Three Royal Society University Research Fellows at MSSL

30 October 2012

The Royal Society

MSSL is proud to announce that Drs Lucie Green and Chris Arridge have both been awarded a prestigious Royal Society University Research Fellowship in the 2012 competition. Lucie and Chris will be joined by Dr Thomas Kitching who was awarded a University Research Fellowship last year and has moved to MSSL from the University of Edinburgh. All three will take up academic posts at MSSL on completion of their fellowships.

Professor Alan Smith, Director of MSSL said 'We are very proud to host these three exceptional scientists and look forward to working with them in the years to come. They will significantly strengthen our engagement in science exploitation, future missions, outreach and education.' 

Dr. Lucie Green - Magnetic helicity evolution of solar active regions

Dr. Lucie Green (image credit: Ivo Näpflin)

Lucie's project aims to answer one of the most compelling science challenges in solar physics, that is, to understand the evolution of magnetic helicity in active regions and the role of helicity in the Sun’s activity and magnetic cycles. New datasets provided by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and JAXA’s Hinode missions give the necessary information to do a detailed study on this for the first time. The work will allow the study of the magnetic helicity injected into the solar atmosphere through flux emergence events, its evolution across the lifetime of the magnetic structures and how helicity may be submerged back into the Sun providing the input for subsequent solar activity cycles.

Dr. Chris Arridge - Mass and energy transport in giant planet magnetospheres throughout the universe

Dr. Chris Arridge

Jupiter's moon Io is the most volcanic body in the Solar System and was the first place beyond Earth where we saw a volcano erupting. These volcanoes have a profound effect on Jupiter's space environment (called its magnetosphere) but one thing we don't know is what happens to the magnetosphere when a volcano suddenly starts erupting. Does it suddenly have a large effect, or does it take time for the particles from the volcano to get into space and start having an effect? In my URF I'll be looking at this problem which has wide relevance for understanding other magnetospheres in our solar system and understanding Space Weather here at Earth. We also don't know how the 11-year solar cycle affects the magnetospheres of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Until recently we have not had the necessary measurements from spacecraft to try to study this, but we are now entering an age where we can investigate this. This is an another problem I'll address in my URF. Overall I'll be trying to understand how the solar cycle and sudden changes in volcanoes and moons affect giant planet magnetospheres, both in our Solar System and beyond, and I'll be using models and observations to try to solve this.

One of the biggest unsolved problems in astrophysics is how particles gain energy. At Jupiter the particles are far hotter than they should be and scientists have calculated that 10 TW of energy is required to heat them (roughly the energy consumption of the entire world) but we don’t know where this comes from! We believe the energy comes from the rotation of Jupiter but we don’t know how this energy is converted from kinetic to thermal energy. The third topic to be addressed in my URF will be to use models and spacecraft measurements to try to understand how these particles get so hot.

Dr. Thomas Kitching - Dark Universe Cosmology with Precision Gravitational Lensing

Dr. Thomas Kitching

Dark energy and dark matter constitute 95% of the observable Universe, and yet their nature is entirely unknown - this is arguably the biggest problem that physics as ever faced. In my URF I will be developing the tools of "3D weak lensing", that includes information about the distances to galaxies and information from the gravitational lensing effect - a distortion of a galaxy's image caused by the bending of spacetime, predicted by Einstein - to learn about these two mysterious components of the Universe.

More specifically, I will focus on using 3D lensing to tackle two fundamental issues in physics: the determination of neutrino mass, and the mapping of the dark energy equation of state over cosmic time.

I will use the largest and deepest optical surveys available: CFHTLS that is available now, and VST-KIDS that has begun its observations. This data analysis will build towards the ultimate 3D weak lensing experiment, Euclid, an ESA mission scheduled to launch in 2020. Euclid will make Hubble Space Telescope-like images but over areas of sky tens of thousands of times larger, and look back in time over 75% of the age of the Universe. 

Page last modified on 25 oct 12 15:57