Magnetosphere-Ionosphere Coupling at the Outer Planets

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


Since 2016, for the first time in space history, there have been two outer planet missions operating at Jupiter (NASA Juno) and Saturn (NASA-ESA Cassini) simultaneously. The end-of-Cassini mission sequence took place on Sept 15th 2017, after the Grand Finale orbits where the spacecraft plummeted between the inner edge of the ring system and Saturn itself. From a data gathering perspective, this dramatic end of mission sequence has taken us into completely unexplored regions of the Saturn system, and we have gathered much new data from this final episode of the mission. This adds to the previous 12 years of continuous operations at Saturn, yielding a 13 year dataset which is yet to be fully exploited scientifically.
The Juno mission entered orbit at Jupiter in July 2016. The spacecraft is now in a 53 day orbit, exploring the polar regions of Jupiter's magnetosphere, providing unprecedented data from the various instruments on board. Each periapsis pass (every 53 days) provides a wealth of new information on the coupling between the magnetosphere and the ionosphere, and the dynamics of the planet's auroral emissions in the upper atmosphere.
Both missions have been supported by Leicester-led Hubble Space Telescope campaigns to study the ultra-violet auroras to complement and extend the UV/IR observations taken by both spacecraft from Jupiter and Saturn orbit.
We are the only UK group involved in the Juno mission (as Science CoIs) and have access to data during the proprietary period, e.g. we have full access to the energetic particle data from the JEDI instrument.
We have been involved in the Cassini mission since the beginning, and are CoIs on the magnetometer team and thus have a great deal of experience of working with this data set and others (e.g. plasma, radio and plasma waves, UV/IR).
In this PhD project, there will be scope to work on either the Cassini mission data and/or the Juno mission data. The student will be studying aspects of solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling at either/both planet, including data analysis of in situ spacecraft datasets and remote sensing data from the Hubble Space Telescope.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ST/S505511/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2022
2107533 Studentship ST/S505511/1 24/09/2018 31/03/2022 Aneesah Kamran