MIST

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.

From Fuji to the F-region: 3 months in Japan studying thermosphere-ionosphere coupling

by Daniel Billett

Daniel Billett is a third year PhD student at Lancaster University. Daniel's research focuses on the high latitude thermosphere - ionosphere coupling at Earth, and in this blog post Daniel talks about taking part in the JSPS Short Term Fellowship Program.

The JSPS Fellowship Program

This spring, I had the privilege of spending 3 months in Japan as part of the JSPS short term fellowship program. These are open to both post-docs, as well as PhD students, for a period of anywhere between 1 and 12 months. For PhD students, they are similar to the yearly JSPS summer program, but are a bit more flexible in terms of start dates and tenure. Which suits me, as I don’t do too well in the 40°C+ temperatures you see in the Japanese summers!

I am currently in the 3rd year of my PhD Lancaster University. However, when I first heard about JSPS short-term fellowship in a group-wide email from my supervisor, I was just entering my 2nd year. I initially thought I wasn’t eligible, but the only restriction for PhD students is that you must be within two years of completion when you begin research in Japan.

In December 2017 I submitted my application, which included a detailed proposal describing the research I planned to do during the fellowship. For the first year of my PhD, I had mainly been using data from the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN), and had become very interested in how the ionosphere and thermosphere interacted with each other. Up until then I had been using a statistical model for ionospheric conductivity, but knew that under real circumstances, the huge variability of the aurora would mean that it was often a big underestimation. The extra ionisation could lead to big changes in the coupling mechanism between thermospheric neutrals and the ionospheric plasma, which I wanted to investigate more closely.

It’s up to you which institution in Japan you visit, but I recommend talking to your supervisors about anyone they might know who is a specialist in the area you want to research. For me, it was suggested to contact Professor Keisuke Hosokawa of the University of Electro-Communications (UEC), Tokyo. This was someone who had not only had experience with using SuperDARN data before, but was also heavily involved with numerous projects centred around auroral dynamics. We discussed the proposal outline for a couple of months prior to submission to make sure it was original, exciting and detailed. Unlike NERC or STFC however, JSPS fund research from all areas of science from philosophy to medicine, so it’s also important to not be get too technical.

At the end of March 2018, I found out I was successful. All in all, the application process was a bit old fashioned, as I had to send everything off by mail. This included a big pack of application documents to the JSPS headquarters in London, as well as several signed letters to and from Japan. Luckily however, it looks like it can now all be done online, albeit only in Japanese! But that’s okay, because now you can get your Japanese host to apply on your behalf, lucky them! Applying for a Japanese work visa from the embassy was relatively straightforward in comparison, as there are many agents available if you don’t have the capability to do several trips to London. With all things sorted, I started the project in Japan in February 2019.

Far from home

Tokyo, famed for its seemingly never-ending urban sprawl and jam-packed trains, is home to a number of institutions conducting MIST related research. One of those being UEC, situated in the suburb of Chofu. Tokyo is pretty overwhelming for someone who had never lived in a city bigger than Cardiff before, and to be suddenly thrust into a place with everything imaginable from Peach Coke to Pokémon centres was definitely a culture shock.

Left: It wasn’t as good as I hoped. Right: Giant ceramic Pokémon statue at the Pokémon centre, Toshima.


Left: Downtown Shinjuku. Right: One of the many 8-floor super arcades, featuring fully equipped mech-fighting facilities.

Working with aurora

Working with Professor Keisuke Hosokawa and the rest of the ionospheric research group at UEC was a great experience. I had never handled auroral data before, but found being surrounded by a room full of experts helped. I mainly used an instrument dubbed the “Svalcam”, an all-sky imager located on Svalbard and conveniently in the fields of view of two SuperDARN radars, the EISCAT Svalbard Radar (ESR) and a Scanning Doppler Imager (SCANDI). This meant we had all the information we needed: SuperDARN for what the plasma was doing, SCANDI for the neutrals and the ESR/Svalcam combo for conductivity. As an added bonus, all the instrument field-of-views reside well within the polar cap, giving us the unique ability to observe the dayside ionosphere during the polar night. The only thing left to do is figure out what we were looking for…

Neutrals in the thermosphere behave like a bowl of soup. They get pushed around pretty easily and generally move from hot regions (the dayside) to the cold (nightside). When a spoon is thrown into the works however (ionospheric convection), the motion of the soup becomes strongly dictated by how the spoon is stirred (the ion-drag force). This is where the analogy breaks down however. Neutrals in the thermosphere don't collide very often with the ionospheric plasma, so they take a long time to speed up into the direction the convection spoon is trying to stir them. But then the aurora comes in; like adding a big batch of cornflower (additional ionisation), ion-neutral collisions are enhanced and therefore so is the strength of the ion-neutral coupling. A neutral wind "lag" which was previously thought to be on the order of hours can be minutes during periods of auroral activity.

First panel: Svalcam 630nm intensity keogram showing poleward moving auroral forms. Second panel: Corresponding ESR electron density measurements. Third and fourth panels: Zonal and meridional velocity timeseries’ for both the plasma (red) and neutrals (blue). Billett et al. [in prep]. 

During my JSPS fellowship I identified how the neutral wind lag responded to active aurora using conjunctive observations of auroral emissions from Svalcam, ionospheric electron density from the ESR, ion plasma velocity from SuperDARN, and neutral velocity from SCANDI. An example of these observations are shown above. For this example, we saw poleward moving auroral forms in the Svalcam data and corresponding short lived electron density enhancements in the ESR data. This increased plasma density should translate to more collisions between the plasma and neutrals, shortening the neutral wind time lag. The zonal (east-west) and meridional (north-south) velocities of the plasma measured by SuperDARN (red) and of the neutrals from SCANDI (blue) are also shown. We observed that when the poleward moving auroral features start (~07:30 UT), the neutrals experience a rapid velocity enhancement and match the plasma velocity in both components. Even when the meridional plasma velocity slows later on at around 08:15 UT, the neutrals continue at a high speed like when soup keeps spinning even after you finish stirring. This is because the neutrals have residual inertia, and is a phenomena known as the flywheel effect. Overall, this is what we expected to see, but gives confirmation that this is not only a nightside phenomenon. Poleward moving auroral forms are a well-studied auroral feature, which we have now shown to have a much greater impact beyond the ionosphere.

Shooting off on the Shinkansen

During my trip, I got the chance to see a bit of Japan outside of Tokyo. The incredible efficiency of Japanese trains are a bit of a stereotype, which is probably helped by the fact you can get a Shinkansen bullet train every 10 minutes from Tokyo to Osaka (300+ miles) and only use less than 2.5 hours of your life for the entire journey. If that's not enough, you get a spectacular view of Mt Fuji on the way. Highlights of my travels involved walking down the intense Dotonbori street in Osaka, eating Tebasaki chicken wings in Nagoya and walking the Philosophers path in Kyoto. I also got the opportunity to visit and present a seminar at Nagoya university, one of the Japanese SuperDARN institutions who maintain the radars at Hokkaido. This was also the first time I had seen SuperDARN equipment in person, albeit not attached to an antenna!

Left: Mt Fuji from the Shinkansen. Middle: Dotonbori street, Osaka. Right: A Kyoto local enjoying the Philosophers path.

Transmitter equipment for a set of SuperDARN antennas, currently living in the Nagoya university’s Institute for Space-Earth Enviroment workshop.

Arigato Nippon

Overall, I would wholly recommend a JSPS fellowship to any PhD student or post-doc who is interested in spending time in Japan. The country itself is beautiful, as well as a MIST research powerhouse. There are great opportunities to expand your future collaborations, and potentially extend your research focus to an area slightly different to what you’re used to.

Also for all those interested in the work being conducted within the SuperDARN community, the SuperDARN workshop 2019 is taking place at the base of Mt Fuji in Fujiyoshida!

 

If you have any more questions about Daniel's experience as a JSPS Short Term Fellow, then you can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Some useful links:

Information on the JSPS Short Term Fellowships can be found here.

Details on SuperDARN Japan are available here, as well as information on the SuperDARN Workshop 2019.