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Space Plasma Physics : Magnetospheres. Main task Space plasma physics with emphasis on magnetospheres or planetary wakes Based on data analysis preferentially from missions flying IWF instruments: e.g., Cluster, THEMIS, VEX Main research topics Space plasma processes

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space plasma physics magnetospheres
Space Plasma Physics: Magnetospheres

Main task

    • Space plasma physics with emphasis on magnetospheres or planetary wakes
    • Based on data analysis preferentially from missions flying IWF instruments: e.g., Cluster, THEMIS, VEX

Main research topics

  • Space plasma processes
    • Current sheet, reconnection, waves, ballooning instability
  • Dynamics of magnetosphere and SW-M-I coupling processes
    • Plasma jets and their interaction with ambient fields
    • Comparative magnetospheres

Refereed publications (since Jan 2013)

    • Total: 51 (first author: 14)

Educational activities (since Jan 2013)

    • Master thesis: 1
    • Lecturing at University of Graz, teaching at Graz University of Technology and Fachhochschule Wiener Neustadt für Wirtschaft und Technik


who are we
Who are we?
  • Lead: R. Nakamura


    • Staff: M. Andriopoulou, M. Delva, E. Panov, F. Plaschke, M. Volwerk, T. Zhang, (S. Kiehas, D. Korovinsky, W. Teh left) (Collab. staff: P. Boakes, M. Khodachenko, C. Möstl, Y. Sasunov, Z. Vörös)
    • Students: PhD: A. Alexandrova, D. Schmid; Master: R. Teubenbacher

Cooperation within IWF

    • Plasma turbulence, Cluster analysis (Narita et al.)
    • Instrument/Mission plan for MMS, BepiColombo, JUICE (Jeszenszky/Magnes/Steller et al.)
    • Cometary science with Rosetta (Kömle et al.)
    • Research plan for solar system space weather (Lammer et al.)

Key international collaboration

  • China: CAS; Germany: TU Braunschweig; Japan: JAXA, Tokyo Inst. Tech.; Russia: St. Petersburg Univ., IKI/RAS;USA: UCLA, UNH


space plasma laboratories
Space Plasma Laboratories

Earth’s magnetosphere

  • Dynamics of current sheets
  • Plasma jet interaction with ambient fields
  • Kinetic processes in reconnection region and thin current sheet
  • Ionospheric responses

Plasma environment at Venus, Mars & Comet

  • Ion pick-up, low frequency waves,magnetosheath turbulence
  • Induced magnetosphere, “magnetotail”, flux ropes

Comparison with model & simulations

  • Reconnection, current sheet models
  • Instabilities: Kelvin-Helmholtz, interchange, double-gradient






plasma jet structures
Plasma Jet Structures
  • High-speed (super-Alfvénic/magneto-sonic) jets in the subsolar magneto-sheath impact Earth’s magnetopause with higher pressure  ionospheric effects expected
  • Magnetic field structures associated with different types of high-speed flow events are obtained using different analysis methods
  • (Plaschke et al., 2013)

(Kiehas et al., 2013)

(Teh et al., 2013)

  • Localized plasma jets play significant roles in magnetosphere dynamics


near earth magnetotail current sheet
Near-Earth Magnetotail Current Sheet
  • Change in normal component (Bz) of current sheet around substorm onset
  •  More in POSTER (E. Panov)
  • Dipolarization front & flow bouncing:
  • Multiple fronts with different scales before flow-bouncing
  • (Nakamura et al., 2013)
  • Oscillatory flow braking:
  • Observed profile recovered in MHD models  more in Poster (Panov)
  • (Petrukovich et al., 2013)
  • Near-Earth current sheet disturbances are multi-scale in time and space


cometary plasma physics
Cometary Plasma Physics
  • August 2014: arrival of Rosetta at 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
  • Plasma physics with RPC: Rosetta Plasma Consortium
  • Preparation study for detecting cometary plasma processes:
    • For different outgassing rates amplitude of water-group ion cyclotron (IC) waves in the undisturbed solar wind
    • Minimum level for detecting IC waves is examined using Pioneer 10 near Jupiter
    • Giotto flyby at 27P/Grigg–Skjellerup is used to estimate occurrence of IC waves

0.1 nT amplitude

Lower limit from SW

  • (Volwerk et al., 2013)
  • Cyclotron waves during Rosetta approach phase will provide indication of the outgassing rate of the comet


preparation for electron scale studies
Preparation for Electron-Scale Studies
  • Electron physics are main target in Magnetospheric Multi-Scale (MMS)
  • Magnetotail reconnection region with Cluster: highly structured, small normal component
  • New method developed to determine spin-axis offset from electron drift instrument (EDI) and applied to Cluster data

 Magnetic fieldmeasurementaccuracy of 0.1nTduring entire orbit achieved

  • (Wang et al., 2014)
  • Highly structured current sheet near X-line (reconnection region)
  • Accuracy of 0.1 nT at MMS  X-line structures can be determined within few 10s km resolution in magnetotail


future plans 2015 2018
Future Plans: 2015-2018

Space plasma laboratory, Multi-scale approach (MMS, THEMIS, Cluster):

  • Thin current sheets: reconnection instabilities in near-Earth tail and magnetopause
  • Plasma jets and their interaction with ambient plasma in the magnetotail and in the magnetosheath
  • Comparison with model/theory

Comprehensive research of induced “magnetospheres”at 67P/C-G, Mars, Venus(Rosetta, MAVEN, VEX):

  • Ion-pickup, mirror-mode waves, bow shock, diamagnetic cavity, current sheets
  • Dusty and partially-ionized plasmas in current sheets

Planetary Space Weather (Cluster, THEMIS, MMS, RBSP, SWARM, STEREO, VEX, MEX, Cassini):

  • Responses to extreme solar events, storms/substorms
  • Comparative magnetotails/wakes


weekly space plasma physics seminar
Weekly Space Plasma Physics Seminar

Attendees of the Space Plasma Physics Seminar (25 April 2014)

  • Members of the Space Plasma Physics Groups (magnetospheres & heliosphere) get together with collaborators (from different teams) & guests every Friday for an informal seminar