Space Plasma Physics

Artist's impression of plasma regions of the magnetosphere
Artist's impression of plasma regions of the magnetosphere

The Space Plasma Physics group at MSSL is a leading, internationally recognised research group studying the physical interaction between the Earth and the Sun and the fundamental physics of space plasmas. The group has a history of producing instrumentation for, and analysing data from, international space exploration missions in collaboration with scientists around the world.

The group is heavily involved in the current Cluster mission and the proposed Solar Orbiter mission. Much of our research involves exploiting data from the Cluster mission, in conjunction with other missions and facilities. We also provide operational support and data processing for the Cluster and Double Star missions and the Cluster Active Archive. We have a number of PhD opportunities for students to study some of the many aspects of space plasmas.

Details of our mission involvement, research and upcoming projects can all be found on this site.

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MSSL Space Plasma News

The MSSL plasma group attends the Autumn MIST meeting

On Friday 24 November the members of the MSSL space plasma group attended the Autumn MIST meeting at the Royal Astronomical Society in London. 
The MIST meeting is a reasonably small (but growing) congregation of the UK space physics community which enables friends and colleagues from  all over the country to catch up. MIST also allows younger members of the community such as new students and postdocs to present their work to a friendly and welcoming audience.  More...

Space Plasma Group hosts London NERC DTP training

Students from this year's intake into the London NERC DTP visited the University of London Observatory, Royal Astronomical Society and MSSL to undertake training in the natural hazards of space weather. The three-day training course included practicals on space weather instrumentation, taking part in a space weather disaster scenario run by the Met Office and the design of a new space weather monitoring mission. More...

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MSSL Space Plasma Science Highlights

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Understanding Waves and Instabilities in Collisionless Plasmas with ALPS

The solar wind is a plasma in which collisions are very rare. Many plasmas in the universe are in this so-called "collisionless" state. This applies, for example, to a common type of accretion disks around black holes in the centres of galaxies, the very dilute medium between galaxies, magnetospheres around planets and comets, as well as pulsar winds in supernova remnants. In all collisionless plasmas, the behaviour of plasma waves, which are the fundamental building blocks of many important plasma processes, is more complicated to understand than in a collision-dominated plasma. Therefore, we have to rely on computer models to calculate the properties of plasma waves. With their help, it is also possible to calculate whether the plasma is in a stable or unstable state, a question of great importance for understanding the plasma behaviour. More...

The role of localised compressional Ultra-Low Frequency waves in energetic electron precipitation

Global-scale electromagnetic wave activity known as Ultra-Low Frequency (ULF) waves have been historically discussed as playing an indirect role in the acceleration and loss of radiation belt electrons. This is primarily due to the fact that ULF waves cannot easily interact with the gyration of electrons causing acceleration, or their bounce motion causing them to be lost. However, certain assumptions on the global-scale nature of these ULF wave fields are made to arrive at this conclusion. In this paper, we explore the validity of the assumptions that go into our current thinking, and provide a thought experiment on how a localised, large-amplitude electromagnetic wave field could interact with relativistic particles and play a direct role in radiation belt losses as a result. We conclude that localized ULF wave fields may provide an additional and, importantly, complementary means to more established processes that are known to precipitate electrons from the radiation belts during geomagnetic storms. More...

Page last modified on 16 aug 11 12:20