MIST

Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial

Latest news

2021 Astronomy Grants

The closing date for the 2021 Astronomy Grants Round is 4th March 2021. Submissions are accepted from now. The Astronomy Guidelines for Applicants have been revised and can be found via the links below (the PDF with the full guidance is available under the ‘who can apply’ section on both pages):

Applicants should ensure they have read the guidelines in detail and contact the office with any queries ahead of submission.

Key points or revisions from the 2020 guidelines have been briefly summarised below for information:

  • Page Limits – The page limit per project has been simplified and is no longer based on a requested FTE calculation.
  • Applicant/Project FTE – There has been a change to the upper limit for requested applicant FTE (25%, not including PI management time). The guidance for total FTE requests per project has also been updated and must be strictly adhered to.
  • Outreach Projects – Clarification on the page limit for outreach projects/outreach funding.
  • Pathways to Impact – UKRI removed the requirement to submit a pathways to impact plan in March 2020; however applicants should still consider impact as part of their case for support (see guidelines for further information).
  • Publications Table – Updates to the information required in the publications table.

New groups submitting their first consolidated grant proposal or those considering a consortium proposal are advised to inform the office ahead of submitting to the closing date. If you have any queries please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

2020 Space Census

MIST members are invited to submit to the 2020 Space Census!

The 2020 Space Census is the first national survey of the UK space workforce. It is a 5-10 minute anonymous online demographic survey of individuals for anyone working in the UK space sector in any capacity. The results will be used to improve what it’s like to work in the sector, to tackle discrimination, and to make the sector more attractive to new recruits.

More information about the Census, along with answers to commonly asked questions, can be found here.

The UK Space Agency’s press release about the Census can be found here.

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..

MIST elections in 2020

The election for the next MIST councillors opens today, and will run until 23:59 on 31 July 2020. The candidates are Michaela Mooney, Matt Owens, and Jasmine Kaur Sandhu. 

If you are subscribed to this mailing list you should receive a bespoke link which will let you vote on the MIST website, which will be sent by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you don’t receive this link, please check your junk folder! The candidates’ platforms are on the voting platform, and also reproduced below for your convenience. 

Michaela Mooney

I’m a final year PhD student at MSSL standing for MIST Council as a student representative. During my PhD, I’ve been actively engaged in the department as a Student Rep in the Staff Student Consultation Committee and in the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. I’m an active member of the MIST research community through proposals for RAS Discussion meetings and NAM sessions on geomagnetic activity. 

My main goals as a MIST Council representative would be to:

  • lobby funding bodies to reduce the impact of the pandemic on PhD students.
  • facilitate the organisation of virtual conferences and careers days to ensure that students continue to have opportunities to present research and access to careers information.
  • support good practises in equality, diversity and inclusion within the MIST community.

My key priority would be to limit the impact of the pandemic on students and ensure equality of opportunities.

Matt Owens

Now, more than ever, it’s vital our community address its diversity problems. If anyone is standing for MIST council from an underrepresented demographic, I’d encourage you to vote for them; MIST needs their experience and insight. If not, I’ll seek to ensure MIST council continues to promote equality of opportunity and diversity in science.

MIST’s primary role is to represent our solar-terrestrial science within the wider discipline. I’m predominantly a heliospheric scientist, but keep a toe in the solar physics community. E.g., I’ve served in editorial capacities for both JGR and Solar Physics, and have a good deal of experience with both NERC and STFC funding. As such, I’d hope to see MIST working closely with UKSP, as we have a lot of common interest. I am also keen that the MIST community coordinate to make the most of the industrial and operational forecasting opportunities that are open to it. Finally, I’m a very recent convert to open science. I would seek to increase the prevalence of research code publication and use of community tools within our field, for reasons of both efficiency and reproducibility.

Jasmine Kaur Sandhu

I am a post-doctoral research associate at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCL, with a research focus on inner magnetospheric physics. During my time as a Council member I have led a number of initiatives, primarily the MIST Student’s Corner, the MIST Nugget Series, and the MIST online seminar series. If elected, I will continue to focus on supporting early career researchers in ways that promote diversity of both science and the scientists within our community. This will include developing a set of up-to-date, comprehensive, and informative resources on funding opportunities available to early career researchers for travel funding and fellowships. This will be supported by a mentor-like scheme for assistance and guidance on applications.

Nuggets of MIST science, summarising recent MIST papers in a bitesize format.

If you would like to submit a nugget, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 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!

Temporal and Spectral Studies by XMM-Newton of Jupiter’s X-ray Auroras During a Compression Event

By Affelia Wibisono (Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCL)

Out of all of Jupiter’s aurorae, its X-ray aurora is unique as it is produced by the interactions between the constituents of Jupiter’s atmosphere with both ions and electrons. Furthermore, the X-rays are emitted by the precipitating particles rather than the native Jovian species. The X-ray aurorae are fixed on Jupiter’s frame and often exhibit quasi-periodic oscillations (QPOs) with periods of tens of minutes (e.g. Dunn et al., 2017), however, the origins of the precipitating particles and the source of the QPOs remain to be fully understood.

Contemporaneous observations by XMM-Newton and Chandra of Jupiter’s X-ray aurorae occurred for five hours in June 2017 while Juno was at near apojove. XMM-Newton continued to survey the emissions for a further 18 hours. The southern aurora was visible to XMM-Newton three times while the northern aurora was only seen twice. The planet’s magnetosphere was shown to be compressed by the solar wind during this time.

Wibisono et al., 2020 applied discrete wavelet and Fast Fourier Transforms (FFT) on the XMM-Newton auroral lightcurves from both poles. Figure 1 shows the power spectral density (PSD) plots from the FFT analysis in chronological order. QPOs were not found in the southern lights when it was first in view hence why its PSD plot is not included. The first rotation in the north had a strong pulse with a period of 27 minutes; a result that Chandra agrees with (Weigt et al., 2020). There is a secondary, less powerful beat at 23 minutes that is also observed in the south and then again in the north. This period lasts for a total duration of 12.5 hours, marking it the first time that both poles are seen to pulsate with the same period, at the same time and for more than one Jupiter rotation. The period increased to 33 minutes in the final rotation. The observed periods indicate that ultra-low frequency waves are a likely cause of the pulsations.

Power spectral densities for multiple rotations.

Figure 1: The power spectral density (PSD) plots after the Fast Fourier Transform was applied on the time intervals when regular pulsations occurred. PSDs A and C are for the entire first rotation and start of the second rotation of the northern aurora respectively. PSDs B and D are for the beginning of the second and entire third rotation of the southern aurora respectively. The dashed, dashed-dot and dotted black lines mark the 66th, 90th and 99th percentiles which were calculated by using Monte Carlo methods to produce 10 000 simulated lightcurves and determining the frequency of a periodicity of the observed power was randomly generated. The vertical red dashed lines show when the period is equal to 23 minutes. There were no regular pulsations in the first rotation in the south.

Spectral analysis of the XMM-Newton dataset gave the surprising result that during this particular magnetospheric compression event, the precipitating ions were from inside Jupiter’s magnetosphere. This outcome provides an insight into what drives Jupiter’s X-ray aurorae that have significant implications for our understanding of the wider magnetospheric dynamics at Jupiter.

For more details, see the paper:

Wibisono, A. D., Branduardi‐Raymont, G., Dunn, W. R., Coates, A. J., Weigt, D. M., Jackman, C. M., et al ( 2020). Temporal and Spectral Studies by XMM‐Newton of Jupiter's X‐ray Auroras During a Compression Event. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 125, e2019JA027676. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JA027676

Chandra Observations of Jupiter's X-ray Auroral Emission During Juno Apojove 2017

By Dale Weigt (University of Southampton)

Jupiter has dynamic auroral X-ray emissions, first observed over 40 years ago. A key characteristic of Jupiter’s aurora are “hot spots” of soft X-rays at the poles, which we observe from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO) with high spatial resolution. These non-conjugate northern (Gladstone et al. 2002 + others) and southern auroral hot spots (Dunn et al. 2017 + others) are found in several observation campaigns to flare quasi-periodically. However, the driver of the X-rays (and hence their link to solar wind and magnetospheric conditions) is currently unknown.

In the Weigt at. (2020) case study, we analyse CXO data from 18th June 2017 during a 10-hour observation where Juno was near its apojove position. An XMM-Newton observation overlapped the latter half of this observation (Wibisono et al. 2020). From the particle data, we find that Juno crossed the magnetopause several times preceding the Chandra observation. Using the closest crossing and amagnetopause model, we inferred a compressed magnetosphere during this interval. Using a numerical threshold to define spatial regions of concentrated photons, we find that the hot spot in the north appeared twice during the observation with a more extended morphology. Using Rayleigh testing, we find significant quasi-periodic oscillations (QPO) during both instances the hot spot was in view at ~ 37 min and 26 min respectively. The 26-min QPO was also observed by XMM-Newton and was found to remain for a further two Jupiter rotations. Using the Vogt et al. (2011, 2015) flux equivalence model, we map the origin of the QPOs and X-ray driver to be on the dayside-dusk magnetopause boundary, considering the caveats of the model. The timescales of the periods found suggest that the driver may be linked to magnetospheric processes producing ultra-low frequency waves (ULF).

X-ray aurora at Jupiter's northern pole are mapped to their magnetospheric origins.

Figure 1: (c) polar plot of Jupiter’s north pole showing the observed mapped and unmapped photons (black dots and orange triangles respectively)at the beginning of the observation interval. (d) The photons are mapped to their magnetospheric origins using the Vogt et al. (2011, 2015) model, where error bars show the estimated mapping errors. The red dashed line indicates the magnetopause boundary inferred from the Juno data during the Chandra observation. The location of Juno during this time is denoted by the yellow star. 

These results demonstrate the capabilities of CXO data in understanding the “hot spots” in Jupiter’s aurora, and can provide important contextual information to Juno observations. This study is also the first to find two significant QPOs in the northern hot spot over timescales less than a Jupiter rotation.

For more details, see the paper:

Weigt, D. M., Jackman, C. M., Dunn W. R., Gladstone G.R., Vogt M. F., Wibisono A. D., et al (2020). Chandra Observation of Jupiter’s X-rays Auroral Emission During Juno Apojove 2017 Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 125, e2019JE006262. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JE006262 

Jupiter’s X-ray Emission 2007 Part 1 and Part 2

By William Dunn (Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCL; The Centre for Planetary Science at UCL/Birkbeck; Harvard‐Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

The solar minimum from 2007-2009 was the lowest and longest of the space age. In February 2007, the New Horizons spacecraft was approaching Jupiter measuring the conditions in the solar wind. At this time, a rich multi-instrument observing campaign was conducted, including X-ray, UV and Radio observations. In 2 accepted JGR: Space Physics papers we explore these campaigns, particularly focussing on the X-ray observations. 

The first paper concentrates on the X-ray emissions in the context of solar minimum. We explore the spectral and spatial morphologies of Jupiter’s X-rays using the Chandra and XMM-Newton (XMM) observatories. We show that the Jovian equatorial emission varies with solar cycle and may be utilised as a diagnostic of the disk-integrated solar spectrum at a given time. 

X-ray aurora projected onto Jupiter's northern pole

Figure showing variability in Jupiter’s X-ray aurora as recorded by Chandra ACIS during the 2007 campaign.  Each plot shows a projection on Jupiter's North pole of the X-ray aurora. The logarithmic color bar indicates the number of X-rays in bins of 3 degree by 3 degree of S3 latitude-longitude. Dashed grey lines of longitude radiate from the pole, increasing clockwise in increments of 30 degree from 0 degree at the top. Concentric grey circles outward from the pole represent lines of latitude in increments of 10 degree. Thin green contours with white text labels indicate the VIP4  [Connerney et al. 1998] model magnetic field strength in Gauss. Thick gold contours show the magnetic field ionospheric footprints of field lines intersecting the Jovigraphic equator at 5.9 RJ (Io's orbit), 15 RJ and 45 RJ [Grodent et al. 2008; Vogt et al. 2015] from equator to pole respectively.

The second paper compares the UV, Radio and X-ray auroral emissions in the context of the solar wind conditions, identifying shared behaviours between the emissions. Generally, we find that Jupiter’s X-ray aurora is best fit by ion lines from precipitating magnetospheric plasma, but during some magnetospheric expansions the spectrum is very different. At these times, the spectral models require the inclusion of a precipitating solar wind ion population, suggesting that additional solar wind ions gain access to the outer magnetosphere or directly to the pole during magnetospheric expansions. During these expansions we also observe a new type of X-ray aurora, which coexists with the other aurorae. We label this new aurora as ‘flickering X-ray aurora’ based on its temporal behaviour. 

The papers lay important groundwork in X-ray aurora spectral modelling and in attempting to understand the unification of the different multi-waveband auroral emissions and their relationship to solar wind conditions.

For more details see:

Dunn, W. R. et al. Jupiter’s X-rays 2007 Part 1: Jupiter’s X-ray Emission During Solar Minimum. J. Geophys. Res. Sp. Phys. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JA027219

Dunn, W. R. et al. Jupiter’s X-ray Emission 2007 Part 2: Comparisons with UV and Radio Emissions and In-Situ Solar Wind Measurements. J. Geophys. Res. Sp. Phys. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JA027222 

Do Statistical models capture magnetopause dynamics during sudden magnetospheric compressions?

By Frances Staples (Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCL)

Under steady-state solar wind conditions, the magnetopause location is described as a pressure balance between internal magnetic pressure of Earth’s magnetic field and the external dynamic pressure of the solar wind. Under extreme solar wind driving, such as high solar wind pressure or strong southward-directed interplanetary magnetic fields, this boundary is located much closer towards Earth. These compressions of the magnetopause can play a significant role in the depletion of magnetospheric plasma in the Van Allen Radiation Belts, via magnetopause shadowing. Statistical models of the magnetopause location are often used in investigations of radiation belt losses through the magnetopause. However, empirical models cannot capture the time varying nature of the magnetopause during such events, which are often associated with large step-changes in solar wind conditions.

We constructed a database of ~ 20,000 spacecraft crossings of the dayside magnetopause to assess the accuracy of the commonly used Shue et al. (1998) model. For the majority of our measurements, the Shue et al. (1998) model accurately represented the magnetopause location within an error of ± 1 RE. However, when the magnetopause was compressed below 8 RE, the model overestimated the radial distance of the magnetopause by more than 1 RE on average. This result is demonstrated in the Figure as the data does not follow the blue line, which represents where the modelled location is equal to measured location, for magnetopause measurements below 10 RE

A plot comparing measurements of the magnetopause location compared to modelled values.

Figure: The median magnetopause location, RMod, calculated for a given measurement of the magnetopause by a spacecraft, RSC, is plotted by purple diamonds, and a best fit is shown by the purple line. The interquartile range of RSC (where 75% of magnetopause measurements were taken) is shown by the shaded region.

Furthermore, during sudden storm commencements, where interplanetary shocks impact the magnetosphere, the modelled magnetopause was significantly displaced from the measured location. Magnetopause measurements were on average 6% closer to the radiation belts, with a maximum of 42%. We conclude that statistical magnetopause parameterizations may not be appropriate during dynamic compressions of the magnetosphere and could underestimate the role of magnetopause shadowing on radiation belt dynamics. Models should be supplemented by magnetopause observations wherever possible and we have provided a dataset of THEMIS magnetopause crossing to be used by the research community.

For more information, please see the paper;

Staples, F. A., Rae, I. J., Forsyth, C., Smith, A. R. A., Murphy, K. R., Raymer, K. M., et al (2020). Do statistical models capture the dynamics of the magnetopause during sudden magnetospheric compressions?. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 125, e2019JA027289. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JA027289 

The database of THEMIS and Geotail magnetopause crossings used in this study are openly available at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3700504 and https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3719411 .

Using Differential Magnetometer Measurements to Monitor Geomagnetically Induced Currents in the Complex High Voltage Network of Great Britain

By Juliane Hübert (British Geological Survey, Edinburgh)

Large geomagnetic storms create time-varying magnetic fields, which induce secondary electric fields in the conductive Earth resulting in geomagnetically induced currents (GICs). The high voltage (HV) power transmission network is connected to the Earth at grounding points in substations. These offer a low-resistance path for GICs to flow into the power network, potentially causing the transformers to malfunction with extensive consequences for the national power supply. The UK government has listed severe space weather events as one of the highest priority natural hazard. Therefore, it is important to fully understand GICs to enable the mitigation of this hazard. It is possible to directly measure GICs at substations using Hall-effect probes, but due to cost and operational reasons, at present only four substations in the UK are monitored. Therefore we have developed a new instrument to measure GICs indirectly using two magnetometers, one placed under the HV line and another a few hundred metres away. By examining the differences between the magnetometers, we work out the additional current flowing in the HV line.

Magnetometer data used to measure GICs

Figure 1: Recorded times series during the G3 geomagnetic storm on 25-26 August 2018. Panels a-d) Horizontal magnetic field components at DMM site Whiteadder (WHI), East Scotland. Panel e) Line GICs at WHI; Panel f) GIC data from a Hall probe at Torness substation.

In the study, we present the design and initial deployment of the first differential magnetometer method (DMM) systems in the UK and measurements from the first site installed at Whiteadder in eastern Scotland. At this site we have successfully detected geomagnetically induced currents in a 400 kV high voltage power network. The Figure compares line GIC data recorded at Whiteadder (panels a-e) to data from a Hall probe at the nearby substation at Torness (panel f) during the 26 August 2018 storm. The measured GICs from the line and the Hall probe show excellent temporal correlation, though with significant differences in amplitude, illustrating that line measurements with DMM and Hall probes at grounding points capture different but complementary views of GIC flow in a network. Using the latest model of the HV network and electric field variations estimated from a magnetotelluric survey, we show that the measured line and earthing GICs match the expected modelled values during the geomagnetic storm. This is the first study to validate such a complex network model using direct and indirect measurements of GICs.

The full article can be found here:

Hübert, J., Beggan, C. D., Richardson, G. S., Martyn, T., & Thomson, A. W. P. (2020). Differential Magnetometer Measurements of Geomagnetically Induced Currents in a Complex High Voltage Network. Space Weather, 18, https://doi.org/10.1029/2019SW002421