UCL Astrophysics Group


Planetary and Plasma Physics People

UCL Physics and Astronomy (Bloomsbury Campus)

Prof. Nicholas Achilleos (Professor of Planetary Physics, 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, hisresearch interests include the magnetospheric dynamics of Saturn and Jupiter, and how these planets' magnetospheres influence their atmospheric flows and aurorae. He has experience in modelling and observation of Jupiter's and Saturn's thermospheres, auroral regions and magnetospheres. He was a magnetometer science coI on the Cassini mission to Saturn, and has a similar role on the nascent JUICE (JUpiter ICy moon Explorer) mission, which will revisit the Jovian system around 2030. For more details, follow links at his UCL Profile.

Prof. Patrick Guio (UiT Space Physic Professor / UCL Honorary Professor)

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. During his Senior Research Associate post at UCL, he 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. Patrick is now a Professor of Space Physics at the University of Tromso, and retains Honorary status at UCL.

Arianna Sorba

Arianna commenced her PhD studies in 2015, and graduated in 2019. She studied the compressibility and dynamics of Saturn's disc-like magnetosphere.

Will Dunn

Will joined the group in 2017, sharing his time between Astrophysics (P&A) and MSSL, where he works with Prof. Graziella Branduardi-Raymont. Will works on observation and interpretation of giant planet auroral emissions, particularly in the X-ray waveband. For more details, see his UCL Profile.

Flavien Hardy

Flavien commenced his PhD studies in 2017. He is studying the processes which determine the morphology of the magnetopause. For more details, see his UCL Profile.

Matthew Cheng

Matthew commenced his PhD studies in 2019, under the Data Intensive Science programme. He is studying the processes which control reconnection at Saturn's magnetopause. He will also be exploring methods, such as unsupervised learning, for recognizing patterns in spacecraft data associated with such processes. For more details, see his UCL Profile


Prof. Alan Aylward

Alan is an Emeritus professor and the former head of the Atmospheric Physics Laboratory. He 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. Christopher Arridge (Royal Society Fellow, Lancaster University)

      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 with Nick and Patrick in constructing field and plasma models of the disc-like magnetospheres of Saturn and Jupiter.

      Dr. Cesar Bertucci (Uni. Buenos Aires)

      Cesar is interested in the interaction between Saturn's magnetosphere and the moon, Titan. He has collaborated with Nick, Chris and Patrick on observational / modelling studies of this interaction and on Saturn's general magnetospheric dynamics. He has also done work on plasma waves at Mars.

      Dr. Adam Masters (Imperial College, former JAXA International Fellow)

      Adam is currently at Imperial College, and has also worked with the Japanese Space Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Sagamihara, Tokyo. He used both magnetic and plasma data in his original PhD work,which examinedt he bow shock at Saturn, hot flow anomalies upstream of thisregion, 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.

      Dr. Licia Ray (former NSF Research Fellow, Lancaster University)

      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 then started a research post at UCL Physics and Astronomy, initially supported by a National Science Foundation fellowship, studying the influence of thermospheric dynamics on M-I coupling. She is now based at Lancaster University.

      Dr. Nathan Pilkington

      Nathan obtained his PhD with our group at UCL, working on the structure of the magnetopause of the planet Saturn. Using Cassini data, Nathan as part of this work established the most comprehensive database of Saturn magnetopause crossings to date. 

      Dr. Nick Sergis (Academy of Athens)

      Nick is an expert on the analysis of hot plasma data, and has collaborated with us on several studies of Saturn's magnetospheric dynamics / plasma disk / ring current. He is a member of the Cassini MIMI (Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument) team (PI: Prof. S. Krimigis). 

      Dr. Chris Smith (Head of Physics, Brooksbank School)

      Chris did his PhD at UCL on the topic of thermospheric modelling of the giant planets. He continues to publish excellent research in this area, often involving UCL co-authors, and he also visits the group from time to time.

      Dr. Japheth Yates (Imperial College)

      Jaf worked on, among other things, Cassini magnetometer data from Saturn's magnetosphere. His PhD was obtained at UCL, and mainly focused on magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling at Jupiter, and how the Jovian aurora responds to transient changes in the solar wind. He was a Fellow of the European Space Agency based at ESAC, just outside Madrid. He is now a numerical simulation engineer with ARRIVAL.

      Cassini studies

      We have led studies involving Cassini data / plasma moments which have been supported by collaborations with Prof. Michele Dougherty (Cassini magnetometer PI), Prof. Andrew Coates (Cassini CAPS PI), Prof. Michelle Thomsen (LANL), Dr. Rob Wilson (LASP).

      Additional Jovian studies

      Nick has been involved in a collaborative study of Jupiter's thermosphere-ionosphere-magnetosphere coupling, led by Dr. Chihiro Tao (IRAP).