MIST

Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial

Latest news

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.

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. 

From Fuji to the F-region: 3 months in Japan studying thermosphere-ionosphere coupling

by Daniel Billett

Daniel Billett is a third year PhD student at Lancaster University. Daniel's research focuses on the high latitude thermosphere - ionosphere coupling at Earth, and in this blog post Daniel talks about taking part in the JSPS Short Term Fellowship Program.

The JSPS Fellowship Program

This spring, I had the privilege of spending 3 months in Japan as part of the JSPS short term fellowship program. These are open to both post-docs, as well as PhD students, for a period of anywhere between 1 and 12 months. For PhD students, they are similar to the yearly JSPS summer program, but are a bit more flexible in terms of start dates and tenure. Which suits me, as I don’t do too well in the 40°C+ temperatures you see in the Japanese summers!

I am currently in the 3rd year of my PhD Lancaster University. However, when I first heard about JSPS short-term fellowship in a group-wide email from my supervisor, I was just entering my 2nd year. I initially thought I wasn’t eligible, but the only restriction for PhD students is that you must be within two years of completion when you begin research in Japan.

In December 2017 I submitted my application, which included a detailed proposal describing the research I planned to do during the fellowship. For the first year of my PhD, I had mainly been using data from the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN), and had become very interested in how the ionosphere and thermosphere interacted with each other. Up until then I had been using a statistical model for ionospheric conductivity, but knew that under real circumstances, the huge variability of the aurora would mean that it was often a big underestimation. The extra ionisation could lead to big changes in the coupling mechanism between thermospheric neutrals and the ionospheric plasma, which I wanted to investigate more closely.

It’s up to you which institution in Japan you visit, but I recommend talking to your supervisors about anyone they might know who is a specialist in the area you want to research. For me, it was suggested to contact Professor Keisuke Hosokawa of the University of Electro-Communications (UEC), Tokyo. This was someone who had not only had experience with using SuperDARN data before, but was also heavily involved with numerous projects centred around auroral dynamics. We discussed the proposal outline for a couple of months prior to submission to make sure it was original, exciting and detailed. Unlike NERC or STFC however, JSPS fund research from all areas of science from philosophy to medicine, so it’s also important to not be get too technical.

At the end of March 2018, I found out I was successful. All in all, the application process was a bit old fashioned, as I had to send everything off by mail. This included a big pack of application documents to the JSPS headquarters in London, as well as several signed letters to and from Japan. Luckily however, it looks like it can now all be done online, albeit only in Japanese! But that’s okay, because now you can get your Japanese host to apply on your behalf, lucky them! Applying for a Japanese work visa from the embassy was relatively straightforward in comparison, as there are many agents available if you don’t have the capability to do several trips to London. With all things sorted, I started the project in Japan in February 2019.

Far from home

Tokyo, famed for its seemingly never-ending urban sprawl and jam-packed trains, is home to a number of institutions conducting MIST related research. One of those being UEC, situated in the suburb of Chofu. Tokyo is pretty overwhelming for someone who had never lived in a city bigger than Cardiff before, and to be suddenly thrust into a place with everything imaginable from Peach Coke to Pokémon centres was definitely a culture shock.

Left: It wasn’t as good as I hoped. Right: Giant ceramic Pokémon statue at the Pokémon centre, Toshima.


Left: Downtown Shinjuku. Right: One of the many 8-floor super arcades, featuring fully equipped mech-fighting facilities.

Working with aurora

Working with Professor Keisuke Hosokawa and the rest of the ionospheric research group at UEC was a great experience. I had never handled auroral data before, but found being surrounded by a room full of experts helped. I mainly used an instrument dubbed the “Svalcam”, an all-sky imager located on Svalbard and conveniently in the fields of view of two SuperDARN radars, the EISCAT Svalbard Radar (ESR) and a Scanning Doppler Imager (SCANDI). This meant we had all the information we needed: SuperDARN for what the plasma was doing, SCANDI for the neutrals and the ESR/Svalcam combo for conductivity. As an added bonus, all the instrument field-of-views reside well within the polar cap, giving us the unique ability to observe the dayside ionosphere during the polar night. The only thing left to do is figure out what we were looking for…

Neutrals in the thermosphere behave like a bowl of soup. They get pushed around pretty easily and generally move from hot regions (the dayside) to the cold (nightside). When a spoon is thrown into the works however (ionospheric convection), the motion of the soup becomes strongly dictated by how the spoon is stirred (the ion-drag force). This is where the analogy breaks down however. Neutrals in the thermosphere don't collide very often with the ionospheric plasma, so they take a long time to speed up into the direction the convection spoon is trying to stir them. But then the aurora comes in; like adding a big batch of cornflower (additional ionisation), ion-neutral collisions are enhanced and therefore so is the strength of the ion-neutral coupling. A neutral wind "lag" which was previously thought to be on the order of hours can be minutes during periods of auroral activity.

First panel: Svalcam 630nm intensity keogram showing poleward moving auroral forms. Second panel: Corresponding ESR electron density measurements. Third and fourth panels: Zonal and meridional velocity timeseries’ for both the plasma (red) and neutrals (blue). Billett et al. [in prep]. 

During my JSPS fellowship I identified how the neutral wind lag responded to active aurora using conjunctive observations of auroral emissions from Svalcam, ionospheric electron density from the ESR, ion plasma velocity from SuperDARN, and neutral velocity from SCANDI. An example of these observations are shown above. For this example, we saw poleward moving auroral forms in the Svalcam data and corresponding short lived electron density enhancements in the ESR data. This increased plasma density should translate to more collisions between the plasma and neutrals, shortening the neutral wind time lag. The zonal (east-west) and meridional (north-south) velocities of the plasma measured by SuperDARN (red) and of the neutrals from SCANDI (blue) are also shown. We observed that when the poleward moving auroral features start (~07:30 UT), the neutrals experience a rapid velocity enhancement and match the plasma velocity in both components. Even when the meridional plasma velocity slows later on at around 08:15 UT, the neutrals continue at a high speed like when soup keeps spinning even after you finish stirring. This is because the neutrals have residual inertia, and is a phenomena known as the flywheel effect. Overall, this is what we expected to see, but gives confirmation that this is not only a nightside phenomenon. Poleward moving auroral forms are a well-studied auroral feature, which we have now shown to have a much greater impact beyond the ionosphere.

Shooting off on the Shinkansen

During my trip, I got the chance to see a bit of Japan outside of Tokyo. The incredible efficiency of Japanese trains are a bit of a stereotype, which is probably helped by the fact you can get a Shinkansen bullet train every 10 minutes from Tokyo to Osaka (300+ miles) and only use less than 2.5 hours of your life for the entire journey. If that's not enough, you get a spectacular view of Mt Fuji on the way. Highlights of my travels involved walking down the intense Dotonbori street in Osaka, eating Tebasaki chicken wings in Nagoya and walking the Philosophers path in Kyoto. I also got the opportunity to visit and present a seminar at Nagoya university, one of the Japanese SuperDARN institutions who maintain the radars at Hokkaido. This was also the first time I had seen SuperDARN equipment in person, albeit not attached to an antenna!

Left: Mt Fuji from the Shinkansen. Middle: Dotonbori street, Osaka. Right: A Kyoto local enjoying the Philosophers path.

Transmitter equipment for a set of SuperDARN antennas, currently living in the Nagoya university’s Institute for Space-Earth Enviroment workshop.

Arigato Nippon

Overall, I would wholly recommend a JSPS fellowship to any PhD student or post-doc who is interested in spending time in Japan. The country itself is beautiful, as well as a MIST research powerhouse. There are great opportunities to expand your future collaborations, and potentially extend your research focus to an area slightly different to what you’re used to.

Also for all those interested in the work being conducted within the SuperDARN community, the SuperDARN workshop 2019 is taking place at the base of Mt Fuji in Fujiyoshida!

 

If you have any more questions about Daniel's experience as a JSPS Short Term Fellow, then you can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Some useful links:

Information on the JSPS Short Term Fellowships can be found here.

Details on SuperDARN Japan are available here, as well as information on the SuperDARN Workshop 2019.