UCL Astrophysics Group

Prof Anasuya Aruliah

Prof Anasuya Aruliah

Professor of Auroral Physics

Dept of Physics & Astronomy

Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences

Joined UCL
1st Oct 1997

Research summary

My main area of interest is the observation of the thermosphere using Fabry-Perot Interferometers, and in particular the investigation of small-scale structures (temporal and spatial); and the energetics and dynamics of ionosphere-thermosphere coupling in the auroral regions. My latest interest is in finding the absolute density of the thermosphere via satellite drag. This involves collaborations with space and satellite engineers. Absolute density is of particular importance for precise satellite orbit prediction, at a time when there is an exponential increase in the numbers of spacecraft being launched with little regulation. Space junk is a critical worry, and we now realise the importance of solar activity, manifested as Space Weather, on satellites and modern technology. Consequently it is time for a re-calibration of upper atmosphere models. These pioneering models were calibrated using data from the 1960s-1980s, which was a period of Grand Solar Maximum, and not representative of modern times.

The Atmospheric Physics Laboratory operates FPIs and an all-sky FPI called SCANDI at 3 sites in the Arctic regions of Scandinavia (Longyearbyen, Svalbard; Kiruna, Sweden; Sodankyla, Finland). These instruments were designed and built by the group and ideally (dependent on funding) we visit each one every winter to perform routine calibration and maintenance. We operate the FPIs remotely from UCL throughout the long winter nights to observe auroral and airglow emissions. We have provided ground support observations for international rocket experiments (e.g. CREX, Delta-1 and 2, RENU); and run coordinated experiments with the EISCAT and SuperDARN radars, and other instruments in that region. We have also provided observational comparisons with the APL's Earth atmospheric global circulation model - the Coupled Middle Atmosphere and Thermosphere (CMAT2) model.

After a year's sabbatical (2008-2009) at the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory, I became involved with the QB50 CubeSat mission. QB50 was initially funded by an EU FP7 grant as a technology transfer mission for miniaturised sensors and the safe deployment of multiple nanosatellites from a single site. Twenty eight CubeSats were deployed from the International Space Station and eight from the Indian Polar Space Launch Vehicle rocket in summer 2017. We have monitored their decaying orbits and collected measurements of particle densities as they slowly descended through regions of the upper atmosphere that are poorly understood.

I am currently involved with the CIRCE CubeSat mission due for the first ever launch from a UK site at Spaceport Cornwall, in late 2022. Two 6-unit CubeSats will carry a suite of miniaturised space weather instruments, including the MSSL Ion-Neutral Mass Spectrometer. I am also looking forward to working with the innovative EISCAT-3D radar network that will replace the current EISCAT radars on the Scandinavian mainland.

The FPI and QB50 measurements combined with modelling studies have been used in several 4th year and MSc student projects, as well as PhD projects.

Teaching summary

Teaching-wise I am the MSc Admissions Tutor for Physics & Astronomy, and the Graduate Tutor for the Data Intensive Science Centre of Doctoral Training. I am currently teaching a 3rd year/MSc course: Physics of the Earth. My past experience is of teaching and coordinating large classes: I coordinated the 2nd year undergraduate laboratories for 3 years and then the 3rd year undergraduate laboratories for 2 years. I took on the core 2nd year course Electricity and Magnetism from 2011-2016, in addition to coordinating the 4th year Astronomy projects. I have lectured small and medium size undergraduate courses on Waves, Electricity and Magnetism; Physics of the Solar System. Additionally I am a personal tutor to several Physics/Astrophysics/Natural Sciences students; supervise undergraduate and postgraduate projects; and conduct problem classes in maths and physics. I have had experience on the Departmental Teaching Committee as the Astrophysics representative, and am on the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee. I have also regularly taken on work experience students, in particular supervising longer term summer projects with 6th form students from under-represented schools, sponsored by the Nuffield Foundation.


University College London
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1991
University of Oxford
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts (Honours) | 1984


I have a Physics degree from the University of Oxford (Somerville College) in 1984. My PhD is from UCL (1991), where I continued as a post-doc in the Atmospheric Physics Laboratory. I have been running the group's ground-based optical programme since 1995. My work is divided between research and teaching in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. Currently I am a member of the NERC Peer Review College and have been a member of several NERC moderating panels since the ground-based observational component of the UK's Solar-Terrestrial Physics research community was transferred from PPARC/STFC to NERC. I am also a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and member of the American Geophysical Union.