MIST

Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial

Latest news

Outcome of SSAP priority project review

From the MIST mailing list:

We are writing to convey the outcome of this year’s priority project “light touch” review, specifically with reference to those projects within the remit of SSAP. We would like to thank all the PIs that originally submitted ideas, and those who provided updates to their projects over the summer. SSAP strongly believe that all the projects submitted are underpinned by strong scientific drivers in the SSAP area.

The “light touch” review was undertaken with a unified approach by SSAP and AAP, considering factors that have led to priority project development (in STFC or other research councils) or new funding for priority projects (1/51 projects in the STFC remit) in the last 12 months. After careful discussion, it was agreed by SSAP and AAP not to select any project where the remit clearly overlaps with UKSA (i.e. space missions or TRL 4+), reflecting STFC’s focus on ground-based observations, science exploitation and TRL 0-3 development. Whilst in no way reflecting the excellence of the science, or community scientific wishes, this approach has resulted in some changes to the list of SSAP priority projects. However, now, unlike at the time of the original call, it is clear that such projects cannot move forwards without UKSA (financial) support, and such funds are already committed according to UKSA’s existing programme. SSAP remain strongly supportive of mission-led science in solar-system exploration, so SSAP have strongly recommended that the high-level discussions between UKSA and STFC continue with a view to supporting a clear joint priority projects call in future, more naturally suited to mission and bi-lateral opportunities.

The priority projects (and PIs) identified by SSAP for 2019/20 are:

  • Solar Atmospheric Modelling Suite (Tony Arber)
  • LARES1: Laboratory Analysis for Research into Extra-terrestrial Samples (Monica Grady)
  • EST: European Solar Telescope (Sarah Matthews)

SSAP requested STFC continue to work with all three projects to expand their community reach and continue to develop the business cases for future (new) funding opportunities. In addition, SSAP have requested that STFC explore ways in which the concept of two projects—“ViCE: Virtual Centres of Excellence Programme / MSEMM Maximising Science Exploitation from Space Science Missions”—can be combined and, with community involvement, generate new funding for science exploitation and maximising scientific return in solar-system sciences. Initially this consultation will occur between SSAP and STFC.

We would like to thank the community again for its strong support, and rapid responses on very short timescales. A further “light touch” review will occur in 2020, with a new call for projects anticipated in 2021. SSAP continue to appreciate the unfamiliar approach a “call for proposals with no funding attached” causes to the community and are continuing to stress to STFC that the community would appreciate clearer guidance and longer timescales in future priority project calls.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Helen Fraser on behalf of SSAP

The Global Network for the Sustainability In Space (GNOSIS)

The Global Network for the Sustainability In Space (GNOSIS) is an STFC Network+ with the goal of helping researchers within the Particle, Nuclear and Astrophysics areas to engage with researchers from other research councils and industry to study the near Earth space environment. For more details, visit the GNOSIS website or see this issue of the GNOSIS newsletter.

Over the next few years we expect a large increase in the number of satellites in Earth orbit. This will lead to unprecedented levels of space traffic much of which will end as debris. The aim of this network is to understand the debris populations and its impact on space traffic management with a view to enabling a safer environment.

The free GNOSIS lunch event will be held on 18 November 2019 at the British Interplanetary Society at Vauxhall, London, with a video link to the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, to facilitate participation from across the UK. Tickets can be obtained here.

GNOSIS will be producing a programme of meetings for both space operations specialists and subject matter novices and will be able to support the development of collaborative ideas through project and part graduate student funding. Details of our first workshop will be announced in the next month.

If you are an academic with no direct experience but have knowledge of areas such as observations, data analysis, simulation or even law, then register your interest on our website. If you are a currently working in the space sector or if you are just interested in the aims and goals of the network please also register your interest and get involved.

SWIMMR: A £19.9M programme of the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund

Space Weather Instrumentation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk (SWIMMR) is a £19.9M programme of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Strategic Priorities Fund.

MIST would like draw the attention of the research community to the potential opportunities which will become available as a result of this programme, which received final approval from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in August. The programme will run from now until March 2023 and is aimed at improving the UK’s capabilities for space weather monitoring and prediction. UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund provides a means for linking research council investment to governmental research priorities, hence the areas being emphasised in the programme reflect space weather threats to critical infrastructure, as reflected in the UK national risk register.

The programme will be delivered jointly by the STFC and NERC, mainly through open grant calls, but including some elements of commissioned work to be delivered through open competitive tenders. The first calls are expected to appear during the coming weeks. More information about the programme is available through the RAL Space website, and is forthcoming from the NERC web site.

To mark the official launch of the programme and provide more details of the planned activities, a kick-off meeting is being held in the Wolfson Library of the Royal Society on Tuesday 26 November 2019, from 10:30. Pre-registration is required for this event and can be done using this link. We hope that many of you will be able to attend.

Representing the MIST Community in award nominations

MIST Council has recently launched an effort to create an award nominations task force with the following aims:

  1. Actively contribute towards more equal representation and a diverse range of nominees for awards
  2. Recognise and promote the work of overlooked members of the community
  3. Provide a means for students and ECRs to gain experience in preparing an effective nomination package

The initial plan is to start by considering those awards given out by the Royal Astronomical Society. This is so there will be sufficient time to prepare nomination packages by the RAS deadline (July 2020), and the wide range of awards will allow us to consider the entire MIST community. The task force is spearheaded by Oliver Allanson, Jasmine Sandhu, and Maria-Theresia Walach.

This task force is inspired by Liz MacDonald, a heliophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Liz Macdonald organized the Nomination Task Force within AGU’s Space Physics and Aeronomy (SPA) section, which has been summarised in an article in Eos. We plan to work in a manner similar to that described in the article, as we believe that by having a community task force we will be able to achieve community-wide representation in a timely manner.

If you would like to be part of the task force then please sign-up using our Google Form by Friday 4th October. At this stage we are not soliciting for specific ideas for nominees. Instead we are seeking to gauge support and receive feedback. We would like to emphasise that all members of the MIST community are welcome, and indeed encouraged, to sign-up to to join this task force, from PhD student to Emeritus Professor.

New MIST Chair and Vice-Chair elected

Congratulations to John Coxon on becoming MIST Chair, and to Jasmine Sandhu on becoming MIST Vice-chair in a unanimous vote at a Council meeting last week.
 
MIST Council elects a new Chair whenever the previous Chair steps down, and in addition this year, the council has decided to elect a Vice-Chair for the first time.
 
On behalf of the MIST community, we would like to thank Ian McCrea for doing a superb job as Chair during his tenure on the Council.

MIST students attend STFC-funded summer schools each year, with one introductory and one advanced summer school held every September. This is a list of the summer schools which have been held from 2004 onwards.

Guidelines for summer school organisers

Typically, a summer school will start Monday morning and end Friday lunchtime with an afternoon off during the week. This gives 16 slots of 1.5 hours each. We propose that, in each school, 12 of these are filled with a ‘core’ curriculum, not including a ‘careers’ element which should be included in the Advanced School. This will leave some flexibility for course organisers to present topical lectures perhaps reflecting their own group’s activities, have hands-on activities and schedule student talks.

STFC’s own guidance reads: “Courses or schools must be held in a core research activity supported by the STFC studentships programme (astronomy, solar system science, particle astrophysics, particle physics, nuclear physics) and must be aimed primarily at STFC-funded PhD students. Courses of a specialist technical nature will not be supported.” Our schools therefore fall within this remit.

The organisers of each school need to put in an application to STFC about a year before the summer school. We strongly recommend contacting the previous organizers for information and advice. Please note that funding is increasingly competitive and is not guaranteed.

All bids must be contained within three pages and provide the following information:

  • the dates and venue of the proposed course or school
  • justification for the course or school, in terms of its relevance to the STFC studentships
    programme
  • the number of STFC PhD students who would benefit from the course or school
  • a detailed breakdown of the budget requested;-details of the proposed lectures and
    courses

Bids are normally to be submitted as an e-mail attachment to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., by 1 October in the year before the summer school. The points of contact are Clare Heseltine and Susan Blackwell, and the relevant STFC contact page is here.

Suggested core lectures

Below are the suggested core lectures for each of the schools. Each lecture represents 1.5 hours with a small break in the middle.

Introductory Solar System Plasmas School (about 16 lectures in total)

  1. Introduction to Plasma Physics: gyration, drifts, plasma oscillations, EM waves in magnetised plasmas, elements of plasma kinetics.
  2. Introduction to MHD: MHD equations: applicability conditions, MHD equilibria, basic timescales and dimensionless parameters.
  3. Solar interior and helioseismology: Dynamo theory, differential rotation, global and local helio- seismology and its results.
  4. MHD Waves and Instabilities: Waves in uniform media, modes of a magnetic flux tube, basic macroscopic and microscopic instabilities.
  5. Magnetic reconnection: 2D reconnection (Petschek + Sweet-Parker), basic concepts of topology, diffusion regions and observational investigation.
  6. Introduction to the Solar Atmosphere: photosphere, chromosphere, TR, corona, heating, flares.
  7. CMEs, the Solar Wind and the Heliosphere: Basic solar wind models, basic structures, phenomenology of CMEs, MHD turbulence, heliopause.
  8. The Magnetosphere: basic topology, bow shock and magnetopause, magnetotail, plasmasphere, radiation belts, ring current, current systems, substorms and geomagnetic activity.
  9. The Ionosphere: formation and structure, ion-neutral coupling, vertical coupling, dynamics, energy dissipation, chemistry, auroral acceleration, conductivities and currents.
  10. The Mesosphere and Thermosphere
  11. Planetary plasma environments: giant planet magnetospheres, rapid rotation and M-I coupling, plasma transport, Dungey and Vasyliunas cycles, miniature and induced magnetospheres, comets.
  12. Solar variability and climate: solar irradiance effects, UV variability, stratospheric chemistry and dynamics, coupling to troposphere, effects of SEP and radiation belt particles, cosmic rays.

Advanced Solar-System Plasmas School (about 16 lectures in total)

  1. Overview of the Sun-Earth System and state-of-the-art observations: including quick overview of current missions and facilities
  2. Solar interior and helioseismology (more advanced topics)
  3. Dynamics of the Earth’s magnetosphere
  4. Split session: 
    1. Solar observations (UKSP students)
    2. Magnetosphere-Ionosphere-Thermosphere coupling and the aurora (MIST students)
  5. MHD and plasma waves: including coronal seismology
  6. MHD instabilities and reconnection
  7. Solar flares and activity
  8. CMEs, SEPs, solar wind and space weather
  9. Planetary magnetospheres: magnetic reconnection, upstream influences, ion pickup, Alfven wings, ionopause formation, induced tails, chemistry and coupling, plasma transport, stress balance
  10. Plasma turbulence
  11. Physics of particle acceleration
  12. Split session:
    1. Dynamo theory (UKSP students)
    2. Wave-particle interaction in the magnetosphere: including the radiation belt and ring current (MIST students)
  13. Career planning

Additional Lectures

In addition to the core content above, each School will have 3/4 slots to be decided by the host for extra topics, including hands-on/interactive activities, student presentations or posters (Advanced School only). As examples, such activities could include lectures focusing on specific techniques, facilities and models, data analysis or computing exercises, grant application tutorials, presentations on outreach and research impact or sessions focusing on the development of research skills. Organisers are recommended to consult MIST and UKSP Councils at an early stage in timetable preparation.

Selection of Lecturers

The primary requirement is of course that lecturers should be experts in the relevant field, who can present clear and interesting talks. Organisers should pay attention to balancing seniority and institutions of speakers, and especially to having an appropriate gender balance. In the interests of efficiency of lecture preparation, it may be helpful to “recycle” some (but not all) lecturers from previous schools to speak on the same topic. We also hope that all lecturers would be prepared to share their materials with successors.

Student feedback

Organisers are expected to collect feedback from students attending the Schools, a digest of which should be passed on to the organisers for the following year, as well as to UKSP and MIST Councils to aid future planning.

Summer schools

Future summer schools

This is a list of the introductory and advanced summer schools which will be held from now to 2024. Further information on this year's STFC summer schools, including dates and websites, can be found on the STFC website. If you are thinking of proposing a summer school, the guidelines for UKSP and MIST summer school convenors are on our website.

Year  Introductory Advanced
Institution Organiser Institution Organiser
2019 Aberystwyth Morris Lancaster Arridge
2020 Birmingham Chaplin Warwick Verwichte
2021 Durham Yeates Reading Watt
2022 UCL (MSSL) Rae Leicester Lester
2023 St Andrew's de Moortel Glasgow Kontar
2024 Sheffield Erdelyi    

Past summer schools

This is a list of the introductory and advanced summer schools which have been held since 2004 to the present day.

Year  Introductory Advanced
Institution Organiser Institution Organiser
2004 Glasgow Fletcher UCL (MSSL) Harra
2005 Warwick Nakariakov Leeds Hughes
2006 UCLan Walsh Sheffield Erdelyi
2007 Armagh Doyle St Andrew's Hood
2008 Sheffield Erdelyi/Jain Queen's University Belfast Mathioudakis
2009 UCL (MSSL) Harra Birmingham Chaplin
2010 Leeds Hughes UCLan Walsh
2011 St Andrew's Neukirch Glasgow Fletcher
2012 Armagh Doyle Warwick Verwichte
2013 Sheffield Erdelyi UCL (MSSL) Matthews
2014 Imperial Schwartz Dundee Hornig
2015 Glasgow Kontar Leeds Hughes
2016 St Andrew's de Moortel Sheffield Erdelyi
2017 Northumbria Zharkova UCLan Walsh
2018 Exeter Foullon Southampton Fear