Space Plasma Physics

Artist's impression of Double Star. (c) ESA
Artist's impression of Double Star. (c) ESA

The Space Plasma Physics group at MSSL is a leading, internationally recognised research group studying the physical interaction between the Earth and the Sun and the fundamental physics of space plasmas. The group has a history of producing instrumentation for, and analysing data from, international space exploration missions in collaboration with scientists around the world.

The group is heavily involved in the current Cluster mission and the proposed Solar Orbiter mission. Much of our research involves exploiting data from the Cluster mission, in conjunction with other missions and facilities. We also provide operational support and data processing for the Cluster and Double Star missions and the Cluster Active Archive. We have a number of PhD opportunities for students to study some of the many aspects of space plasmas.

Details of our mission involvement, research and upcoming projects can all be found on this site.

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MSSL Space Plasma News

The MSSL plasma group attends the Autumn MIST meeting

On Friday 24 November the members of the MSSL space plasma group attended the Autumn MIST meeting at the Royal Astronomical Society in London. 
The MIST meeting is a reasonably small (but growing) congregation of the UK space physics community which enables friends and colleagues from  all over the country to catch up. MIST also allows younger members of the community such as new students and postdocs to present their work to a friendly and welcoming audience.  More...

Space Plasma Group hosts London NERC DTP training

Students from this year's intake into the London NERC DTP visited the University of London Observatory, Royal Astronomical Society and MSSL to undertake training in the natural hazards of space weather. The three-day training course included practicals on space weather instrumentation, taking part in a space weather disaster scenario run by the Met Office and the design of a new space weather monitoring mission. More...

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MSSL Space Plasma Science Highlights

Figure 3 from Forsyth et al. [2018]. Superposed epoch analysis results with respect to substorm onset of the substorm FACs (SU‐MLT and SD‐MLT) from AMPERE, calculated by removing the median current in the hour before onset. The top and bottom rows show the upward substorm FAC (SU) and downward substorm FAC (SD), respectively, in each MLT sector. As per the above, the results are subdivided into seasons of 90 days centered on the solstices and equinoxes.

Seasonal and Temporal Variations of Field‐Aligned Currents and Ground Magnetic Deflections During Substorms

Earth is surrounded by electrical currents flowing in space. These currents, which can be 10,000 times greater than domestic electrical supplies, can flow along the Earth's magnetic field and into the upper atmosphere and are linked to aurora. The size of this current depends on atmospheric conditions, with the upper atmosphere being a better conductor when it is sunlit, and the interaction between particles flowing from the Sun and the Earth's magnetic field. During space weather events known as substorms, which happen several times per day on average, the aurora brightens massively and the currents flowing into the upper atmosphere increase. Using data from the Iridium communications satellites, measured these currents during substorms. More...


The Role of Proton Cyclotron Resonance as a Dissipation Mechanism in Solar Wind Turbulence

The solar wind contains turbulent fluctuations that are part of a continual cascade of energy from large scales down to smaller scales. At ion-kinetic scales, some of this energy is dissipated, resulting in a steepening in the spectrum of magnetic field fluctuations and heating of the ion velocity distributions, however, the specific mechanisms are still poorly understood. Understanding these mechanisms in the collisionless solar wind plasma is a major outstanding problem in the field of heliophysics research. More...

Page last modified on 16 aug 11 12:20