UCL Astrophysics Group


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 in  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. See our publication lists under our personal profiles for more details of these studies and their authors.

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 Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck.


Magnetosphere-Ionosphere Coupling / Aurorae

Magnetic geometry and pressure distributions from theoretical model of Saturn's magnetodisc region, developed in collaboration with colleagues Patrick Guio and Chris Arridge from UCL.

Flow velocities in the UCL 2D axisymmetric model of Jupiter's upper atmosphere, developed by Chris Smith.