Planetary and Plasma Physics

The original Atmospheric Physics Laboratory, part of UCL Astrophysics, has, over the course of the last two decades, developed a suite of planetary global circulation models, making use inĀ  many cases of the hydrodynamic core of the UCL Earth model. The planetary models which have been developed include those for Jupiter (JIM / JASMIN), Saturn (KIM) and Mars (MarTIM). Important contributions to this planetary work have been made by past graduate students and PDRAs, who have been managed by Professor Alan Aylward and Professor Steve Miller. Prof. Aylward, as well as being involved in model development, also has extensive experience of terrestrial auroral and ionospheric observations, including analysis of data from radar instruments and Fabry-Perot interferometers. Prof. Miller has established an observational programme, based on giant planet aurorae and the emissions of cometary regions, often analysing the infared emissions of the H3+ molecular ion found in these environments.

The group has in more recent years extended the focus of its research beyond the upper atmospheres of planets into the magnetosphere region, largely due to the work of Dr. Nicholas Achilleos and his collaborators on the Cassini Mission at Saturn. In particular, we are involved with magnetospheric and auroral studies at the planets Saturn and Jupiter, through established and nascent collaborations with Cassini and HST scientists.

We list below the people involved in these activities and our collaborators at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL). We also describe our various research activities in the broader context of Solar System plasma environments and atmospheres. For a global overview of all planetary research at UCL, a useful link is the UCL Centre for Planetary Sciences.


UCL Physics and Astronomy (Bloomsbury Campus)

  • Dr. Nicholas Achilleos (Lecturer, Group Coordinator) Nick's initial research, as a postgraduate student in Australia, was in the field of the magnetic atmospheres of white dwarf stars. Subsequently, he was a PDRA at UCL, a software engineer in industry, and a support scientist for the Cassini Magnetometer Team at Imperial College. Currently a lecturer with the Department of Physics and Astronomy, his
    research interests include the magnetospheric dynamics of Saturn and Jupiter, and how these planets' magnetospheres influence their atmospheric flows and aurorae. For more details, follow links at his UCL Profile.
  • Prof. Alan Aylward
    Alan is the head of the Atmospheric Physics Laboratory, and has conducted research into (terrestrial) thermospheric and ionospheric physics, incoherent scatter radar, planetary upper atmospheres and ionospheres, and modelling of terrestrial and planetary atmospheres.
  • Prof. Steve Miller (Professor of Planetary Astronomy) Steve has established important planetary observational programmes, and is also interested in: Chemistry and dynamics of the atmospheres of the Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and Titan; using H3+ to investigate planetary atmospheres and the early Universe; and communicating scientific ideas to the media and general public (he is also the Head of Science and Technology Studies at UCL).
  • Dr. Patrick Guio (Research Associate) Patrick's background is mainly in the field of plasma physics, both theory and observation. His interests include the simulation of plasma turbulence, dust-plasma interactions, incoherent scattering and high-performance computing. Since taking up his post at UCL, he has also collaborated on studies of Saturn's magnetic field and plasma environment, and characterising the structure of auroral emissions. For more details, follow links at
    his UCL Profile.
  • Dr. Licia Ray (NSF Research Fellow). Licia completed her PhD at the University of Colorado, studying the influence of rapid planetary rotation upon ionosphere-magnetosphere coupling at Jupiter. Subsequently she worked as a research associate at Imperial College London.
    She is currently on a National Science Foundation fellowship, studying the influence of thermospheric dynamics on M-I coupling.


  • Dr. Christopher Arridge (Royal Society Fellow)
    Chris' main research interests lie in the area of
    magnetospheric structure and
    dynamics of the giant planets in the Solar System. Using
    Cassini field and plasma
    data, he has completed many studies of the structure of
    Saturn's plasma disc and
    current sheet, the planet's magnetospheric boundaries, and
    the periodic phenomena
    observed in the Cassini datasets. He has collaborated
    recently with Nick and Patrick
    in constructing field and plasma models of the disc-like
    magnetospheres of Saturn and
    Jupiter. More details may be found at his
    UCL home pages.
  • Dr. Adam Masters (JAXA International Fellow)
    Adam currently works with the Japanese Space Exploration Agency (JAXA) in
    Sagamihara, Tokyo. He used
    both magnetic and plasma data in his original PhD work,
    which examined
    the bow shock at Saturn, hot flow anomalies upstream of this
    region, and the
    observable signatures of the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability at
    Saturn's magnetopause.
    He continues to collaborate with Chris and Nick on Cassini
    studies, which have recently
    focused on the 'layers' present near Saturn's magnetopause
    and the magnetic 'shears'
    associated with their current systems. More details may be
    found at his
    UCL home pages.
  • Dr. Japheth Yates (Imperial College)
    Jaf recently submitted his PhD, which mainly focuses on magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling at Jupiter, and how the Jovian aurora responds to transient changes in the solar wind.
Magnetospheres Jupiter Flow  
Magnetospheres Magnetosphere-Ionosphere Coupling / Aurorae  

Page last modified on 01 nov 13 23:03 by Nicholas A Achilleos