Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial

Latest news

2019 RAS Council elections

As you may have seen, the nominations for RAS Council are currently open with a deadline of 29 November. MIST falls under the “G” (Geophysics) category and there are up to 3 councillor positions and one vice-president position available. MIST Council strongly encourages interested members of the MIST community to consider standing for election.
Clare Watt (University of Reading) has kindly volunteered to be a point of contact for the community for those who may wish to talk more about being on council and what it involves. Clare is a councillor on RAS Council, with her term due to complete in 2020, and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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.

My experience of attending the Geospace Environment Modelling (GEM) 2018 workshop

by Harneet Sangha

Harneet Sangha is a second year PhD student at the University of Leicester. Harneet researches the structure and variability of field aligned current systems in Earth’s magnetosphere. In this blog post, Harneet talks about attending the 2018 GEM (Geospace Environment Modelling) workshop in Sante Fe.

What is GEM?

The GEM workshop showcases current research in investigating the Earth’s magnetosphere and how it is coupled to the ionosphere, atmosphere and the solar wind. There are a handful of research areas (Solar Wind-Magnetosphere Interactions, the Inner Magnetosphere, Magnetosphere-Ionosphere Coupling, Global System Modelling, and the Magnetotail and Plasmasheet), all of which have a number of their own smaller focus groups during the workshop. These focus groups change every few years, and new focus groups can be proposed by the community. GEM is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is a subsection of the NSF Geosciences Division.

I attended the GEM 2018 workshop, which ran from 17 June - 23 June 2018. I actually ended up going to America a few days early, and stayed in America for an extra week afterwards for a little holiday.

How did I fund the trip? 

I received funding from GEM, specifically the NSF, which paid for the accommodation and all internal travel to and from the conference. To receive this funding I applied to GEM directly, and had to send a statement of purpose to explain my research goals, how GEM will help me to pursue these goals, and how I can contribute to GEM (I contributed by presenting my work both orally and with a poster. I also signed up to do a student tutorial and although I didn’t get chosen for the tutorials, I was placed in reserve). GEM required me to write a follow-up report, explaining the benefits of attending, and what I gained from the whole experience. In addition to the GEM grant, I received money from the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), which funded the flights to America, as well as food costs. I also had to provide a follow up report of the experience for RAS too.

The more things (a talk, poster, tutorials etc.) you sign up for, the more likely you are to receive funding from GEM. So apply for anything you can! You may not get everything, but the fact that you have signed up for them means you can be a reserve in case other students are unable to actually do them in the end (e.g. the student day tutorials). Also, if you do get to do everything, the experiences will be great!

A day in Sante Fe

The whole workshop was based in the Eldorado Hotel that the majority of us were staying in, which was really convenient! All the different focus group sessions were in different conference rooms along the same corridor, making it quick and easy to jump between the sessions, and find one that you were interested in.

The beautiful view from the rooftop of the Eldorado Hotel, where the GEM icebreaker event was held.

In the mornings, the sessions started at 08:30 and typically ran until 17:00, interspersed with coffee breaks and a lunch break. The talks were 10 minutes long with a couple of minutes for questions. On Tuesday and Thursday, there were poster sessions, which took place between 17:00 - 21:00. 

I went to a lot of sessions throughout the whole week and would always try to pick the ones that were most relevant to me. If there wasn’t one at a specific time I would either go to an interesting, semi-unrelated session, or go exploring the area around the hotel. I made notes on all the talks, and anything that may have helped my understanding for my own work. I also brought back a list of papers that I wanted to read, either out of interest or to further my knowledge. I saw a lot of interesting talks, especially as there was some work that I had no idea about, so it was very fascinating to see. The most useful session that I went to (and also presented in) was the Inner Magnetosphere Cross-Energy/Population Interactions sessions, these talks ranged from modelling the behaviour of energetic particles in the inner magnetosphere, to studying chorus wave activity during storms. I also found sitting in on the panel discussions were very interesting, these would take place in the last session (usually of 3) of the focus groups, and the focus group leaders would discuss (along with the audience) the topics within the research area that need to be explored further. For example, the relationship between the ionosphere-atmosphere system during storm time is currently not well-known, neither are interhemispheric asymmetries in a lot of areas, including field-aligned currents and sub-auroral polarization streams (both related to my work).

The workshop was very sociable! At lunchtimes we would head to local restaurants in groups to eat out. I always tried to go to different places to try all the local cuisine, and it was easily done. There are more than enough different places to eat for the whole week. In the evenings, we would all go out to get some dinner, have some drinks, and socialise. On the Wednesday we had the conference dinner, which was held in the hotel. 

My first international conference!

This was my first international conference, as well as my first poster presentation. Before I even got there I had learned what made a good poster, and created one that I thought would have a chance of winning the student poster competition that I would be entering. By actually taking part in the poster competition, the anonymous judges provided me with some really useful suggestions to improve my future poster presentations, so I did learn a lot from the experience. Also, from presenting my work both orally and in a poster, I got a huge amount of good feedback, including a lot of different directions I can go in with my future projects. I brought these ideas back and we now have a long list of possible avenues for my research to go down. Both my poster and my presentation had the same title of “Field-Aligned Current Structure of Sub-Auroral Polarization Streams”, and I had given them both the same theme. This meant that those who had seen my presentation on the Tuesday morning, would be more likely to remember my work that Tuesday evening during the poster session, and could come up to me to discuss my work.

A photo from my oral presentation on the Tuesday morning.

GEM was a great opportunity for me to meet lots of international PhD students and researchers within the same field as me. Due to the layout of the GEM programme, the first full day (Sunday) was filled with student tutorials, where the PhD students would present some basic theory on different topics. This meant that we all had the same basic understanding as each other before the workshop began the next day. On this day, there were only students present, which meant that we got to know who all the students were straight away and got to chat with them before the main programme started. This happens every year and it’s a great way to meet everyone. We had an icebreaker during one of the breaks, which also really helped with introductions.

The conference was in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The area around the hotel was really lovely, a lot of mountains in the distances. It was really hot there too! The food was really great, and the shops were filled with beautiful handmade ornaments and jewellery, as well as a lot of pretty stones and gems in a few of the shops. I really enjoyed looking around all the shops! There is also the Georgia O’Keefe Museum nearby to the hotel which a few of us went to look around one day during a break.

One of the shop displays showing the vibrant items for sale.

Would I go to GEM again?

I would highly recommend attending this workshop. I found it had a really nice atmosphere which was friendly and more on the informal side (like MIST). It was a lot larger than MIST conferences that I have attended, but it was nice to get to meet so many new people at once and present my work to a large international audience for the first time.

I would definitely go again! I made a lot of good friends from this trip, who I have still kept in contact with and will hopefully see at other conferences in the future (even if I don’t return to GEM).

By talking to researchers throughout the week and talking about my work, I have new ideas and directions to go with my work. I have also promoted my work and my name. A lot of people who were interested in my work have said they will look out for my future papers, and a few have sent me emails with potentially relevant papers which has been really helpful for my work. And I am also about to email a few more people who I had met there to help me with my work!


If you have any more questions about Harneet’s experience at GEM then you can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Some useful links:

Click here for information about the 2019 workshop.

Details on past/future GEM workshops are available here. This page also includes information on subscribing to the email newsletters. To join the student mailing list, you can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be added to the GEM Students mailing list.