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.

A week at an International Conference: MOP 2019

by Omakshi Agiwal

Omakshi Agiwal is a second year PhD student at Imperial College London, researching the variability in Saturn’s field-aligned current systems. In this blog post Omakshi reports back from a busy week at the Magnetospheres of Outer Planets (MOP) 2019 conference.

What is MOP?

The MOP conference brings together researchers who are interested in the physical processes that control the magnetospheres of the four giant planets (and some moons!) for a week long discussion once every two years. It’s a summer-time conference and hosted at a different institution each time – this year, it was held in Sendai, Japan.

This is the second international conference that I have attended during my PhD, and there were three other PhD students from Imperial who were also attending, all of us having been awarded talks! We arrived in Sendai two nights in advance to try and beat the jet-lag (and get some exploring in) and ran into a few other MIST colleagues at the airport who had the same idea! While this does dial up the expenses a little, it also meant that I was significantly more awake during the Monday morning session than I would have been otherwise.

Sunday: Breaking the Ice

There is usually a drinks reception on Sunday evenings at MOP, since most people arrive the night before to be able to make the 9am Monday morning start. Although there was no official reception this year, we ran into others at registration and ended up hanging out anyway! We found a nice bar near campus where we marvelled about Japan and complained about our jet lag. MOP is a fairly tight-knit community seeing as it is quite small as far as conferences go (155 attended this year, 34 students), so this was a great chance to catch up with familiar faces and meet new people in a more informal setting before the conference officially began! I found that a few people had been in Japan for almost a week at this point since they had taken some time before the conference to travel around, which is something my colleagues and I were going to do after the conference instead!

Meeting old and new people at the "ice breaker".

Monday: JUNO Kicks Things Off

The structure of each day was fairly similar with 4 main science sessions each day. Unlike larger conferences, there are no parallel sessions at MOP, so you don’t run the risk of clashes between sessions that you are interested in.

The science focus of the day was auroral observations from JUNO, a Jupiter-orbiter which aims to complete 32 orbits around the gas giant over one year. For many of us who aren’t directly involved in Jupiter-related science, it was our first look at data from the active mission – and it was very cool! There were a good mix of speakers, ranging from Instrument Principle Investigators to PhD students, who were all working with new data and addressing open questions, which got a lot of interesting discussions going within the group. Many of the talks in the schedule for the rest of the week were also given by PhD students (at least one or two per session!) which allowed newer members of the community to introduce themselves and present their work. This definitely made many of the sessions much more accessible for me, and made it easier to start conversations with people I hadn’t met before during coffee breaks (‘Nice talk!’ or a question about someone’s work is always a great conversation starter). 

Dinner with MIST colleagues.

Tuesday: Time for my Talk!

The lack of parallel sessions at MOP can seem both a blessing and a curse. Despite it being only the second day of the conference, I decided to sit-out a couple of the morning talks to go over my presentation, which was shortly after the morning coffee break. Something I picked up over the rest of the week too, was that it’s OK to skip sessions if you think you want to get some work done or need some down time. Over the rest of the week many others dropped in and out of sessions, had a lie in, or went for a walk during coffee breaks, because spending the whole day absorbing information and being surrounded by people can become very exhausting.  

My talk focussed on results from the Cassini Grand Finale and a newly discovered low-latitude field-aligned current system at Saturn – and thankfully, minus a few mic-related mishaps – it went well! During the coffee break, I was asked lots of interesting questions about my work, and our discussion spilled over into part of the afternoon session, where white-board and laptops quickly became involved. This was probably my favourite part about MOP; not the skipping of the sessions, of course, but having all the experts within the field in one place. I was able to speak directly to people with whom I usually only interact via a screen, and get some really useful input on the work that I am doing which is much easier in person!

I found that coffee breaks and poster sessions were a great time to find people to ask them about their work, or to ask for their input on yours. I usually tried to avoid work-talk during lunch and generally found that other people liked to do the same.

With my talk out of the way, I was half ready to fall asleep straight after the poster session that evening – but also more willing to socialise than I had been the night before. Whilst talking with various people at the poster session, I joined some dinner plans for Shabu Shabu (a hot-pot style dish where you cook all-you-can-eat meats and veg in two types of broth and then add noodles to the broth to soak up the flavours and finish it off nicely). Since most of the other students from Imperial still had their talks to come, I ended up with a completely different group of people for dinner than Monday night, with people whose names I knew from papers but could finally put a face to!

A snapshot of my talk!

Wednesday: More Science and More Socialising

The Science focus of the day was observations made by Hisaki, a UV astronomy satellite, in conjunction with JUNO, and magnetospheric structure and plasma physics at Jupiter and Saturn. A conference like this was a great opportunity to see the collaborations between different teams in the same room (there were also many comparisons with observations from the Hubble Space Telescope in other sessions!). 

In the evening, a large group of us decided to go out for dinner together and ended up at a ramen bar where we had to order our food using buttons on a vending machine (which quickly turned into a game of mystery food orders). After dinner, some of us moved on to find some celebratory drinks, whereas others went home to try and catch up on sleep because the jet lag had led to some sleepless nights. Most of us out that night had already given our talks and I found that socialising informally was a great way to switch off my work-brain, which could sometimes be difficult when the entire day was spent in science-mode. We found a great bar that we filled out to capacity (everything in Japan is very small…) run by a single guy, who gave us free snacks, taught us a few Japanese phrases, and had us supporting the Sendai baseball team before the night was through!

Ramen!Socialising at the bar.

Thursday: Matsushima, a Japanese Banquet, and Karaoke!

Whilst the morning focused on the moons of the outer planets, in the afternoon we had the conference excursion to Matsushima, a nearby costal city. We went for lunch; some tea and mochi with a beautiful seaside view, followed by a boat ride around the bay organised by the MOP committee in Japan, and then visited a temple. I spent my free time at the island wandering into shops and being offered free snacks by many vendors, before heading back for the conference banquet. The banquet was at a traditional sit-down style Japanese restaurant, where there was a lot of Japanese food and many more speeches. The evening then ended (or began?) with 45 people from the conference (almost a third!) doing Karaoke in a private room. We started at 10pm and I’m not quite sure when the night ended. It was an incredibly fun night, but I wouldn’t advise staying out that late any earlier in the week – lack of sleep and early mornings are never a good combination!

The MOP 2019 banquet feat. sake!Karaoke with colleaguesTaking a break during the excursion with some tea and mochiOn the excursion!

Friday: The Science Ends and the Holiday Begins

The final day of the conference was also a half day. The morning sessions covered magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling and general magnetospheric dynamics. Many people headed back home either that evening or the next day from Sendai, while others (me) caught up on some much needed sleep on Friday to prepare for the upcoming holidays that we had booked!

Overall, MOP 2019 was a fantastic experience, but conferences (especially international conferences with travel and jet lag thrown in) are intense! It’s easy to get both mentally and physically exhausted, and from this experience I’ve learnt how important it is to take time out when you need: either by skipping a talk for a walk outside; arriving an extra day or two before the conference; or organising a holiday afterwards to recover from all the science!

Intense science discussion...?Scenic sightseeing viewsExploring Japan with friends

The MOP 2019 attendees!


If you have any more questions about Omakshi’s experience at MOP 2019, then you can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Information about MOP meetings and how to subscribe to the MOP announcement mailing list can be found here: http://lasp.colorado.edu/home/mop/resources/mop-conference/