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.. 

Orbyts Impact Report

By Jasmine Sandhu (University of Leicester)

Orbyts is a multi-award winning movement that partners scientists with schools to empower school students to undertake world-leading research. In this MIST nugget, we are delighted to present Orbyts very first Impact Report!

Read the Orbyts Impact Report 2017-2023 here: https://www.orbyts.org/impact

Over the past six years we have seen the programme enable a transformational impact on young people, researchers and teachers alike and we’re excited to share that with you here.

To date, Orbyts has created 100+ research partnerships, empowering 1500+ school students. We’ve increased inclusivity in post-16 STEM uptake, where students Orbyts engaged are 50+% girls, 50+% pupil premium, and identified from 48+ ethnicities. We have grown with new Hubs in North East England and Leicester, alongside expansion of our London Hub.

Read the report for all the statistics on Orbyts, spotlights on the ground-breaking research being led by students, and all the exciting plans for Orbyts in 2024!

We’d like to extend our thanks to all those who have and continue to support Orbyts, without whom this work would not be possible. In particular we would like to thank all the researchers and teachers for all their time and hard work. We also gratefully acknowledge support from all of our funders, including the UCL Access and Widening Participation Office, the Ogden Trust, UK Space Agency, European Research Council, EPSRC, and STFC.

Orbyts currently sits precariously positioned with no financial support beyond our upcoming 2024 programme. If you think that Orbyts might be something you would like to support, then we would love to hear from you at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Infographic showing facts and figures on Orbyts and detailing some of the associated impacts.

 

Read the Orbyts Impact Report 2017-2023 for further details: https://www.orbyts.org/impact.

Surface Charging of Jupiter's Moon Europa

By Sachin Reddy (UCL / National Institute of Polar Research)

Jupiter’s moon Europa is exposed to a constant flow of plasma from its own ionosphere and the Jovian magnetosphere, which consists of a thermal and suprathermal population. As these particles flow onto the surface, an electrostatic potential forms in accordance with Kirchhoff’s current law. In this study, we investigate the electric charging of Europa’s icy surface using 3D particle-in-cell simulations via the Spacecraft Plasma Interactions Software (SPIS).

We find that surface potentials on Europa vary from -14 to -52 V. They change as a function of Europa’s four hemispheres, the solar illumination conditions, the plasma environment, and the properties of the surface itself. We reveal that the presence of an ionospheric plasma population reduces the surface potentials, producing a “dampening effect”. We also find that secondary electron emission is a crucial mechanism in Europan charging, shifting potentials by an order of magnitude for the same plasma properties. We argue that additional laboratory work into Europa-like-ice electron emission is necessary to reduce the uncertainties in the modelling. These results could be both corroborated and improved upon by the upcoming Europa Clipper and JUICE missions, and may be of use in the design of future missions to Europa’s surface (e.g. landers or other robotic explorers).

a) Secondary electron emission yields for three ice models and; b) the impact of those models on surface potential in the anti-Jovian hemisphere during eclipse. Emission plays a key role in charging and additional laboratory work is required to reduce the uncertainty in the modelled potentials.

See full paper for further details:

Reddy, Sachin A., Nordheim, Tom N. and Harris, Camilla, D.K.,. "Surface Charging of Jupiter’s Moon Europa." The Astrophysical Journal Letters 962.2 (2024): L29. https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/ad251e

Asymmetric Ionospheric Jets in Jupiter's Aurora

By Ruoyan Wang (University of Leicester)

We have simultaneously observed line-of-sight ionospheric and thermospheric winds in Jupiter using the Keck II telescope and produced one of the first global maps of both ion and neutral flows in the same layer of any atmosphere. Since ionospheric currents are through the relative motion of ions within the neutral atmosphere, comparing these two maps produces a global map of the "effective" ion drifts, the E x B flows that drive upper ionospheric currents. To the surprise of the Jupiter community, this upper atmospheric "effective" ion drift is dominated by two sunward blue-shifted jets associated with the dawn and dusk main auroral region, highly reminiscent of ionospheric flows seen on Earth. This discovery is directly opposite to the expected rotationally symmetric breakdown in corotation driven by the plasma-heavy magnetosphere. Our result suggests that the asymmetric currents close in the upper ionosphere, while the closure of breakdown-in-corotation currents occurs deep in the lower ionosphere, resulting in powerful upward auroral currents penetrating through overlying regions of downward currents associated with the asymmetric currents. Such a mechanism could potentially explain the complex switching generation of Jupiter's main auroral emissions observed by the Juno mission. Moreover, this study highlights the importance of the neutral atmosphere and interactions between ions and neutrals on other planets, including Earth, making Jupiter an important global comparator for future studies of these interactions. 

Scanning maps of measured a) H3+ LOS velocity, b) H2 LOS velocity, and c) relative velocities between H2 and H3+, solid white lines showing the peak auroral emissions. Blue and red correspond to the positive and negative velocities, indicating blueshift and redshift, respectively. White shows regions with no data coverage. The planetary center is located at 0 along the east-west spatial axis. The solid black line separates the two scans.

 

See full paper for further details: 

Wang, R., Stallard, T. S., Melin, H., Baines, K. H., Achilleos, N., Rymer, A. M., Ray, R. C., Nichols, J. D., Moore, L., O'Donoghue, J., Chowdhury, M. N., Thomas, E. M., Knowles, K. L., Tiranti, P. I., Miller, S. (2023). Asymmetric Ionospheric Jets in Jupiter's Aurora. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 128, e2023JA031861. https://doi.org/10.1029/2023JA031861.

The closest-to-the-Sun-ever direct observation of a shock wave and its heliospheric journey

By Domenico Trotta (Imperial College London)

Shock waves, i.e., abrupt transitions between supersonic and subsonic flows, are present in a large variety of astrophysical systems, and are pivotal for efficient energy conversion and particle acceleration in our universe [1]. Despite decades of research, the mechanisms by which particles are accelerated at shocks are a matter of debate, and are crucial to several applications, ranging from explaining acceleration of cosmic rays to the highest energies [2] to the study of space weather phenomena [3].
Shocks in the heliosphere are unique, being directly accessible by spacecraft exploration, thus providing the missing link to the remote observations of astrophysical systems. Interplanetary (IP) shocks are generated because of solar activity phenomena, such as Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), and play an important role in the energetics of the heliosphere where they propagate [4].
The ground-breaking NASA Parker Solar Probe (PSP, [5]) and ESA Solar Orbiter [6] missions are probing the previously unexplored inner heliosphere, providing datasets with unprecedented resolutions.
We used such novel observational window to report direct PSP observations of a CME-driven shock as close to the Sun as 0.07 A, making it the closest to the Sun direct observation of a shock wave to date. The shock then reached Solar Orbiter at 0.7 AU, enabling us to study the evolution of the shock throughout its propagation in the heliosphere.
We characterized the shock and its environment. At PSP, we found a sharp shock with moderate strength, and investigated how switchbacks, fundamental constituents of the near-Sun environment, are processed by the shock crossing. In contrast, the Solar Orbiter observations revealed a very structured shock transition, with shock-accelerated protons with energies of up to 2 MeV. The differences between the two shocks are due to both evolution effects and the large-scale geometry of the event, crossed by the spacecraft in two points only. This study elucidates how the local features of IP shocks and their environments can be very different as they propagate through the heliosphere.

Top: Spacecraft configuration at 17:30 of Sep. 05, 2022 (immediately after the IP shock crossed PSP). In this plot, the Sun is at the center, the Earth is represented by the green circle, and the dashed (solid) lines indicate the spacecraft radial (along a Parker Spiral with a nominal speed of 400 km/s) connection. Bottom: Magnetic field magnitude, its components in the RTN system, ion bulk flow speed, density and temperature as measured by PSP (left) and later by SolO (right). The plots show an overview of the event (a,c) with a zoom around the shock transition at both spacecraft. The dashed magenta line marks the shock transition, and the blue shaded area in panel (b) indicates the approximate end of the CME sheath as observed by PSP.



See full publication for further information:
Trotta et al., ApJ, 962, 2 (2024), DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ad187d

References:
[1] Bykov et al., SSRv, 2015, 14 (2019)
[2] Amato&Blasi, Adv. Sp. Res., 62, 10 (2018)
[3] Klein&Dalla, SSRv, 212, 1107 (2017)
[4] Reames et al., ApJ, 483, 512 (1997)
[5] Fox et al., SSRv, 204, 7 (2016)
[6] Muller et al., A&A, 642, A1 (2020)

The Impact of Non-Equilibrium Plasma Distributions on Solar Wind Measurements by Vigil's Plasma Analyser

Hongjie Zhang (University College London)

Space weather, originating from the Sun, has a profound impact on human life. An effective space weather monitor is crucial for detecting severe space weather events and providing early warnings before they reach Earth. The European Space Agency is currently preparing to launch the Vigil mission as a space-weather monitor at the fifth Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system. Vigil will carry, amongst other instruments, the Plasma Analyser (PLA) to provide quasi-continuous measurements of solar wind ions.
In this study, we model the performance of the PLA instrument. We employ a forward-modeling technique, which involves predicting measurements (number of particle counts in energy, elevation, and azimuth) based on typical solar wind properties. Then we utilize backward-modeling based on the predicted measurements. This approach allows us to compare the expected observations of the PLA with the assumed input conditions of the solar wind. We evaluate the instrument performance under realistic, non-equilibrium plasma conditions, accounting for temperature anisotropies, proton beams, and the contributions from alpha-particles. We examine the accuracy of the instrument’s performance over a range of input solar wind properties. We recommend potential improvements such as applying ground-based fitting techniques to obtain more accurate measurements of the solar wind even under non-equilibrium plasma conditions. The use of ground processing of plasma moments instead of on-board processing is crucial for the extraction of reliable measurements.

Predicted measurements of Vigil/PLA in a plasma with anisotropic core protons, isotropic beam protons, and alpha-particles.
Predicted measurements of Vigil/PLA in a plasma with anisotropic core protons, isotropic beam protons, and alpha-particles.

See publication for details: 

Zhang, H., Verscharen, D., & Nicolaou, G. (2024). The impact of non-equilibrium plasma distributions on solar wind measurements by Vigil's Plasma Analyser. Space Weather, 22, e2023SW003671. https://doi.org/10.1029/2023SW003671