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The Hidden Aurora of Uranus

Project Description

Until recently, the last time we’d ever observed the aurora of Uranus was during the Voyager flyby in 1986. This revealed a complex auroral emission, produced by the equally complex and strangely configured magnetic field of the planet. Recently, colleagues of ours made the first detection of Uranus aurora from Earth, using the Hubble Space Telescope, showing strange bright auroral flashes of emission. Over the past two decades, we have been monitoring the upper atmosphere and ionosphere of Uranus, in order to measure the effects the aurora has in heating the atmosphere in a broad sense, but observing the infrared aurora directly has proven difficult. In the past few years, however, we have seen significant improvements in infrared instrumentation of ground-based telescopes, and have, in data so recent it is not yet published, directly identified an infrared aurora at Uranus for the first time.

In this PhD, we will utilise data already taken of Uranus from a number of telescopes including Keck, IRTF and VLT, in order to properly identify and describe infrared auroral emission at Uranus, as well as understanding the effects this has on the upper atmosphere. However, a core component of the PhD will be to use plan and take new observations of Uranus. This may involve travel to Mauna Kea, Hawaii, to utilise one of the observatories there.

Funding Notes

This project is eligible for a fully funded STFC studentship which includes :
· A full UK/EU fee waiver for 3.5 years
· An annual tax free stipend of £14,777 (2018/19)
· Research Training Support Grant (RTSG)
· Conference Fees & UK Fieldwork

Studentships are available to UK/EU applicants who meet the STFC Residency Criteria; if you have been ordinarily resident in the UK for three years you will normally be entitled to apply for a full studentship.


Jovian-like aurorae on Saturn :
Temperature changes and energy inputs in giant planet atmospheres: what we are learning from H3+ :

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