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Ultra-low frequency waves in the terrestrial magnetosphere (GEO/2020/YEO2)

Project Description

Magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) waves are a ubiquitous phenomenon in astrophysical plasmas. Within the Terrestrial space environment, such waves manifest themselves as Ultra low frequency (ULF) waves with periods ranging from tens to thousands of seconds. Such waves are a major conduit of energy and momentum in the dynamic interaction between the solar wind and the interplanetary magnetic field and the terrestrial space environment. As such they are of intrinsic scientific interest, but also of societal and commercial importance as they form an important part of the space weather processes which impact on, for example, space hardware and communications systems.

Recent ULF wave research at Leicester has used in-situ spacecraft data to directly map the plasma mass density in the terrestrial magnetosphere. This density, along with the magnetic field strength, determines the wave propagation speed (Alfven velocity), and hence the standing wave frequencies.

This project will explore its implications for the frequency, propagation and characteristics of ULF waves. We have also developed analysis techniques to use ground-based measurements of the wave frequency to remote sense these plasma mass distributions (so-called magnetoseismology).

This project will use these techniques to provide a comprehensive dataset characterising the plasma distributions and ULF wave fields in the terrestrial magnetosphere, and will also exploit spacecraft measurements of the energetic particle populations in the Earth’s radiation belt regions, which are known to provide both sources and sinks of wave energy.

The project will provide an extensive analysis of ULF wave data to relate the observed wave modes with the geomagnetic conditions. Subsequent investigations will compare the wave characteristics with spacecraft measurements of the energetic particle populations which can excite them, using, for instance data from the twin spacecraft of the NASA van Allen probes mission and from the JAXA ARASE spacecraft. The project will provide a wide variety of research skills to enable a successful future career in space science and a wide variety of other areas.

Entry Requirements

UK Bachelor Degree with at least 2:1 in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent.

The University of Leicester English language requirements apply.

Home/EU students only subject to residency requirements.

Application Instructions

When applying, please ensure we have received all of the following required documents by Wednesday 29th January 2020:

• Submit an online application form
• 2 academic references
• STFC Research Interests Form
• CV
• Undergraduate transcripts
- If you have completed your undergraduate degree, we will also require your undergraduate degree certificate
- If you have completed a postgraduate degree, we will also require your transcripts and degree certificate

If we do not have the required documents by the closing date, your application may not be considered for the studentship.

Interview Dates

26th February 2020 – In person
27th February 2020 – Skype only
28th February 2020 – Skype only
2nd March 2020 – Skype only
3rd March 2020 – Skype only
4th March 2020 – In person

Funding Notes

Funding Source: STFC Quota Studentship

3.5 year Studentship provides a tuition fee waiver at UK/EU rates, stipend at UKRI rates and RTSG.


1. Wharton, S. J., Wright, D. M.,Yeoman, T. K., James, M. K., & Sandhu, J. K. (2018). Cross-phase determination of ultralow frequency wave harmonic frequencies and their associated plasma mass density distributions. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 123, 6231–6250.

2. Sandhu, J. K., Yeoman, T. K., James, M. K., Rae, I. J., & Fear, R. C. (2018). Variations of high-latitude geomagnetic pulsation frequencies: A comparison of time-of-flight estimates and IMAGE magnetometer observations. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 123, 567–586.

3. Sandhu, J. K., T. K. Yeoman, R. C. Fear, and I. Dandouras (2016), A statistical study of magnetospheric electron density using the Cluster spacecraft, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 121, 11,042–11,062, doi:10.1002/2016JA023397.

4. James, M. K., T. K. Yeoman, P. N. Mager, and D. Y. Klimushkin (2016), Multiradar observations of substorm-driven ULF waves, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 121, doi:10.1002/2015JA022102.

5. Wharton, S. J., Wright, D. M., Yeoman, T. K., James, M. K., & Sandhu, J. K. (2019). The variation of resonating magnetospheric field lines with changing geomagnetic and solar wind conditions. J. Geophys. Res.,

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