Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial

Latest news

STFC Public Engagement Early-Career Researcher (PEER) Forum

The STFC has issued a call for applications to join their Public Engagement Early-Career Researcher (PEER) Forum, which is designed to support talented scientists and engineers in the early stages of their career in developing their public engagement and outreach goals. This forum is geared towards PhD students and early-career postdocs developing ideas for public engagement with similarly-minded researchers in a context that allows them to feed suggestions for the improvement of STFC's programmes back to STFC itself, and involves meeting twice a year. The deadline for applications is 4pm on 3 June 2019. For more information and more detail on what the scheme involves, you can visit the PEER Forum webpage or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The aims of the PEER Forum are as follows:

  • To foster peer learning and peer support between early career scientists and engineers with a passion for public engagement and outreach.
  • To improve understanding of the support STFC provides for public engagement and outreach (including funding mechanisms, evaluation, and reporting) and how to successfully utilise this support.
  • To stimulate discussions that help to develop and influence STFC’s approaches to public engagement.

ESA Science Programme Committee greenlights SMILE

The Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer (SMILE) has been given the green light for implementation by ESA's Science Programme Committee. SMILE will explore the Sun-Earth connection in a very novel way, by mapping solar wind-magnetosphere interactions in soft X-rays. SMILE is a joint mission by ESA and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CSA). The UK is one of many countries contributing to the payload development.

The SMILE payload comprises four instruments: a soft X-ray imager (SXI), a UV auroral imager (UVI) and an in situ measurement package composed of a light ion analyser and a magnetometer. The UK leads SXI, Canada leads UVI, and China leads the ion analyser and magnetometer. SMILE will fly in a highly elliptical polar orbit with an apogee of 20 Earth radii to image the magnetosphere and the Northern Lights for more than 40 hours continuously per orbit. The launch is planned in November 2023.

For more information, visit the European Space Agency, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, or Mullard Space Science Laboratory.

Debye mission proposal for ESA F-class call

We are currently preparing a proposal for the space mission “Debye” in response to ESA’s F-Class call. As the first dedicated electron-astrophysics mission, Debye will use the solar wind as a testbed to study universal small-scale electron processes throughout the universe. The mission's key science question is: “How are electrons heated in astrophysical plasmas?”
Debye will consist of up to four spacecraft that will orbit the Lagrange point L2. The main spacecraft will measure electron distribution functions with unprecedented cadence and very high resolution, electric fields, magnetic fields, and plasma ions. The deployable spacecraft will provide multi-point and multi-baseline measurements of the magnetic field to determine the nature of fluctuations on electron scales.
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RAS Specialist Discussion suggestions invited

The RAS is inviting suggestions from Fellows of the RAS for Specialist Discussion meeting topics in the academic year 2019/20. These meetings are held on the second Friday of the month between October and May in a given academic year; the April meeting will be moved due to the second Friday being Good Friday. 

If you would like to organise one of these meetings, you can do so by submitting a proposal no longer than one A4 page. Geophysics proposals, including MIST science, should be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and the deadline is 1 March 2019.

Your proposal should include the title of the meeting; the names of the co-convenors (at least one of whom should be a RAS Fellow); the topics you intend to cover; the rationale (including timeliness); suggestions for invited speakers; and the preferred date for the meeting. More information, including detailed guidance, can be found on the RAS website.


RAS awards for 2019 announced

MIST Council would like to extend their congratulations to the 2019 Royal Astronomical Society award winners, as well as the recent AGU award winners. In particular, we congratulate the following MIST members recognised for their significant achievements:
  • Margaret Kivelson (UCLA) has been awarded the Gold Medal in Geophysics for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in understanding planetary magnetospheres and their connections to the planets they surround.
  • Tom Stallard (Leicester) has been awarded the Chapman medal in Geophysics for outstanding contributions to understanding planetary upper atmospheres and their interactions with their magnetospheres.
  • The Cluster Science and Operations Team have been awarded the Geophysics Group Award for their continued success ensuring the operations and scientific exploitation of the European Space Agency’s Cluster mission.
  • Mark Clilverd (British Antarctic Survey) has been awarded the James Dungey Lecture for their excellent research on energetic particle precipitation and its effects on the upper atmosphere and climate, and their vast experience delivering outstanding scientific talks to a broad range of audiences.
  • Julia Stawarz (Imperial College London) has been awarded the Basu United States Early Career Award for Research Excellence in Sun-Earth Systems Science for significant contributions in furthering understanding of collisional plasma turbulence and kinetic scale processes. 
MIST Council would also like to congratulate Fran Bagenal (Colorado), who has been awarded the AGU Van Allen Lecture for exceptional work on the understanding of planetary magnetospheres and outstanding contributions to planetary missions.

MISTs of Time

The first MIST meeting was held in London on 20 August 1970, so we are well into our fifth decade! Henry Rishbeth, who with Peter Kendall was one of the originators of MIST, wrote an authoritative account of the origins and history of MIST to mark the 25th anniversary:

The idea of UK 'Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial Meetings' originated one evening in October 1969, while driving out from Sheffield to Peter Kendall's home in the Pennines. Peter and I were concerned at the lack of regular contact between UK groups working in the field of solar-terrestrial physics. It seemed that one had to go to international conferences to find out what neighbouring groups were doing! The success of the "Sydney Chapman Meeting" at Sheffield in July 1968, at which the great man himself was present, showed us that scope existed for regular meetings in the UK. We considered setting up a new society but, in conversations with Professor Vincent Ferraro, Mr Jack Ratcliffe and others, it became obvious that we should work through an existing learned society. Through the good offices of Vincent Ferraro, the Royal Astronomical Society took us under its wing. Peter thought up the MIST acronym, though its impact in other languages was not considered.


The first MIST Meeting took place in the Scientific Societies' Lecture Theatre, London, on 20 November 1970, with the theme Geomagnetic Storm Effects. The attendance of 200 was overwhelming, and has never been equalled at subsequent meetings. Largely, the audience consisted of astronomers who just came to see what we were up to. Quickly settling down to a more realistic size, MIST meetings were held semiannually at Burlington House, generously supported by the RAS. For many years, MIST was co-sponsored by the Institute of Physics, who provided some publicity. In the early days each MIST meeting had a definite theme. The May meetings suffered from poor attendance, and it was David Orr who solved this problem by inviting us to York in April 1973, for a residential meeting with a wide-ranging programme. This out-of-town meeting was popular, and was followed in 1974 onwards by 'Spring MISTs' at Leicester, Exeter, Aberystwyth ... the list is long, and MIST owes much to the local organizers of the spring meetings. Exceptionally, the Autumn 1974 meeting was held at Queen Mary College; it was planned to be the 'Ferraro Retirement Meeting' but sadly became the 'Ferraro Memorial Meeting'.


From the start, MIST meetings have been reported in the QJRAS and the practice continues, thanks to the work of Mike Laird, Anne Hadjiry, and many others. Maintaining the MIST mailing list is no light task; it was done first at the RAS, then at Slough, then for many years by Roy Moffett at Sheffield, and currently by Andy Smith and Margaret Riley at BAS.


With the advent of the 'UK Geophysical Assembly', MIST joined UKGA at Edinburgh in 1977, setting a pattern in which MIST sometimes joined with UKGA or with the RAS Out-of-Town meeting, at other times keeping to the traditional 'stand-alone' MIST meeting organized by a local STP group. This mix-and-match plan led to the holding of two successive meetings in Southampton: a 'stand-alone meeting' in 1978 followed by UKGA in 1979, in both cases benefiting from competent organization by the late Pam Rothwell. In 1992 MIST 'went international', with special sessions at the EGS meeting at Edinburgh. The autumn one-day meetings in London have continued successfully at Burlington House till the present day. Sometimes MIST takes part in a regular RAS Geophysical meeting; these so-called 'G/MIST Meetings' have helped to boost the total to 60 meetings in 26 years. MIST has become a forum for all UK STP scientists, sometimes welcoming visitors from overseas, a place for community discussions of wider issues, and above all the place for research students and new postdocs to present their science.


Henry Rishbeth

8 March 1996

[A version of this article has been published in Astronomy & Geophysics (1997) 38(2), 20-22.]