The University of Southampton

Our main research projects use a range of ground- and space-based instrumentation to better understand the dynamics of the magnetospheres and upper atmospheres of several of the planets in the Solar System.

We have three main areas of research interest. The first is the large-scale coupling of the solar wind with the Earth’s magnetosphere and ionosphere. We do this with data from spacecraft such as the European Space Agency (ESA)’s Cluster mission and NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, and ionospheric measurements from radar systems such as SuperDARN and EISCAT.

Another area we work on is the fine-scale physics of the aurora (northern lights) at Earth, and how auroral particle precipitation affects the upper atmosphere (the mesosphere and thermosphere). For this we use primarily our own ground-based instruments in the Arctic (an auroral camera called ASK and a spectrograph called HiTIES, which is part of our Spectrographic Imaging Facility [SIF]), supported by data from the EISCAT radar system. For more information about ASK and SIF, including how to get hold of data, please see the links above.

Finally, we have extensive interests in the large-scale structure of the magnetospheres of other planets in the Solar System, particularly the gas giants (in particular Jupiter and Saturn) and the highly dynamic magnetosphere of Mercury. Our main tools in this area are data from NASA/ESA planetary missions such as MESSENGER and Cassini to measure the local environments, and space-based telescopes (e.g. Chandra, XMM) to observe the high energy (X-ray) emissions from planetary auroras.

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