Research methodologies

Our research combines the use of spaceborne and groundbased observations with large-scale numerical simulations of the space environment. 

The spaceborne observations come mostly from NASA missions: The THEMIS 5-satellite constellation mission provides observations of the geospace at distances from about 60,000 km (10 Re) out to the Lunar orbit. The mission is set to study the instabilities related to space weather disturbances such as substorms. The MMS  mission with its four closely spaced craft focuses on plasma microphysics, especially the physics of magnetic reconnection. These and other satellites are used to trace the dynamics of plasmas and electromagnetic fields under the forcing of the impinging solar wind.

The ground-based magnetic measurements, for example from the SuperMAG chain,  the SuperDARN radar network, and auroral all-sky images from Canada or Scandinavia are used to record the ionospheric currents and electrodynamic processes, which couple to the magnetospheric dynamics.

The Heliophysics System Observatory (credit NASA)
NASA Heliophysics System Observatory showing all missions operative and in planning (image credit NASA)

We use the University of Michigan Space Weather Modeling Framework (SWMF) to study the dynamical processes in the near-Earth space, and especially the energy transfer from the solar wind into the magnetosphere and ionosphere. Comparisons of the model results with spacecraft measurements on one hand tell us how well the model is performing, and on the other hand can reveal processes that are not yet included in the large-scale models.

SWMF magnetosphere (credit Austin Brenner)
An illustration of the electric currents and magnetic field lines from the SWMF simulation (image credit Austin Brenner).