Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial

Latest news

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)

Charter amendment and MIST Council elections open

Nominations for MIST Council open today and run through to 8 August 2021! Please feel free to put yourself forward for election – the voting will open shortly after the deadline and run through to the end of August. The positions available are:

  • 2 members of MIST Council
  • 1 student representative (pending the amendment below passing)

Please email nominations to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 8 August 2021. Thank you!

Charter amendment

We also move to amend the following articles of the MIST Charter as demonstrated below. Bold type indicates additions and struck text indicates deletions. Please respond to the email on the MIST mailing list before 8 August 2021 if you would like to object to the amendment; MIST Charter provides that it will pass if less than 10% of the mailing list opposes its passing. 

4.1  MIST council is the collective term for the officers of MIST and consists of six individuals and one student representative from the MIST community.

5.1 Members of MIST council serve terms of three years, except for the student representative who serves a term of one year.

5.2 Elections will be announced at the Spring MIST meeting and voting must begin within two months of the Spring MIST meeting. Two slots on MIST council will be open in a given normal election year, alongside the student representative.

5.10 Candidates for student representative must not have submitted their PhD thesis at the time that nominations close.

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.. 

Fine‐Scale Electric Fields and Joule Heating From Observations of the Aurora

By Patrik Krcelic (University of Southampton)

Optical measurements from three selected wavelengths have been combined with modelling of emissions from an auroral arc to estimate the magnitude and direction of small-scale electric fields on either side of an auroral arc for an event at 22:47:45 UT on 21 December 2014. The temporal resolution of the estimates is 0.1 s, which is much higher resolution thameasurements from Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) in the same region, with which we compare our estimates. The obtained electric fields have peak value of 88 ± 16 mV/m on the northern side of the arc and peak value of 66 ± 21 mV/m on the southern side of the arc. Additionally, we have used the Scanning Doppler Imager instrument to measure the neutral wind during the event in order to calculate the height integrated Joule heating. Joule heating obtained from small scale electric fields gives much larger values than that obtained from SuperDARN data. Results are briefly shown in the movie below, where the top two panels depict an observed and modelled auroral arc analyzed in current syudy, and the bottom plot depicts the evolution of Joule heating in time on each side of the auroral arc compared with the SuperDARN estimate. Our optical method for estimating electric fields, and consequently the Joule heating using ASK, has proven to be very valuable in understanding the local heating effects in the vicinity of auroral activity. Such high spatial and temporal resolution electric fields may play an important role in the dynamics of the magnetosphere-ionosphere-thermosphere system.

Figure: The top left panel depicts observed auroral arc emission at 730 nm, while the top right panel depicts the same modelled auroral arc emission. Contours on the observed images represent the 95% level of the modeled brightness. The red vectors in the modeled images represent ion drift obtained from our modeling technique on each side of the auroral arc. Note that the vectors are not scaled and are here for illustrative purposes. Bottom panel depicts the evolution of Joule heating obtained from small scale electric fields. The red line represents Joule heating south of the auroral arc, the blue line represents Joule heating north of the auroral arc and the black line represents Joule heating obtained from SuperDARN measurements. Dashed lines represent standard deviations.

Original article for further detail: 

Krcelic, P., Fear, R. C., Whiter, D., Lanchester, B., Aruliah, A. L., Lester, M., & Paxton, L. (2023). Fine-scale electric fields and Joule heating from observations of the aurora. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 128, e2022JA030628. https://doi.org/10.1029/2022JA030628 


Modeling the Time-Dependent Magnetic Fields That BepiColombo Will Use to Probe Down Into Mercury's Mantle

By Sophia Zomerdijk-Russell (Imperial College London)

The interior structure of a magnetised planet can be determined by using electromagnetic induction processes that results from solar-wind-driven magnetopause variability. To determine a profile of conductivity through depth within a planet, a broad spectrum of inducing fields is needed, as each discrete frequency will probe to a certain depth.

In preparation for the arrival of BepiColombo at Mercury in 2025, we have identified the opportunity to use Helios data to assess how solar wind ram pressure forcing can drive magnetopause variability at Mercury, as Helios took measurements during a similar phase of the Solar Cycle that BepiColombo is expected to see on its arrival. We find that Mercury’s magnetosphere is bombarded by a highly variable and unpredictable solar wind with a broad range of frequency signals and that the inducing field generated in response to the variable solar wind ram pressure is non-uniform across the planet’s surface.

A solar wind ram pressure time series from Helios measurements and the KT17 Hermean magnetospheric field model (Korth et al., 2017) were then used to generate a ram pressure driven inducing field spectra at two points on Mercury’s surface. In power spectra of these example inducing field spectra, frequency signals were found to peak between ~5.510-5 and 1.510-2 Hz. Heyner et al. (2021) determined that signals with these frequencies should penetrate into Mercury’s crust and mantle.

Particular orbital configurations of the BepiColombo mission will have MPO inside Mercury’s magnetosphere and Mio measuring the upstream solar wind, see Figure 1. Therefore, the dual spacecraft nature of the BepiColombo mission will be well suited to investigate Mercury’s magnetosphere’s response to external solar wind variability and allow a conductivity profile through to the mantle to be derived from observations of solar wind driven inducing field spectra with timescales seen in this work.

Figure 1. Schematic showing particular BepiColombo MPO (purple) and Mio (orange) spacecraft orbital configurations that will be useful for utilising electromagnetic sounding techniques at Mercury. An average location of the magnetopause is shown in green. Magnetopause variability inducing field signals on the order of a few minutes to a few hours will be able to penetrate through Mercury’s crust and into the mantle, shown by the blue shaded region.

Original article for further detail:

Zomerdijk-Russell, S., Masters, A., Korth, H., & Heyner, D. (2023). Modeling the time-dependent magnetic fields that BepiColombo will use to probe down into Mercury's mantle. Geophysical Research Letters, 50, e2022GL101607. https://doi.org/10.1029/2022GL101607


Heyner, D., Auster, H.-U., Fornaçon, K.-H., Carr, C., Richter, I., Mieth, J. Z. D., Kolhey, P., Exner, W., Motschmann, U., Baumjohann, W., Matsuoka, A., Magnes, W., Berghofer, G., Fischer, D., Plaschke, F., Nakamura, R., Narita, Y., Delva, M., Volwerk, M., … Glassmeier, K.-H. (2021). The BepiColombo Planetary Magnetometer MPO-MAG: What Can We Learn from the Hermean Magnetic Field? Space Science Reviews, 217(4), 52. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11214-021-00822-x

Korth, H., Johnson, C. L., Philpott, L., Tsyganenko, N. A., & Anderson, B. J. (2017). A Dynamic Model of Mercury’s Magnetospheric Magnetic Field. Geophysical Research Letters, 44(20), 10,147-10,154. https://doi.org/10.1002/2017GL074699


Variations in Observations of Geosynchronous Magnetopause and Last Closed Drift Shell Crossings With Magnetic Local Time

By Tom Daggitt (British Antarctic Survey, University of Cambridge)

Geostationary satellites may cross the magnetopause during highly active times when it can be compressed inside geostationary orbit. At this time the satellite will switch from observing Earth’s magnetic field to the interplanetary magnetic field, which is usually opposing Earth’s field during compressions. The satellite will observe a drop in electron flux as it goes from measuring trapped electrons in Earth’s radiation belts to electrons in the interplanetary medium.

We compare observations from the GOES-13 and GOES-15 satellites during geomagnetic storms. We attempt to predict magnetopause crossings using models of the last closed drift shell (LCDS), the outermost stable orbit for an electron trapped in Earth’s magnetic field. The LCDS is modelled as the largest L* value that calculated by the IRBEM magnetic field modelling library (Boscher et al., 2013), using a method derived from Albert et al. (2018).

Figure 1(A) shows the Bz component of the field measured by the GOES magnetometers, demonstrating independent magnetopause crossings when the Bz component is negative. Each satellite only sees a magnetopause crossing when it is nearer local noon.

1(B) shows the satellite L* and the LCDS derived from the TS05 field model (Tsyganenko & Sitnov, 2005). Neither satellite crosses the LCDS during their magnetopause crossings, showing that brief crossings cannot be predicted with this method.

1(C) shows the >0.8MeV flux measured by the GOES satellites, showing rapid decreases in the measured flux associated with each magnetopause crossing. GOES-13 also shows a large decrease in flux as it moves into the nightside, likely due to distortion in the magnetotail.

The difference in the observed flux profiles demonstrates that choice of satellite may have a large effect when using satellite data to drive radiation belt models. Data from multiple satellites should be used to ensure constant measurements of the trapped flux on the dayside when driving radiation belt models.


Figure 1: (A) GSM Bz component measured by GOES satellites. (B) GOES L* and LCDS location, both calculated with the TS05 field model. (C) GOES EPEAD >0.8MeV integral fluxes. (D) GOES magnetic local time. The darker shaded region shows when one or both satellites are on the nightside (6 < MLT < 18)


Boscher, D., Bourdarie, S., O’Brien, P., & Guild, T. (2013). Irbem library v4.3, 2004-2008. https://spacepy.github.io/irbempy.html.

Albert, J. M., Selesnick, R., Morley, S. K., Henderson, M. G., & Kellerman, A. (2018). Calculation of last closed drift shells for the 2013 gem radiation belt challenge events. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 123(11), 9597– 9611. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JA025991

Tsyganenko, N., & Sitnov, M. (2005). Modeling the dynamics of the inner magnetosphere during strong geomagnetic storms. Journal of Geophysical Research, 110(A3), A03208. https://doi.org/10.1029/2004JA010798


Associated Paper:

Daggitt, T. A., Horne, R. B., Glauert, S. A., Del Zanna, G., & Freeman, M. P. (2022). Variations in observations of geosynchronous magnetopause and last closed drift shell crossings with magnetic local time. Space Weather, 20, e2022SW003105. https://doi.org/10.1029/2022SW003105

An inner boundary condition for solar wind models based on coronal density

By Kaine Bunting (Aberystwyth University)

Tomography is used to gain the 3D plasma density of the solar corona (between 4-8Rs) using white light coronagraph observations (Morgan and Cook 2019). In this work, we use the density at 8Rs (e.g. figure 1a) to estimate velocity, providing an inner boundary condition for a heliospheric solar wind model. The results show that tomography can provide a valid (or improved) alternative to traditional photospheric-based magnetic models.

A simple inverse linear relationship converts densities to velocities. Extracted from Earth's latitude, the velocities form an inner boundary condition for the Time-dependent Heliospheric Upwind Extrapolation (HUXt) model (Owens et al. 2020). The model is then simulated for one Carrington rotation (CR), giving predicted velocities at Earth. The modelled velocities are compared to OMNI in-situ data, and the efficiency of HUXt allows an iterative fitting method optimises the parameters of the density-velocity conversion model by minimising a ‘distance’ metric using Dynamic Time Warping (DTW, Samara et al. 2022).

Figure 1 b) compares the output of HUXt based on Tomography-HUXt and MAS inner boundaries (Linker et al. 1999), where the MAS velocities have been optimised similarly to the tomography velocities for CR2210 (Nov 2018). Tomography-HUXt model outperforms the MAS-HUXt model: tomography-HUXt gives a MAE of 47.9 km s-1 compared to the 53.58 km s-1 of the MAS-HUXt model, and a higher Pearson correlation coefficient of 0.74 compared to that of MAS-HUXt (0.56). This work shows that inner boundary conditions derived using tomography are a valid alternative to magnetic models such as MAS.

Our current work investigates a more advanced relationship between coronal densities and velocities, and provides improved solar wind predictions over a whole solar cycle. This scheme is implemented as part of the SWEEP software suite for the UK Met Office's space weather forecasting capabilities from 2023 onwards.

Two panelled figure with panels a) and b). Panel a) shows a tomography map at 8Rs for CR2210 (Nov 2018). Panel b) shows a comparison of optimised Tomography/HUXt and MAS/HUXt solar wind velocity predictions at Earth with OMNI data (Black) for CR2210.
Figure 1: a) Tomography map at 8Rs for CR2210 (Nov 2018) b) Comparison of optimised Tomography/HUXt and MAS/HUXt solar wind velocity predictions at Earth with OMNI data (Black) for CR2210.


Linker, J. A., Z. Miki ́c, D. A. Biesecker, R. J. Forsyth, S. E. Gibson, et al. 1999. Magnetohydrodynamic modeling of the solar corona during Whole Sun Month. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 104. 10.1029/1998ja900159.

Morgan, H., and A. C. Cook, 2020. The Width, Density, and Outflow of Solar Coronal Streamers. The Astrophysical Journal, 893(1), 57. 10.3847/1538-4357/ab7e32

Owens, M. J., M. Lang, L. Barnard, P. Riley, M. Ben-Nun, et al. 2020. A Computationally Efficient, Time-Dependent Model of the Solar Wind for Use as a Surrogate to Three-Dimensional Numerical Magnetohydrodynamic Simulations. Solar Physics. 10.1007/s11207-020-01605-3

Samara, E., B. Laperre, R. Kieokaew, M. Temmer, C. Verbeke, et al. 2022. Dynamic Time Warping as a Means of Assessing Solar Wind Time Series. The Astrophysical Journal, 927(2), 187. 10.3847/1538-4357/ac4af6

Temporal variability of quasi-linear pitch-angle diffusion

By Clare Watt (Northumbria University)

Our work here combines observations and ensemble numerical simulations to study the effect of temporal variability in radiation belt physics. Kinetic wave-particle interactions in Earth’s outer radiation belt are an effective way to energize and scatter high-energy electrons. A Fokker-Planck equation is often used to model the wave-particle interactions, and we studied the way it responds to the temporal variation of the quasi-linear diffusion coefficient in the case of pitch-angle diffusion due to plasmaspheric hiss. We used stochastic parameterisation [Berner et al., 2017] to describe the temporal evolution of hiss diffusion coefficients in ensemble numerical experiments, guided throughout by observations of wave activity and plasma parameters from the NASA Van Allen Probes. Ensemble solutions of the Fokker-Planck equation depend significantly on the timescale of variation, varied here between minutes and hours. We analysed timescales over which it is useful to construct diffusion coefficients and conclude that there is a useful maximum averaging timescale that should be used to construct a diffusion coefficient from observations. This timescale is likely less than the orbital period of most inner magnetospheric missions. Although arithmetic averaging of inputs to diffusion coefficients is not recommended [Watt et al., 2019], arithmetic drift-averaging of the diffusion coefficients themselves can be appropriate in some cases. We found that in some locations, rare but large values of the diffusion coefficient occur during periods of relatively low number density. Ensemble solutions are sensitive to the presence of these rare values, supporting the need for accurate cold plasma density models in radiation belt descriptions.

Figure 1: Ensemble results for numerical diffusion experiments using Dαα(L* = 3). Each panel shows a column-normalised probability distribution function for the phase space density f just outside the loss-cone αLC for (A) Δt = 2 min, (B) Δt = 10 min, (C) Δt = 30 min, (D) Δt = 2 h, (E) Δt = 4 h, and (F) Δt = 6 h. Note that each histogram is displayed using the same vertical binning, giving the histograms a pixelated appearance.



Berner, J., et al. (2017) Stochastic parameterization: towards a new view of weather and climate models. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 98 (3). pp. 565-588. ISSN 1520-0477 doi: https://doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-15-00268.1

Watt, C. E. J., Allison, H. J., Meredith, N. P., Thompson, R. L., Bentley, S. N., Rae, I. J., et al. (2019). Variability of quasilinear diffusion coefficients for plasmaspheric hiss. J. Geophys. Res. Space Phys. 124, 8488–8506. doi:10.1029/2018ja026401


Associated Paper:

Watt, C. E. J., Allison, H. J., Bentley, S. N., Thompson, R. L., Rae, I. J., Allanson, O., … Killey, S. (2022). Temporal variability of quasi-linear pitch-angle diffusion. Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fspas.2022.1004634