the position.

Prof Louise Harra and team awarded 2016 Daiwa Adrian Prizes

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Image of the Hinode spacecraft. Major UCL collaborations with the Japanese have been building and operating instruments on spacecraft studying the Sun - and then the science that follows.

The winners of the 2016 Daiwa Adrian Prizes, the prestigious awards for scientific collaboration in the UK and Japan, have been announced. Following an assessment conducted by a panel of Fellows of the Royal Society, the Trustees of The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation have awarded four Daiwa Adrian Prizes of £10,000 to joint UK-Japan scientific research teams.

New Dean of Mathematical & Physical Sciences appointed

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Prof Ivan Parkin

he faculty is delighted to announce the appointment of Prof Ivan Parkin as the new Dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences. The appointment will be effective as of next academic year (2016-17).

Einstein's general relativity passes another stringent test

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In this image — one of the deepest ever taken by the Hubble Space Telescope — most of the luminous sources are distant galaxies. The expansion of the Universe causes a cosmological redshift, so that the most distant sources appear reddest. The work of Ferreras & Trujillo explores this reddening effect by use of galaxy spectra, decomposing light into its different wavelengths (i.e. colours).

In a recent paper published today in the Astrophysical Journal, Ignacio Ferreras (UCL Space & Climate Physics/Mullard Space Science Laboratory) and Ignacio Trujillo (IAC) presented the most detailed test of the so-called cosmological redshift.

Magnetic Rope observed for the first time between Saturn and the Sun

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An artistic illustration of an FTE at Saturn’s magnetopause. The background colors are contours of plasma density from the global MHD model of Jia et al. [2012] to show the global configuration of Saturn’s magnetosphere.

A twisted magnetic field structure, previously never seen before at Saturn, has now been detected for the first time, using instrumentation built at UCL and Imperial  College.

When the Sun’s magnetic field interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field (the  magnetosphere), a complex process occurs called magnetic reconnection which can twist the field into a helical shape.

Strong ‘electric wind’ strips planets of oceans and atmospheres

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This is an artist's concept of the electric wind at Venus. Rays represent the paths that oxygen and hydrogen ions take as they are pulled out of the upper atmosphere. Credits: NASA/Goddard/Conceptual Image Lab, Krystofer Kim

Venus has an ‘electric wind’ strong enough to remove the components of water from its upper atmosphere, which may have played a significant role in stripping the planet of its oceans, according to a new study by NASA and UCL researchers. 

MAPS Faculty PhesDival - 15th June

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MAPS Faculty PhesDival - 15th June

A celebration of research, for researchers.

On Wednesday 15th June from 5:30pm, PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and staff from across the faculty will come together in the Main Quad Pavilion to celebrate all things related to Maths and Physical Sciences.

Prof. Martin Rees - Real and Counterfactual Universes

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Prof. Martin Rees delivers MAPS Colloquium


In his recent UCL Maths and Physical Sciences Colloquium, Prof. Martin Rees (Lord Rees of Ludlow) delivered a commanding history of our universe. In keeping with the title of his talk - Real and Counterfactual Universes - Prof. Rees described the hierarchal structure of our own universe. 

The greatest movie ever made, directed by astronomers, starring Our Universe

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A simulated night sky provides a background for the LSST facilities building on Cerro Pachón. The LSST will carry out a deep, ten-year imaging survey in six broad optical bands over the main survey area of 18,000 square degrees. Credit LSST

The World’s first motion picture of our Universe, being dubbed the ‘greatest movie ever made’, is to be produced by international astronomers.

Mars’ surface revealed in unprecedented detail

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Beagle-2 landing site (credit: Yu Tao and Jan-Peter Muller, UCL)

The surface of Mars – including the location of Beagle-2 – has been shown in unprecedented detail by UCL scientists using a revolutionary image stacking and matching technique.

BBC Inside Science visits MSSL to talk QB50

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MSSL's Prof. Andrew Coates joined host Adam Rutherford on BBC Radio 4's Inside Science programme to talk about missions to other stars and multi-spacecraft missions to our own planet. As well, roving report Marnie Chesterton visited MSSL to explore the grounds and talk to Dhiren Kataria about the upcoming QB50 mission and MSSL's involvement in its design and build.

Space Weather Research in UCL Antenna

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A coronal mass ejection captured on 31 August 2012 by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. Credit: NASA

The science behind understanding the causes and effects of space weather being undertaken at MSSL has been featured in a new article on UCL Antenna. Prof. Louise Harra, Dr. Robert Wicks and Dhiren Kataria were interviewed about their research and the upcoming Solar Orbiter mission, along with the challenges of operating in such a hazardous environment.

Solar storms trigger Jupiter’s ‘Northern Lights’

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Artistic rendering of Jupiter's magnetosphere (credit: JAXA)

Solar storms trigger Jupiter’s intense ‘Northern Lights’ by generating a new X-ray aurora that is eight times brighter than normal and hundreds of times more energetic than Earth’s aurora borealis, finds new UCL-led research using NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory.

Congratulations to the winners of the MSSL Student Poster Competition

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Winners of the MSSL Student Poster Competition Nadine Kalloni (r) and Jennifer Chan (l) with Postgraduate Tutor Dr. Daisuke Kanata

Congratulations to Nadine Kalmoni and Jennifer Chan, this year's winners of the MSSL Student Poster Competition.

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