A Rolling Grant Programme of Research in Solar-Planetary Physics at the University of Leicester

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

We propose a broadly based programme of research in solar-planetary physics that focuses on the outer plasma environments of solar system bodies, including Earth, Mars, the outer gas giant planets, and comets. Specifically the programme centres on the dynamic processes that occur within these environments, namely the magnetospheres and ionospheres of these bodies, and their interaction with the interplanetary medium on the outside and with the body's neutral atmosphere on the inside. The programme will consist of observational work, data analysis and interpretation, and theory and modelling within four interactive science themes. The first consists of studies of the outer gas-giant planets Jupiter and Saturn whose environments are dominated by the effects of planetary rotation and moon gas sources, though also being modulated by the highly-variable properties of the solar wind in the outer solar system. Observations of the auroras of these planets as direct indicators of plasma dynamics within these systems will be obtained from ground-based telescopes in the infrared and from the Hubble Space Telescope in the ultraviolet, as well as from remote-sensing instruments on the Cassini spacecraft in the case of Saturn. These will be combined with studies of in situ field and plasma data obtained by Cassini at Saturn, and later by Juno at Jupiter, together with theoretical modelling, to achieve a holistic understanding of the structure and dynamics of these environments that will also inform studies of related exoplanets. The second science theme concentrates on the very different plasma environments of weakly magnetised bodies exemplified by Mars and comets, in which the solar wind interacts directly with the ionised outer atmosphere of these bodies, rather than with the magnetospheres in the case of magnetised planets. Here we plan initially to study the Martian ionosphere using radio sounding data from the Mars Express mission, focusing particularly on the interfaces between unmagnetised regions and those influenced by crustal magnetic fields. Later, emphasis will shift toward cometary environments and Rosetta measurements at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, with particular interest in wave processes and plasma cavity formation. The third and fourth themes of the programme relate to the Earth's plasma environment, as explored through space-based and ground-based techniques respectively. In this case the dynamics of the magnetosphere are dominated by the highly variable interaction with the solar wind, mediated principally through reconnection at the magnetopause. An important theme in both programmes consists of related studies of magnetospheric and ionospheric dynamics (respectively) when the interplanetary magnetic field is directed northward, to be investigated using data from the Cluster, IMAGE, THEMIS, and other spacecraft, and from the SuperDARN ionospheric radars (respectively). Specific features to be studied that indicate major dynamical processes to be at work include transpolar arcs, nightside non-substorm flow bursts, and magnetospheric mass-loading due to dual-lobe reconnection. Additional areas in the ground-based programme include studies of ULF waves, analysis of wave injection experiment data, substorm physics, and ionospheric outflows.

Publications

10 25 50

 
Description The grant supported a broad programme of research in solar-planetary physics with relevance to the outer plasma environment of the Earth and the outer giant planets, particularly Jupiter and Saturn, comprising theory, modelling, and data analysis from major space programmes such as Cluster, HST, and Cassini, and facilities such as SuperDARN. The work resulted in ~150 original refereed research publications in international research journals, reporting new information on the interaction of the solar wind with the magnetospheres and ionospheres of these planets, and the mechanisms of the auroras.
Exploitation Route The research was fully published in international journals where it can be inspected, verified, and built upon by ourselves (funded by follow-up grants) and others.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Education,Environment

 
Description Primary impact within the international science community, but also wider cultural impact through e.g. national and international media
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Education,Environment
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Boston University Imaging Science Team 
Organisation Boston University
Department Imaging Science
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Have provided observing experience, as well as inputs into Jupiter and Saturn aeronomy modelling
Collaborator Contribution Modelling of ionosphere/atmosphere of Jupiter and Saturn, as well as discussions over access to Boston University observatories. Sharing of HST images of Jupiter and Saturn in the UV
Impact Significant enhancement of both observing and modelling. One publication following on from the modelling of Jupiter's equatorward regions.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Cassini Auroral Planning Team 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Department Cassini Mission
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have been heavily involved in the planning of VIMS observations, both in providing details of the needed infrared observations from the spacecraft itself, as well as in timing the observations with ground-based support
Collaborator Contribution Our involvement in the planning team has directly resulting in having Cassini observations coincide with the timing of potential observations from Mauna Kea - using this, we have had great leverage in getting observing time at the NASA IRTF telescope, assisting greatly in our research.
Impact Outputs from this collaboration will be highly significant, once the current set of observations are complete. It will allow us to tie together ground-based and space based observations for the first time.
Start Year 2010
 
Description Cassini ELS data 
Organisation University College London
Department Mullard Space Science Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborative analysis of Cassini magnetometer and electron data
Collaborator Contribution Access to Cassini ELS electron data
Impact Multiple papers in refereed journals
 
Description Cassini MAG data 
Organisation Imperial College London
Department Department of Physics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have used the magnetometer data in combination with both VIMS and ground-based data, in order to better understand the influences on the auroral region of Saturn
Collaborator Contribution Provision of calibrated Cassini magnetic field data
Impact We have used the magnetometer data to provide context to our observations, which have helped shape the discussions of a number of our papers. We are also more directly comparing the results of our observations with MAG in an upcoming paper, the results of which we have presented at conferences.
 
Description Cassini UVIS data 
Organisation University of Colorado Boulder
Department Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP)
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have used the data in combination with the VIMS data set, the first time this has been done in detail.
Collaborator Contribution In providing access to UVIS data, we have begun a detailed study of the comparative morphologies of the UV and IR aurora. This has so far resulted in material for presentations at conferences and is currently being written up for publication.
Impact We have used the results in several presentations. In addition, the use of combined data from the Cassini mission is something that is of high priority within the Cassini community and our using these instruments is providing us with an increased profile within this international community.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Cassini VIMS data and planning 
Organisation University of Arizona
Department Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are part of the official VIMS/MAG collaboration and are leading the analysis of the VIMS data, and have also been heavily involved in planning the VIMS observations in the Cassini Solstice extended mission
Collaborator Contribution In making the VIMS dataset available, we have been able to do significant research, including a Nature paper in 2008
Impact Significant scientific advances, including a Nature paper, as well as access to the Auroral planning team and higher status within the infrared space mission community.
Start Year 2008
 
Description Cluster research at University of New Hampshire 
Organisation University of New Hampshire
Department Department of Physics
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Discussion of scientific results
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative research on solar wind-magnetosphere interactions
Impact 1 joint publication
 
Description Comparison of Saturn PPO properties (Iowa) 
Organisation University of Iowa
Department Department of Physics and Astronomy
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provision of planetary period oscillation phases determined from Cassini magnetic field data
Collaborator Contribution Use of phases to analyse radio wave data
Impact Work in progress
Start Year 2013
 
Description Dipolarisations in Saturn's plasma sheet 
Organisation University College London
Department Department of Physics & Astronomy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provision of theory relevant to analysis of Cassini magnetic field data
Collaborator Contribution Analysis of Saturn magnetic field data using theory supplied to determine the magnitude of field-aligned currents and resulting auroras
Impact One research paper published in a peer-reviewed journal
Start Year 2009
 
Description Exploring the upper stratosphere of Saturn 
Organisation Kyunghee University
Country Korea, Republic of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have provided an analysis of VIMS observations, identifying and describing the methane fluorescence from the upper stratosphere.
Collaborator Contribution They have provided detailed high-resolution spectral measurement, allowing us to identify specific methane emissions within the stratosphere. The have also collaborated with proposed observations, adding significant adacemic weight to the observation request.
Impact Jointly, we are currently working on research that could potentially result in a number of publications, both looking at altitudinal profiles of temperature, and the neutral winds in the upper stratosphere.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Gemini support staff: planetary observations 
Organisation Gemini Observatory
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Authorship of H3+ publications, particularly of Uranus.
Collaborator Contribution As support observer on Uranus observations, Tom Geballe's expertise greatly improve the observations. Also significant input in writing papers.
Impact Several papers, in particular the Uranus publications.
 
Description Ground-based observations and HIRIMS l'Observatoire de Paris 
Organisation Observatory of Paris
Department Laboratory for Space Science and Astrophysical Instrumentation
Country France 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have used observations made by this collaborator in our long term study of Uranus. We are also Co-I status on their proposed JUICE instrument HIRIMS, which remains under negotiation for inclusion into the selected instrument MAJIS.
Collaborator Contribution The provision of observational data of Uranus. PI leadership on instrument proposal.
Impact Our paper on the long-term variability of Uranus.
 
Description Ground-based observations at University of Texas 
Organisation University of Texas
Department Department of Astronomy
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have used observations made by this collaborator in our long term study of Uranus.
Collaborator Contribution We have made a significant number of observations and proposals together, allowing a combined access to observations of Saturn and in particular Uranus.
Impact Our paper on the long-term variability of Uranus, as well as significant observing proposals and observations.
 
Description IAPS/INAF-Rome 
Organisation International Association for the Philosophy of Sport (IAPS)
Country Italy 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Provided ground-based support observations for the JIRAM team, allowing calibration of that instrument using our data as a guide
Collaborator Contribution Have provided significant discussions for both future planning of the observations of JIRAM, and for past observations on Cassini and Galileo
Impact Safeguarded our publications from being trumped by IAPS publications
Start Year 2010
 
Description Imperial ionospheric modelling 
Organisation Imperial College London
Department Department of Physics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have provided important input for the Saturn models developed at Imperial, providing essential information about the ionosphere in the 50-70 latitude region - away from both Cassini equatorial occultation measurements and auroral values previously published.
Collaborator Contribution We have worked with the ionospheric and atmospheric modelling group at Imperial on an informal basis, in order to better understand our observations in the broader context - this context has been useful for writing several papers. We are now in the process of directly collaborating on a number of projects, comparing ionospheric models with direct measurements on both a narrow and wide planetary scale.
Impact Our collaboration has helped in indirect ways in the past, but, partly through the ISSI Team Galand meetings, we have begun directly calibrating both our Cassini and ground-based work. We envisage this resulting in publications in the next 12-18 months.
 
Description Ion Outflows 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Department Goddard Space Flight Center
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Providing ground based radar data to complement conjugate spacecraft measurements of ion outflows and to validate a major model describing outflows
Collaborator Contribution Intellectual input
Impact The submission of an associated proposal to the National Science Foundation, USA, naming this group as a collaborator
Start Year 2010
 
Description Ion Outflows 
Organisation University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Department Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP)
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Providing ground based radar data to complement conjugate spacecraft measurements of ion outflows and to validate a major model describing outflows
Collaborator Contribution Intellectual input
Impact The submission of an associated proposal to the National Science Foundation, USA, naming this group as a collaborator
Start Year 2010
 
Description Mars Upper Atmosphere Network 
Organisation Uppsala University
Department Department of Physics and Astronomy
Country Sweden 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The Mars Upper Atmosphere Network (MUAN) brings together research groups fropm around teh world interested in upper atmosphere research at Mars. The group is led by Uppsala and Leicester.
Collaborator Contribution Other groups bring data analysis and mdoelling skills to MUAN to complement those existing at Leicester and Uppsala.
Impact Research Papers Campaigns with Mars Express Formation and Leadership of ISSI team
Start Year 2009
 
Description Planetary Atmospheric Physics Lab, Tohoku Univeristy 
Organisation Tohoku University
Department Planetary Atmospheric Physics Lab
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are currently collaborating on observations of Jupiter's auroral region. I have successfully been awarded a number of collaborative observing proposals with Tohoku as collaborating co-i's.
Collaborator Contribution We have been included on a number of observing proposals made to Subaru and IRTF. We are also working with TOhoku in the upcoming EXCEED mission, which will look at the UV aurora.
Impact Our observation proposals have been strengthened by the collaboration, and we will have access to the EXCEED dataset.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Planetary period oscillations of Saturn's magnetodisk 
Organisation Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA)
Department Institute for Particle and Nuclear Physics
Country Hungary 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Contribution of ideas concerning prediction of Saturn's magnetodisk location and provision of planetary period phase data obtained by analysis of Cassini magnetic field data
Collaborator Contribution Analysis of Cassini plasma ion data using the ideas and phase data supplied by us
Impact One joint research paper (so far)
Start Year 2012
 
Description Prediction of solar wind properties at Saturn 
Organisation University of Michigan
Department Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Analysis of HST and Cassini data with reference to predicted solar wind properties
Collaborator Contribution Provision of predicted solar wind properties at Saturn using near-Earth data and an MHD code
Impact Several joint research publications have resulted from this collaboration
Start Year 2008
 
Description Pulsation magnetometer studies 
Organisation Augsburg College
Department Department of Physics
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Data analysis, data provision
Collaborator Contribution Data analysis, data provision
Impact Publications in international refereed journals
Start Year 2008
 
Description RAL collaboration on STEREO studies 
Organisation Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Data analysis and paper writing
Collaborator Contribution Heliospheric Imager instrument expertise and data
Impact Three research papers
Start Year 2009
 
Description Saturn planetary period oscillations (Meudon) 
Organisation Observatory of Paris
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Comparison of planetary period oscillation phases determined from Cassini magnetometer data and radio wave data
Collaborator Contribution Ditto
Impact Multiple joint publications in refereed journals
 
Description Space Science and Engineering Center, U. of Wisconsin-Madison 
Organisation University of Wisconsin-Madison
Department Space Science and Engineering Center
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Working actively with Kevin Baines, having written a number of successful Keck proposals with him as PI, have co-observed these proposals with him. Have also started co-editing a Saturn book with him. Collaborated on VIMS observations.
Collaborator Contribution Strongly supported our Cassini ground-based support programme. Helped promote both our ground-based observations and VIMS work.
Impact Three years of successful Keck observations, ultimately leading to 1 Nature paper, 1 other publications with 2 more papers already written. VIMS association contributed to 1 more Nature paper and numerous other publications.
Start Year 2007
 
Description St. Petersburg active experiments 
Organisation Saint Petersburg State University
Department Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI)
Country Russian Federation 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution provision of data, data analysis
Collaborator Contribution running of experiments, analysis of data
Impact Papers published in international refereed journals
 
Description Super Dual Auroral Radar Network 
Organisation Johns Hopkins University
Department Applied Physics Laboratory (APL)
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The continued operations of the two CUTLASS radars enabled the RSPP group to maintain its collaborations within the Super Dual Auroral radar Network. This network involves institutes from Australia, Canada, China, Finland, Italy, Japan, Sweden, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States of America. Note that there is insufficient time to go into detail for all of the releveant collaborations involved in this project.
Collaborator Contribution Through contributions of radar data plus effort on software development.
Impact Publications Funding to build new radars for groups in China and Japan Start of contract to build a new radar for group in Russia
Start Year 2006
 
Description UCL observation team 
Organisation University College London
Department Department of Physics & Astronomy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution In collaborating on both the observation, reduction, analysis and scientific output from our combined research, we have made significant advances that would not have been possible by one individual team. We have worked on the majority of the observations, from inception to completion, including reduction and have shared in the analysis of this data.
Collaborator Contribution Observations to major telescopes have been co-written with astronomers at UCL, providing a joint research depth that has significantly improved our observational outcomes.
Impact We have produce a significant amount of work using ground-based observations, some still in analysis, and have produced papers studying Saturn, Uranus and Neptune based on observations that come from this collaboration. In particular, the Uranus paper was produced using observations covering 16 years of observations, many made by the UCL team.
 
Description ULF wave modelling 
Organisation Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics Irkutsk
Country Russian Federation 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution provision of data, data analysis
Collaborator Contribution modelling of ULF wave fields
Impact Papers published in international refereed journals
Start Year 2007
 
Description University of Liege UV auroral image data 
Organisation University of Liege
Department Department of Astrophysics, Geophysics and Oceanography
Country Belgium 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Joint investigations of UV images of Saturn's auroras using HST and Cassini UVIS data
Collaborator Contribution Ditto
Impact Numerous joint publications in peer-reviewed journals
 
Description VIMS analysis at JAXA 
Organisation Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency
Department Institute of Space and Astronautical Science
Country Japan 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have provided reduced and cleaned data to the collaborators and have discussed the data and analysis in detail
Collaborator Contribution We have worked together on analysing the results of the VIMS instrument
Impact We have one paper published and a number of others in the process of begin completed and have worked together in discussions with the VIMS team.
Start Year 2010
 
Description Live broadcasts from the summit of Mauna Kea 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Providing a streaming webcam from the summit of Mauna Kea. At times this was directed towards a particular group and at others, we fielded questions from the general public. We made the first ever web boradcast from the summit to the Mauna Kea Visitor's Center, fielding questions from a crowd of 40 people, the first time this had ever been done.

While this is a relatively new activity, we are looking into how we can expand it's influence. However, within days of the first Mauna Kea Visitor Center broadcast, we have heard that the Keck telescope is considering doing a similar broadcast once a month. This suggests we are at the vanguard of a much wider opening up of observation at the summit to the public, directly driven by this first ever attempt.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013
 
Description Planeterrella 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact To date the planeterrella has appeared at an Institute of Physics Plasma Physics outreach workshop attended by school children

There is a plan to display the planeterrella at the National Space Centre, which receives an estimated 200,000 visitors annually
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Presentations to the Mauna Kea Visitor's Center 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact During periods when observing second half nights or on acclimatisation nights at Mauna Kea, I visit the Mauna Kea Visitor's Center and give presentations on the life of an astronomer, as well as answering questions one-to-one during the star tours. Numbers vary between 20-60 a night and are generally a captive audience, since they have travelled to Mauna Kea to view the stars.

Many people have not realised the importance of UK astronomy on the global scale - this is a great way to showcase our science to an audience who are actively interested in astronomy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2010,2011,2012,2013
 
Description Stargazing Live - talk and vote 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk on life in the universe, including a live vote on the factors on the Drake equation. This was followed by an extended question session with significant engagement from the audience.

The talk and voting system took considerable work to set up. We hope to reuse this with less effort in the future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013