MIST

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.

Public Engagement

If you work on a public engagement project which is not listed here, please contact us with a short abstract, any web links, and who is working on it, and we'll include it in the list!

AuroraWatch UK

AuroraWatch UK offers free alerts of when the northern lights, or aurora borealis, can be seen from the UK. Alerts are issued based on real-time data from AuroraWatch UK and citizen science instruments, called magnetometers, that measure geomagnetic activity associated with the aurora. With well over 100,000 subscribers this incredibly popular service also engages its subscribers about the science behind the aurora and space weather. AuroraWatch UK is run by Lancaster University, who are very active in the media, frequently appearing on TV and radio and being quoted in national newspaper articles. They also run wide-ranging outreach events about the aurora and other planets in our solar system. For more details, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Elastic Band Magnetosphere

Created for the Aurora Explorer exhibit at the 2011 Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, this interactive demonstrates some of the dynamics of Earth’s magnetosphere such as magnetopause motion, tail reconnection and ULF waves by using brightly coloured elastic bands / bungee cords. The exhibit was created by Imperial College London, and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more details.

MUSICS

MUSICS (Magnetospheric Undulations Sonified Incorporating Citizen Scientists) enables school students to collaboratively experience and contribute to space weather research in 6-month long projects. They explore ultra-low frequency satellite wave data of Earth’s magnetic shield by listening to it and using audio software. Unexpected science results have been found such as long-lasting decreasing-frequency poloidal waves following geomagnetic storms. The audio and tools for using it are now publicly available via NOAA and thus can be adopted by any MIST researchers in their work with schools or the public. For more details, contact Martin Archer.

Planeterrella

The planeterrella is an update of a century-old experiment by a Norwegian scientist named Kristian Birkeland and is very visually beautiful. There are planeterrellas at the University of Leicester and the University of Southampton, based on designs developed in France by Jean Lilensten. The planeterrella has appeared on QI, and also appears at schools and festivals around the UK. For more details, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Raspberry Pi School Magnetometer project

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. helps run the Raspberry Pi School Magnetometer project at the British Geological Survey. The magnetometer is a very sensitive instrument which allows schools to make measurements of the Earth’s magnetic field, in particular to sense the aurora during geomagnetic storms. The project is jointly run with Lancaster University. Around ten schools in the UK have been involved in the project since 2015.

SMILE

SMILE is a joint mission by the European Space Agency and Chinese Academy of Sciences, and is due for launch in late 2023. The SMILE satellite will have a highly-inclined orbit with apogee at about 19 RE.  SMILE will have an X-ray imager to  to monitor the magnetopause, and a UV imager, to observe the northern hemisphere ionosphere.  An in situ light ion analyser and a magnetometer complete the instrument suite. We are running a long-term project with a set of schools, so that they can follow the SMILE mission through the design, build, testing, launch, and science operations of the mission. We are extending this programme to community and adult education groups. For more details, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sounds of Space

Our planet naturally produces a variety of radio emissions, generated by lightning activity and geomagnetic storms driven by the Sun. These natural radio waves are at the lower end of the radio spectrum in the audio-frequency range. These electromagnetic waves cannot be heard directly, but they can be converted into audio files and played back as sound. This process reveals a series of weird and wonderful noises, known as the ‘sounds of space’, and it's a bit like entering the film set of a 1960s sci-fi movie. We are working with artists and audio engineers to exploit these amazing natural ‘sounds’ and make them more accessible to wider audiences. The ‘sounds’ have been used in performances that fuse art and science, short films, music and even a world-renowned space simulation game. You can find out more about these exciting projects here, or by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

SSFX

SSFX (Space Sound Effects), in partnership with several film industry organisations, challenged independent filmmakers to incorporate the usually inaudible sounds from space into short films in creative ways. Seven films were selected and were screened at bespoke events as well as infiltrating 16 existing film festivals and over 500 events across 8 countries. The diverse audiences reached typically wouldn’t attend science events. An anthology film containing the shorts and a framing story narratively depicting the effects of space weather is now online. Contact Martin Archer for access to any of the films in a variety of formats for use at your events.