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Studies of the Solar Wind Charged Particle Populations


Mullard Space Science Laboratory

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Prof Christopher Owen No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

UCL/MSSL is the Principal Investigator (PI) Institute on an international consortium providing the Solar Wind Analyser suite (SWA) of instruments for the ESA Solar Orbiter mission.  Using 3 scientific sensors, SWA is able to sample electron, proton, alpha particle and heavy ion populations at various distances down to 0.28 AU from the Sun (i.e. around a quarter the distance from the Sun to the Earth) and at high solar latitudes.  In particular, UCL/MSSL has designed and built the Electron Analyser System (EAS) for the SWA suite.  SWA partners in France, Italy and the USA have provided the Heavy Ion Sensor (HIS) and Proton-Alpha Sensor (PAS) for the suite. In addition, MSSL has a major role in the EUI instrument on the spacecraft, which consists of a suite of imaging telescopes to observe the solar atmosphere. EUI will allow us to determine the global structure of the solar corona and to provide a crucial understanding of fine scale processes in the dynamic solar atmosphere. Images taken by EUI offer an indispensable link between the solar surface and the outer corona, which ultimately shapes the characteristics of the interplanetary medium sampled in situ by SWA and other instruments on Solar Orbiter.

The mission was launched on 11th Feb 2020, and is now in cruise phase ahead of a nominal mission start in late 2021. Although EUI and other remote sensing data will not be regularly taken until the nominal mission starts, SWA cruise phase data is already available, and thus represents an important new data set that could immediately support analysis within a PhD program starting in September 2021. In particular, we should aim to use cruise-phase measurements from the 3 SWA sensors to undertake studies of the nature of the solar wind particle populations and their variability. However, it is also possible to plan a PhD project which would make use, from the start of the nominal phase, of the MSSL involvement in both SWA and EUI to support studies of the Sun-solar wind connections, which represent the headline goals of the mission. In addition, it would be beneficial to undertake coordinated studies with data from other missions, such as NASA’s Parker Solar Probe.

Many potential projects fall within the scope of the mission science plan (interested students may wish to consult the draft ‘Science Activity Plan’ https://issues.cosmos.esa.int/solarorbiterwiki/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=16941385 generated by the PI’s and ESA) and so a potential tailoring to the specific background and interests of a research student are possible. The results of such projects are critical to the success of the overall ESA Solar Orbiter program, and the student will thus also be an integral part of the MSSL science and science-planning teams. There will also be opportunity to collaborate with our partners in Europe and the USA, who have provided the HIS and PAS sensors for the SWA suite and other major subsystems for EUI. This project will place the student in a good position to collaborate more generally and to find future positions e.g. within the Solar Orbiter community internationally.

Please see our website, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/mssl/study/phd-opportunities/stfc-phd-projects-2021 for more details.


Funding Notes

The deadlines for applications are 13th January 2021 for non-UK students and 29th January 2021 for UK students. For more information please see https://www.ucl.ac.uk/mssl/study/phd-opportunities
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