MIST

Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial

Latest news

Nominations are open for MIST Council

We are very pleased to open nominations for MIST Council. There are three positions available (detailed below), and elected candidates would join Georgios Nicolaou, Andy Smith, Maria-Theresia Walach, and Emma Woodfield on Council. The nomination deadline is Friday 31 May.

Council positions open for nomination

2 x MIST Councillor - a three year term (2024 - 2027). Everyone is eligible.

MIST Student Representative - a one year term (2024 - 2025). Only PhD students are eligible. See below for further details.

About being on MIST Council

If you would like to find out more about being on Council and what it can involve, please feel free to email any of us (email contacts below) with any of your informal enquiries! You can also find out more about MIST activities at mist.ac.uk. Two of our outgoing councillors, Beatriz and Sophie, have summarised their experiences being on MIST Council below.

Beatriz Sanchez-Cano (MIST Councillor):

"Being part of the MIST council for the last 3 years has been a great experience personally and professionally, in which I had the opportunity to know better our community and gain a larger perspective of the matters that are important for the MIST science progress in the UK. During this time, I’ve participated in a number of activities and discussions, such as organising the monthly MIST seminars, Autumn MIST meetings, writing A&G articles, and more importantly, being there to support and advise our colleagues in cases of need together with the wonderful council members. MIST is a vibrant and growing community, and the council is a faithful reflection of it."

Sophie Maguire (MIST Student Representative):

"Being the student representative for MIST council has been an amazing experience. I have been part of organizing conferences, chairing sessions, and writing grant applications based on the feedback MIST has received. From a wider perspective, MIST has helped to grow and support my professional networks which in turn, directly benefits my PhD work as well. I would encourage any PhD student to apply for the role of MIST Student Representative and I would be happy to answer any questions or queries you have about the role."

How to nominate

If you would like to stand for election or you are nominating someone else (with their agreement!) please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Friday 31 May. If there is a surplus of nominations for a role, then an online vote will be carried out with the community. Please include the following details in the nomination:

  1. Name
  2. Position (Councillor/Student Rep.)
  3. Nomination Statement (150 words max including a bit about the nominee and focusing on your reasons for nominating. This will be circulated to the community in the event of a vote.)

MIST Council details

  • Sophie Maguire, University of Birmingham, Earth's ionosphere - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
  • Georgios Nicolaou, MSSL, solar wind plasma - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
  • Beatriz Sanchez-Cano, University of Leicester, Mars plasma - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Jasmine Kaur Sandhu, University of Leicester, Earth’s inner magnetosphere - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Andy Smith, Northumbria University, Space Weather - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
  • Maria-Theresia Walach, Lancaster University, Earth’s ionosphere - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
  • Emma Woodfield, British Antarctic Survey, radiation belts - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
  • MIST Council email - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Winners of Rishbeth Prizes 2023

We are pleased to announce that following Spring MIST 2023 the Rishbeth Prizes this year are awarded to Sophie Maguire (University of Birmingham) and Rachel Black (University of Exeter).

Sophie wins the prize for the best MIST student talk which was entitled “Large-scale plasma structures and scintillation in the high-latitude ionosphere”. Rachel wins the best MIST poster prize, for a poster entitled “Investigating different methods of chorus wave identification within the radiation belts”. Congratulations to both Sophie and Rachel!

As prize winners, Sophie and Rachel will be invited to write articles for Astronomy & Geophysics, which we look forward to reading.

MIST Council extends their thanks to the University of Birmingham for hosting the Spring MIST meeting 2023, and to the Royal Astronomical Society for their generous and continued support of the Rishbeth Prizes.

Nominations for MIST Council

We are pleased to open nominations for MIST Council. There are two positions available (detailed below), and elected candidates would join Beatriz Sanchez-Cano, Jasmine Kaur Sandhu, Andy Smith, Maria-Theresia Walach, and Emma Woodfield on Council. The nomination deadline is Friday 26 May.

Council positions open for nomination

  • MIST Councillor - a three year term (2023 - 2026). Everyone is eligible.
  • MIST Student Representative - a one year term (2023 - 2024). Only PhD students are eligible. See below for further details.

About being on MIST Council


If you would like to find out more about being on Council and what it can involve, please feel free to email any of us (email contacts below) with any of your informal enquiries! You can also find out more about MIST activities at mist.ac.uk.

Rosie Hodnett (current MIST Student Representative) has summarised their experience on MIST Council below:
"I have really enjoyed being the PhD representative on the MIST council and would like to encourage other PhD students to nominate themselves for the position. Some of the activities that I have been involved in include leading the organisation of Autumn MIST, leading the online seminar series and I have had the opportunity to chair sessions at conferences. These are examples of what you could expect to take part in whilst being on MIST council, but the council will welcome any other ideas you have. If anyone has any questions, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..”

How to nominate

If you would like to stand for election or you are nominating someone else (with their agreement!) please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Friday 26 May. If there is a surplus of nominations for a role, then an online vote will be carried out with the community. Please include the following details in the nomination:
  • Name
  • Position (Councillor/Student Rep.)
  • Nomination Statement (150 words max including a bit about the nominee and your reasons for nominating. This will be circulated to the community in the event of a vote.)
 
MIST Council contact details

Rosie Hodnett - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mathew Owens - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Beatriz Sanchez-Cano - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Jasmine Kaur Sandhu - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Andy Smith - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Maria-Theresia Walach - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Emma Woodfield - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
MIST Council email - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

RAS Awards

The Royal Astronomical Society announced their award recipients last week, and MIST Council would like to congratulate all that received an award. In particular, we would like to highlight the following members of the MIST Community, whose work has been recognised:
  • Professor Nick Achilleos (University College London) - Chapman Medal
  • Dr Oliver Allanson (University of Birmingham) - Fowler Award
  • Dr Ravindra Desai (University of Warwick) - Winton Award & RAS Higher Education Award
  • Professor Marina Galand (Imperial College London) - James Dungey Lecture

New MIST Council 2021-

There have been some recent ingoings and outgoings at MIST Council - please see below our current composition!:

  • Oliver Allanson, Exeter (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), to 2024 -- Chair
  • Beatriz Sánchez-Cano, Leicester (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), to 2024
  • Mathew Owens, Reading (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), to 2023
  • Jasmine Sandhu, Northumbria (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), to 2023 -- Vice-Chair
  • Maria-Theresia Walach, Lancaster (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), to 2022
  • Sarah Badman, Lancaster (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), to 2022
    (co-opted in 2021 in lieu of outgoing councillor Greg Hunt)

Nuggets of MIST science, summarising recent papers from the UK MIST community in a bitesize format.

If you would like to submit a nugget, please fill in the following form: https://forms.gle/Pn3mL73kHLn4VEZ66 and we will arrange a slot for you in the schedule. Nuggets should be 100–300 words long and include a figure/animation. Please get in touch!
If you have any issues with the form, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

Detection of the northern infrared aurora at Uranus using the W.M. Keck II Telescope and NIRSPEC instrument

By Emma Thomas (University of Leicester)

Three decades of searching for the infrared aurorae finally come to a successful conclusion as portions of the northern (IAU southern) aurorae have been confirmed at Uranus. The icy planet represents an enigma within our solar system, with the first and only visit by Voyager II in 1986, it remains one of the least documented planets in our solar system. This is exceptionally apparent with the planet’s history of auroral observations, where the UV aurorae have been observed a handful of times but no infrared (IR) counterpart has been confirmed, despite both aurorae appearing at Jupiter and Saturn. Analysis of IR aurorae at both Jupiter and Saturn have challenged what we know about magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling, highlighting a need for IR analysis at Uranus to uncover its mysteries. Since 2020 our team has meticulously analysed archived data of Uranus during 2006 from the Keck II telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawai’i. The timing of these observations was key, close to equinox, as it provided an optimal view of the predicted locations of the northern and southern aurorae. By examining the emission lines from these aurorae (the emitting ion being H3+) between 3.94 to 4.01 μm, we carried out a full spectrum best fit across 5 fundamental lines for each spatial pixel across the planet’s disk. By comparing these lines at specific locations, we were able to identify an average 88% increase in column ion densities with no significant temperature changes localised close to or at expected auroral locations for the northern aurora. With this confirmation at Uranus, we look forward to a new age of auroral investigations at both ice giant planets.

Measured H3+ Q(1,0-) intensity mapped across the upper atmosphere of Uranus against Uranian latitude and arbitrary longitude, (b) Total H3+ Emission calculated from the temperature and column density (explained in detailed in the Methods), (c) Estimated temperatures of the H3+ emissions from all five Q-branch lines and (d) Estimated column densities of H3+ emissions from all five Q-branch. The latitude is planetocentric whereas the longitude is arbitrary due to the loss of the Uranian Longitude System (ULS) since Voyager II. The solid black lines mark out the boundaries of E1 (on the left) and E2 (on the right). Within the boundaries, the Enhanced regions are unshaded, the Dim regions are shaded with dots, and the Intermediate regions are shaded with diagonal lines. Latitudes and/or longitudes that were not recorded during the observations have been greyed out.

References:

Thomas, E.M., Melin, H., Stallard, T.S. et al. Detection of the infrared aurora at Uranus with Keck-NIRSPEC. Nat Astron (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-023-02096-5

A Model of High Latitude Ionospheric Convection derived from SuperDARN radar EOF Data

By Mai Mai Lam (British Antarctic Survey)

Variations in space weather in the ionized region of the Earth’s atmosphere (the ionosphere) can result in expansion of the atmosphere, increasing the atmospheric drag on objects, such as satellites, in the thermosphere. We aim to significantly improve the forecasting of the effects of atmospheric drag on satellites by more accurate modelling of space weather effects on the motion of ionized particles (plasma) in the ionosphere. We have developed a model of the variation in plasma motion using a small number of solar wind variables. The model was built using a solar cycle’s worth (1997 to 2008 inclusive) of 5-minute resolution Empirical Orthogonal Function (EOF) patterns derived from Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) line-of-sight observations of the plasma motion in the high-latitude northern hemisphere ionosphere (Shore et al., 2021). The model is driven by four variables: (1) the interplanetary magnetic field component By, (2) the solar wind coupling parameter epsilon, (3) a trigonometric function of the day-of-year, and (4) the monthly solar radio flux at 10.7 cm (the F10.7 index). Our model is good at reproducing the original data set - if 0 indicates that there is no reproduction and 1 indicates exact reproduction, then our model scores 0.7. Data set reproduction is best around the maximum in the solar cycle and worst at solar minimum. This is mainly due to differences in the spatiotemporal data coverage between these times but possibly also due to the model’s specification of the physical processes coupling the Sun to the Earth’s ionosphere. Our model could easily be used to forecast the ionospheric electric field about 1 hour in advance, using the real-time solar wind data available from spacecraft located upstream of the Earth.

Comparison of the new Lam 2023 model velocities with the original radar EOF velocities. 5-min snapshots of the high-latitude flow in magnetic latitude (60 – 90 ºN) and magnetic local time (12 is towards the Sun), for times when Lam model can explain the variance of the original data very well (high P) and not very well (low P). The top row shows velocities at a time when the percentage of explained variance P is high (February 2001): (a) the SuperDARN radar EOF data patterns, (b) the Lam 2023 model. The bottom row is for a time of low P (June 1999): (c) the SuperDARN radar EOF patterns, (d) the Lam 2023 model. Colour is used to indicate speed.
Comparison of the new Lam 2023 model velocities with the original radar EOF velocities. 5-min snapshots of the high-latitude flow in magnetic latitude (60 – 90 ºN) and magnetic local time (12 is towards the Sun), for times when Lam model can explain the variance of the original data very well (high P) and not very well (low P). The top row shows velocities at a time when the percentage of explained variance P is high (February 2001): (a) the SuperDARN radar EOF data patterns, (b) the Lam 2023 model. The bottom row is for a time of low P (June 1999): (c) the SuperDARN radar EOF patterns, (d) the Lam 2023 model. Colour is used to indicate speed.


References:
Lam, M. M., Shore, R. M., Chisham, G., Freeman, M. P., Grocott, A., Walach, M.-T., & Orr, L. (2023). A model of high latitude ionospheric convection derived from SuperDARN EOF model data. Space Weather, 21, e2023SW003428. https://doi.org/10.1029/2023SW003428

Shore, R. M., Freeman, M., Chisham, G., Lam, M. M., & Breen, P. (2022). Dominant spatial and temporal patterns of horizontal ionospheric plasma velocity variation covering the northern polar region, from 1997.0 to 2009.0 - VERSION 2.0 (Version 2.0) [Dataset]. NERC EDS UK Polar Data Centre. https://doi.org/10.5285/2b9f0e9f-34ec-4467-9e02-abc771070cd9

Solar Energetic Particle Events Detected in the Housekeeping Data of the European Space Agency's Spacecraft Flotilla in the Solar System

By Beatriz Sánchez-Cano (University of Leicester)

Space Weather is the discipline that aims at understanding and predicting the state of the Sun, interplanetary medium and its impact on planetary environments. One source of Space Weather is Solar Energetic Particles (SEPs), which are emitted by the Sun and enhance the radiation and particles that flow in space. Predicting the motion of these particles is important but difficult as we need good satellite coverage of the entire inner Solar System, and only a limited number of spacecraft have the necessary instrumentation. Thanks to the European Space Agency flotilla in the solar system, that is, Venus Express, Mars Express, ExoMars-Trace Gas Orbiter, Rosetta, BepiColombo, Solar Orbiter, and Gaia, we performed a feasibility study of the detection of SEP events using engineering sensors in the main body of the spacecraft that were originally placed there to monitor its health during the mission. We explored how much scientific information we can get from these engineering sensors, such as the timing and duration of an SEP impacting the spacecraft, or the minimum energy of those particles to trigger a detection. The results of this study have the potential of providing a good network of solar particle detections at locations where no scientific observations are available.

Example of a solar energetic particle (SEP) event detected by Rosetta with housekeeping data (black line). Three different energy ranges of the SEP event are also shown in colours.
Example of a solar energetic particle (SEP) event detected by Rosetta with housekeeping data (black line). Three different energy ranges of the SEP event are also shown in colours.

Please see publication for further details: Sánchez-Cano, B., Witasse, O., Knutsen, E. W., Meggi, D., Viet, S., Lester, M., et al. (2023). Solar energetic particle events detected in the housekeeping data of the European Space Agency's spacecraft flotilla in the Solar System. Space Weather, 21, e2023SW003540. https://doi.org/10.1029/2023SW003540

Newcomb-Benford Law as a generic flag for changes in the derivation of long-term solar terrestrial physics timeseries

By Sandra Chapman (University of Warwick), A. M. Bendito Nunes (undergraduate student, University of Warwick), and J. Gamper (undergraduate student, University of Warwick)

Space weather can have significant impact over a wide range of technological systems including power grids, aviation, satellites and communications. In common with studies across the geophysical sciences, space weather modelling and prediction requires long term space and ground-based parameters and indices that necessarily aggregate multiple observations, the details of which can change with time. The Newcomb-Benford law (NBL) specifies the relative occurrence rates of the leading digit in a sequence of numbers arising from multiple operations under certain conditions, the first non-zero digit in a number is more likely to be 1 than 2, 2 than 3, and so on. In this first application to space weather parameters and indices, we show that the NBL can detect changes in the instrumentation and calibration underlying long-term geophysical records, solely from the processed data records. In space weather, as in other fields such as climate change, it is critical to be able to verify that any observed secular change is not a result of changes in how the data record is constructed. As composite indices are becoming more widespread across the geosciences, the NBL may provide a generic data flag indicating changes in the constituent raw data, calibration or sampling method.

 

Figure 1: The plot shows the NBL goodness of fit parameter for magnetic field observed since 1981 by a series of satellites upstream of the earth. The NBL fit parameter shows a clear decrease when more sophisticated satellites, Wind. and later ACE, became available. 

The joint 1st authors of this paper contributed to this research during their final year undergraduate Physics project at Warwick University

See paper for full details: 

A. M. Benedito Nunes, J. Gamper, S. C. Chapman, M. Friel, J. Gjerloev, Newcomb-Benford Law as a generic flag for changes in the derivation of long-term solar terrestrial physics timeseries, RAS Techniques and Instruments (2023) https://doi.org/10.1093/rasti/rzad041

Predicting Swarm Equatorial Plasma Bubbles via Machine Learning and Shapley Values

By Sachin Reddy (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory)

In the nightside ionosphere, plumes of low-density plasma known as Equatorial Plasma Bubbles (EPBs) are prone to form. EPBs can disrupt GNSS signals which depend on quiet ionospheric conditions, but the day-to-day variability of bubbles has made predicting them a considerable challenge. In this study we present AI Prediction of EPBs (APE), a machine learning model that accurately predicts the Ionospheric Bubble Index (IBI) on Swarm. IBI identifies EPBs by correlating (R2) a simultaneous change in the current density and magnetic field.

APE is XGBoost regressor that is trained on data from 2014-2022. It performs well across all metrics, exhibiting a skill, association, and root mean squared error score of 0.96/1, 0.98/1 and 0.08/0 respectively. APE performs best post-sunset, in the American/Atlantic sector, around the equinoxes, and when solar activity is high. This is promising because EPBs are most likely to occur during these periods.

Shapley Value analysis reveals that F10.7 is the most important feature, whilst latitude is the least. Bespoke indices may be required to fully capture the effects of geomagnetic activity which is known to both enhance and suppress EPB formation. The Shapley analysis also reveals that low solar activity, active geomagnetic conditions, and the Earth-Sun perihelion all contribute to an increased EPB likelihood. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time this exact combination of features has been linked to bubble detection. This showcases the ability of Shapley values to enable new insights into EPB climatology and predictability.

Four predictions made by APE and the feature values that drove it. Positive values (right pointing arrows) increase EPB likelihood, whereas negative values (left pointing arrows) decrease likelihood. All predictions occur around the Earth-Sun perihelion and Kp > 2. The predicted value is f(x) and all are > 0.7, which means they are EPBs. This is the first time this unique combination has been linked to increased EPB occurrence, showcasing the ability of ML techniques to enable new scientific insight.

See full paper for details: Reddy, S. A., Forsyth, C., Aruliah, A., Smith, A., Bortnik, J., Aa, E., et al. (2023). Predicting swarm equatorial plasma bubbles via machine learning and Shapley values. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 128, e2022JA031183. https://doi.org/10.1029/2022JA031183