Master theses projects & shorter student projects

Below are topics available for Master’s thesis projects and shorter student projects at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF).


 

Available projects - Space plasma physics (Uppsala)

High fluxes of suprathermal electrons in the Earth magnetotail

Study the source regions of high energy suprathermal electrons in the Earth magnetotail using ESA Cluster satellite observations during 12 years of its mission.

Background

Cluster consists of 4 spacecraft with orbit apogee at 19 Earth radii. Since 2001 Cluster has collected large database of Earth magnetotail observations under different conditions (different phases of solar cycle, different solar wind conditions, different stages of reconnection, etc.).

This allows to address statistically many important science topics where previously mainly event based studies have been carried out. Cluster spacecraft allow the most detailed 3D in situ observations of plasma that are accessible experimentally and the obtained knowledge can be of importance not only understanding Earth magnetosphere but even understanding such physically very distant phenomena as solar flares.

Project

One topic of very high importance is the suprathermal (energies manyfold larger than thermal energies) electron acceleration in the Earth magnetotail. For example, much of our knowledge on distance solar flares, is based on X-ray emissions generated by similar suprathermal electrons in the Suns corona.

The suprathermal electrons can be observed in situ in the Earth magnetotail and are believed to be created due to magnetic reconnection and associated physical processes. There have been detailed event studies of such suprathermal electron acceleration within magnetic islands of tail current sheet during magnetic reconnection, or magnetic flux pile up regions created due to reconnection jets.

Numerical simulations have suggested different possible acceleration mechanisms. However, statistically it has not been resolved what is the most efficient mechanism generating these electrons in the Earth magnetotail.

The large database of Cluster would allow to address this question. The goal of the project would be to identify all Cluster events where suprathermal electrons show localized high fluxes, thus suggesting that Cluster is passing through the electron generation region, and classify these regions based on the properties of the magnetic field and plasma. For example, are these regions in the center of current sheet, at the front of magnetic pile up regions, within magnetic islands etc.

Plan

Week Task
1 Basic understanding of Eart magnetosphere and magnetotail
2 Basic understanding of Cluster, Cluster instrument and Cluster Active Archive
3 Test routines of analyzing large databases of Cluster data
4-5 First test runs of analyzing some events with high suprathermal electron fluxes
6-7 First test runs of generating event database
8-9 Critical review of first results, initial classification attempt
10 Start report writing
11-13 Regeneration of the final event databse for the project
14-16 Classification and typical example deeper analysis
17-18 Report writing
19 Reserve
20 Report presentation

Contact person: Yuri Khotyintsev, yuri@irfu.se


Timing analysis using multi-spacecraft data

To develop a better method to estimate velocities using multi-spacecraft data and apply it study the distribution of scales and orientations of current sheets for the current sheets observed in the Earth’s magnetosheath.

Background

Estimating scales and speeds of plasma structures is crucial for understanding of many plasma phenomena. One such plasma structure are the current sheets forming in different parts of the magnetosphere as magnetotail, magnetopause, turbulent magnetosheath and knowledge of their scale, speed and orientation from observations is important for comparisons with theories of magnetic reconnection and plasma turbulence. For true quantitative comparisons one needs to have full control of the uncertainties.

Based on data from one spacecraft, it is generally not possible decide whether an observed variation is coming from temporal or spatial changes. To resolve this ambiguity, ESA launched a multi-spacecraft Cluster mission, which consists of 4 spacecraft flying in a constellation with orbit apogee at 19 Earth radii. So, if 4 spacecraft (located in corners of a tetrahedron) observe the same plasma structure, we can assume the structure is planar and moving at a constant speed and it straightforward to compute the velocity of the structure. But what if the observed profiles are similar and not identical? How can we quantify the error?

Project

In this project we will extend the existing methods for timing analysis of multi-spacecraft to provide quantitative estimates of the error for the both the magnitude and direction of the velocity vector.

We will test the method on surrogate data wich can simulate background noise and accelerated motion of current sheets, but also on several cases of real current sheet observed by Cluster.

As the last part of the project we will apply the method to a large number of small-scale current sheets observed in magnetosheath.

The method developed will have important implication for analysis of multi-spacecraft data from the Cluster mission as well as from the future NASA MMS mission.

Plan

Week Task
1 Basic understanding of Eart magnetosphere and magnetotail
2 Basic understanding of Cluster, Cluster instrument and Cluster Active Archive
3 Test routines of multi-spacecraft timing analysis of Cluster data
4-5 Define ways to improve the timing estimates
6-7 Generate surrogate data and test the improvements on it
8-9 Critical review of first results
10 Start report writing
11-13 Update the method and retest
14-16 Apply the method to magnetosheath current sheets
17-18 Report writing
19 Reserve
20 Report presentation

Contact person: Yuri Khotyintsev, yuri@irfu.se


 

Available projects - Solar system physics and space technology (Kiruna)

Impact of Stormy Space Weather on Venus

Venus’ lack of an intrinsic magnetic field creates a close interaction with the dynamic solar wind plasma. In particular, corotating interaction regions (CIRs) or interplanetary coronal mass ejections (ICMEs) enhance the erosion of the atmosphere by up to orders of magnitude [1].

It is therefore important to identify times when such energetic events impact the planet.

In this project we will construct a database of such events using Venus Express (VEX) data during solar minimum (2006-2010) and maximum (2010-2014). A preliminary yet non-exhaustive list of impacts during solar minimum serves as a starting point for the development of a methodology for identifying these energetic events.

Project tasks include:

  • Learning about the physics of induced magnetospheres, atmospheric escape, and other relevant plasma phenomena at unmagnetized planets
  • Familiarizing oneself with the VEX mission, particularly the Ion Mass Analyser (IMA) and Magnetometer (MAG) instruments and data sets
  • Writing code (in Python) to search through VEX’s data sets for CIR and ICME impacts (with the help of data from solar wind monitors like ACE)
  • Verifying the methodology’s results using the preliminary list of events
  • Characterizing the CIRs and ICMEs across the solar cycle (duration, strength, etc.)
  • Presenting the project’s motivation, methodology, and results in written and oral forms

Relevant literature:

  1. Edberg, N. J. T., et al. (2011), Atmospheric erosion of Venus during stormy space weather, J. Geophys. Res., 116, A09308, doi:10.1029/2011JA016749.

Contact person:
Sebastián Rojas Mata, sebastianrm@irf.se

Published in November 2022


Ion drift meter instrument design & prototype development

The ion drift meter is a space instrument that measures the 3-D ion drift velocity in the ionosphere. The working principle is straightforward: The ion currents coming through an aperture will be measured by multiply-segmented planer electrodes, the ratios of which provide the impinging direction of the bulk ion. With the help of spacecraft/rocket orbital motion, we can derive the ion bulk velocity.

The bulk ion drift velocity is a key parameter for understanding the ionosphere–thermosphere coupling in the upper atmosphere, where the momentum exchange between space and the atmosphere occurs.

The IRF/SSPT group will design, develop and implement IDM instruments for possible future missions, including terrestrial rocket missions and low-altitude spacecraft.

In addition to the Earth-based measurements, we aim to deploy Earth-like planetary ionospheres (e.g., Mars and Venus), outer planetary system, and interplanetary/interstellar probes. In this project, we will design an IDM instrument and develop a prototype.

The prototype will be tested and verified in a vacuum chamber. We also aim to operate the prototype in the real environment, possibly with a rocket experiment or small satellite (e.g., CubeSat).

The project includes a part of the following tasks:

  • Theoretical performance assessment
  • Performance analysis by computer simulation (possibly with GPU programming)
  • Mechanical design
  • Electrical design (incl. power system, frontend electronics, analog processing, etc.)
  • Testing and verification in the lab

Contact persons:
Yoshifumi Futaana, futaana@irf.se
Manabu Shimoyama, manabu@irf.se
Stas Barabash, stas@irf.se

Published in May 2022


 

Available projects - Solar terrestrial and atmospheric research (Kiruna)

Simulation of scattering characteristics of Polar Stratospheric Clouds

Simulating lidar signals is important for various kind of sensitivity studies In order to simulate realistic signals from PSCs scattering characteristics for various types of PSCs are required.

It is possible to calculate such characteristics based on measured size distributions and assumptions about particle shape.

Tasks:

  • Find information about measured size distributions and particle shapes from available literature.
  • Implement a loop over a given size distribution in an available programme to calculate Mueller matrix and phase function for a single particle using the T-matrix approach.
  • Calculate scattering characteristics for various size distributions and particle shape approximations.
  • Evaluate the sensitivity of scattering characteristics to various parameters of the size distribution.

Prerequisites:

  • Basic knowledge of a programming language; the code will be mostly in Fortran.
  • Some knowledge of physical processes in the atmosphere.

Contact person: Peter Voelger, peter.voelger@irf.se

Published in March 2020


 

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Last modified by Annelie Klint Nilsson at