Physics and Astronomy Highlights

On January 23, 2012 by Grad Forum

In October, Julie Skinner (supervisor, John Thorstensen) made a trip to MDM Observatory on Kitt Peak in Arizona to collect data  for her research. She makes three to four trips per year to study the population of cataclysmic variable stars in our galaxy—the basis of her research thesis.

Thiago Brito and Zhao Li, both fourth year PhD students (supervisor, Mary Hudson), are coauthors on a paper submitted to J. Atmospheric and Terrestrial Physics in September. They presented posters at the National Science Foundation Geospace Environment Modeling workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico in June , and so did third year PhD student Shuo Wu, who is working with Richard Denton on ‘whistler wave’ (interactions with radiation belt electrons). They also gave talks at the Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling’s (CISM) All Hands Meeting, in Jackson, Wyoming in September. They will present posters on their respective research at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in San Francisco in December.

Thiago and Zhao are working with Mary Hudson on the study of the Van Allen radiation belts, which will be the focus of the upcoming NASA Radiation Belt Storm Probes satellites, scheduled to be launched next August. They receive support for their research from this program as well as the NSF CISM project, which will be entering itstenth year next August. To celebrate the decade of CISM research, the annual CISM All Hands Meeting was held at the beautiful Jackson Lake Lodge, with the Grand Tetons as backdrop. Grad students Thiago, Zhao and Shuo went hiking and rafting during breaks in the meeting.

Second year PhD student Miles Engel spent the summer at Los Alamos National Laboratory participating in the Los Alamos Space Weather Summer School, where he won the LANL Space Weather Summer School’s best research project award. This prize is sponsoring his presentation of that research at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco in December. He also experienced the evacuation of Los Alamos during the June wildfire and spent a few unanticipated days in Albuquerque. Miles is continuing his research on solar energetic proton access to the near earth space environment, an important space weather hazard as we approach a new maximum in the eleven year cycle of solar activity in 2013.

On the experimental side of space physics, this winter our Department will be focusing on both ends of the Earth. Matt Broughton (supervisor, Jim LaBelle) will spend a week at South Pole Station, and Phil Fernandes (supervisor, Kristina Lynch) will spend a month at Poker Flat Research Range, Alaska, for the MICA sounding rocket launch. Matt’s task this winter will be to raise antennas at the South Pole. The region is technically a desert, but there is enough blowing snow to bury an antenna in a few years if they aren’t raised.  In addition, Lisa Gayetsky (supervisor, Kristina Lynch) will be a participant in an International Space Studies Institute (ISSI, Bern, Switzerland) workshop on spacecraft sheath studies and modeling.

by Kristina Lynch

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