The aim of this course is to explore the physical processes which occur in the space environment. Theories of solar wind propagation and its interaction with the earth are developed and compared with data from satellites and ground based observatories.
The course will provide a brief revision of key elements of electromagnetic theory. Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) will be developed and applied, with application of kinetic theory to areas where MHD breaks down.
The reasons why space plasma physics is important for modern day life will be discussed. The magnetospheres of other planets will be compared to Earth’s.
Pre-requisites: PHYS1013 AND PHYS2001 AND PHYS2006
Aims and Objectives
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:
- Apply fluid theory to large scale plasmas
- Calculate fundamental properties of a plasma given appropriate information
- Interpret geomagnetic field measurements in terms of currents flowing in Earth's ionosphere and magnetosphere
- Describe the phases and features of magnetic storms and substorms, and their causes
- Use kinetic theory to explain the motions of charged particles in the ionosphere and near-Earth space
- Explain the main consequences of magnetic reconnection for Earth's magnetosphere
- Apply basic electromagnetism to derive the kinetic theory of plasmas
- Explain how particle collisions produce Hall and Pedersen currents in the ionosphere
Knowledge and Understanding
Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:
- Theories of solar wind propagation and its interaction with the Earth
- The complementary nature of kinetic and fluid descriptions in the treatment of space plasmas
- Earth’s space environment in relation to that of other planets
- Have an introduction to current key research in space plasma physics
- Magnetospheric dynamics including geomagnetic storms and substorms, and disturbances in the near-Earth space environment
- Charged particle motion in magnetic fields, including the Earth's dipole field
- Overview: the solar atmosphere, solar wind and interactions with planetary bodies
- The fluid theory of plasmas, frozen-in theorem (use example of Parker spiral of interplanetary magnetic field)
- The shape of the Earth's magnetosphere: the balance of thermal, dynamic and magnetic pressures
- Magnetic reconnection and how it dominates energy flow in the magnetosphere
- Convection and substorm phenomena
- Coronal mass ejections and geomagnetic storms
- Ionosphere and plasmasphere
- Trapped particles, ring current and radiation belts
- Effects of terrestrial disturbance: satellite health and safety, satellite orbit prediction, disruption to communication, navigation, radar systems and power distribution networks
- Applications in fusion research and astrophysics
Learning and Teaching
|Wider reading or practice||61|
|Completion of assessment task||7|
|Preparation for scheduled sessions||18|
|Total study time||150|
Resources & Reading list
W Baumjohann & R A Treumann. Basic Space Plasma Physics. Imperial College Press.
M G Kivelson & C T Russell. An Introduction to Space Physics. CUP.
J D Haigh, M Lockwood, and MS Giampaper. The Sun, Climate and Solar Analogues. Springer.
Thomas E. Cravens. Physics of Solar Systems Plasmas. CUP.
Groupwork examples will be marked in the sessions. Each of the five will contribute 2% to the final mark.
This is how we’ll formally assess what you have learned in this module.
This is how we’ll assess you if you don’t meet the criteria to pass this module.
An internal repeat is where you take all of your modules again, including any you passed. An external repeat is where you only re-take the modules you failed.
Repeat type: Internal & External