Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial

Latest news

STFC Policy Internship Scheme now open

This year has proved the critical importance of science having a voice within Parliament. But how does scientific evidence come to the attention of policy makers? If you are a STFC-funded PhD student, you can experience this first-hand through our Policy Internship Scheme, which has just opened for applications for 2020/21. During these three-month placements, students are hosted either at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) or the Government Office for Science (GO Science).

POST is an independent office of the Houses of Parliament which provides impartial evidence reviews on topical scientific issues to MPs and Peers. Interns at POST will research, draft, edit and publish a briefing paper summarising the evidence base on an important or emerging scientific issue. GO Science works to ensure that Government policies and decisions are informed by the best scientific evidence and strategic long-term thinking. Placements at GO Science are likely to involve undertaking research, drafting briefing notes and background papers, and organising workshops and meetings.

The scheme offers a unique opportunity to experience the heart of UK policy making and to explore careers within the science-policy interface. The placements are fully funded and successful applicants will receive a three-month extension to their final PhD deadline.

For full information and to see case studies of previous interns, please see our website. The closing date is 10 September 2020 at 16.00.

Applied Sciences special issue: Dynamical processes in space plasmas


Applied Sciences is to publish a special issue on the topic of dynamical processes in space plasmas which is being guest edited by Georgious Nicolaou. Submissions are welcome until 31 March 2021, and submission instructions for authors can be found on the journal website. For general questions, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A Summary of the SWIMMR Kick-Off Meeting

The kick-off event for the Space Weather Innovation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk Study (one of the Wave 2 programmes of the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund) took place in the Wolfson Library of the Royal Society on Tuesday November 26th. Seventy-five people attended the event, representing a range of academic institutions, as well as representatives from industry, government and public sector research establishments such as the UK Met Office. 

The morning session of the meeting consisted of five presentations, introducing the programme and its relevance to government, the Research Councils and the Met Office, as well as describing details of the potential calls. The presentations were as follows:

  •  Prof John Loughhead (Chief Scientific Advisor to BEIS) - Space Weather Innovation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk Programme (a governmental perspective). The slides from Prof John Loughhead's talk are available here.
  • Prof Chris Mutlow (Director of STFC RAL Space) - SWIMMR: Project funded by the Strategic Priorities Fund (a perspective from STFC).  The slides from Prof Chris Mutlow's talk are available here.
  • Jacky Wood (Head of Business Partnerships at NERC) - Space Weather Innovation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk (SWIMMR) - A NERC perspective.  The slides from Jacky Wood's talk are available here.
  • Dr. Ian McCrea (Senior Programme Manager for SWIMMR) -  SWIMMR: Space Weather Innovation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk: A wave 2 programme of the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund.  The slides from Dr Ian McCrea's talk are available here.
  • Mark Gibbs (Head of Space Weather at the UK Met Office) - SWIMMR (Met Office perspective and detailed description of the calls.  The slides from Mark Gibb's talk are available here.

During the lunch break, the Announcement of Opportunity for the five NERC SWIMMR calls was issued on the NERC web site.  The afternoon therefore began with a brief introduction by Jacky Wood to the NERC Announcement of Opportunity, and the particular terms and conditions which it contained.

The remainder of the afternoon session was spent in a Question and Answer session in which attendees were able to ask questions to the speakers about the nature of the programme and the potential timing of future calls, and finally to an informal discussion session, in which participants gathered into groups to discuss the opportunities for funding which had been outlined. 

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

RAS discussion meeting on geomagnetic storms and substorms

The Global Response of the Terrestrial Magnetosphere During Storms and Substorms is an upcoming RAS discussion meeting to be held on 08 February 2019 at the Royal Astronomical Society at Burlington House. This meeting will include an invited talk from Elena Kronberg (Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research).

If you are interested in attending, you can visit the page for the meeting on the RAS's websiteThe programme and list of abstracts are available here on the MIST website. 

The meeting is co-convened by Jasmine Sandhu (MSSL/UCL), Hayley Allison (BAS/Cambridge), Maria-Theresia Walach (Lancaster) and Clare Watt (Reading), and the the description of the meeting is as follows:

The magnetosphere is a highly variable environment, and the occurrence of storms and substorms result in the dramatic reconfiguration and redistribution of energy within the system. Understanding the conditions under which these events take place, the response of the magnetosphere, and the causes of the high variability observed is an area of active research.

This meeting aims to further our understanding of how internal and external factors combine to shape the global structure of the magnetosphere and the plasma stored therein during active times. We aim to integrate our collective knowledge of global changes in the magnetic field structure and of plasma behaviour across a wide range of energies, from cold plasmaspheric plasma through to the high energy populations in the plasma sheet, ring current, and outer radiation belt. In addition to bringing together observations from throughout the magnetosphere and ionosphere (e.g., Van Allen, Cluster, and the SuperDARN network), new modelling and simulation results will also provide insight into the response of the terrestrial magnetosphere to a wide range of geomagnetic activity.

Advances in hydrogen molecular ions: H3+, H5+ and beyond

There is a scientific discussion meeting to be held at the Royal Society on 21–22 January 2018, organised by Professor Jonathan Tennyson FRS, Professor Benjamin McCall, and Professor Steven Miller. The webpage for the meeting is available on the Royal Society's website.

Jupiter’s southern aurora captured in the light of H3+ by the JUNO infrared imager. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM

This meeting will highlight recent developments in theoretical, laboratory and astronomical studies of the molecular ion H3+ and its hydrogenated cousin H5+. These developments include the first models of H5+, high-resolution studies of H3+ deuterated isotopologues, ultra-cold chemistry studies, new chemical models of the Galactic Centre, and data from the space missions Cassini (Saturn) and JUNO (Jupiter).

Les Houches Physics School

The Les Houches Physics School, entitled "The multiple approaches to plasma physics from laboratory to astrophysics" is to be held on 13–24 May 2019 in Les Houches, France. Pre-registration for the conference is now open, and will close on 15 February 2019. The venue for the school can hold 46 participants and, as such, selected attendees will be notified at the beginning of March.
This two-week school held in the French Alps focuses on plasma physics and its manifestations in laboratory experiments, space environment and in astrophysics. It targets an international audience primarily composed of PhD students and junior postdoctoral researchers. The objective is to introduce the participants to a wide range of fundamental aspects of plasma physics, as well as to the state-of-the-art in many of the sub-disciplines. The school will feature blackboard-style lectures, hands-on activities, talks on latest research, presentation by students, as well as group work such as journal clubs and social activities. This school is the latest of a series of programs held every two years since 2011 at the  Les Houches School of Physics on similar topics (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017).

More information about the Les Houches Physics School can be found at the school's website. If you have any questions, the organising committee can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Read more: Les Houches Physics School

NAM 2019 parallel session proposals now open

The Royal Astronomical Society's National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) will be held on the campus of Lancaster University from Sunday 30th June to Thursday 4th July 2019. The official website is available here. In addition to the UK's astronomy community, the meeting includes the UK Solar Physics (UKSP) and Magnetosphere Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial (MIST) communities. Lancaster is the home to a large and active MIST group, and so the MIST community will be right at home next year!

Isobel Hook and Jim Wild, on the behalf of the organisers, write:

We now invite the community to submit proposals for parallel sessions to be held at NAM2019. Proposals are welcome for sessions covering all aspects of NAM, UKSP, and MIST science, including cross-discipline sessions.

The deadline for submitting parallel session proposals is Monday 7 January 2019 at 17:30 UTC and proposals should be submitted here.

EISCAT symposium 2019

The dates and location for the 2019 International EISCAT symposium have been announced. It will be held in 19–23 August 2019 at the University of Oulu, Finland. A radar summer school will be held in the preceding week, and a full announcement and website will follow soon.

Andrew Kavanagh writes:

Given that EISCAT 3D is scheduled to come on-line in 2021 this is a great opportunity to develop new collaborations, get up to speed on the science EISCAT can facilitate (including E3D), and give students/postdocs a head start in working with the new system.

EISCAT has put together some cartoons showing how EISCAT 3D will operate under different scenarios including simultaneous multi-user experiments. Check out these illustrations of the beam switch timing and ability to switch between modes on the order of a second!