Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial
web page for the UK Sun-Planetary scientific community

MIST is an informal community of UK-based scientists with interests in physical processes within the Sun-Earth system and other planets. This includes studies of the mesosphere, ionosphere, thermosphere and magnetosphere of Earth and of other planets and the solar wind.

The role of MIST is to help promote these interests to the public, wider scientific community and other stakeholders as well as provide a platform for scientists to present their work to the rest of the UK community. Regular bi-annual meetings are organised: a one day meeting in London in the autumn, sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society, and an out-of-town meeting each spring. Reports of meetings have been published in the RAS house journal Astronomy & Geophysics, and its predecessor Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society.

From its inception, MIST has been strongly linked with and supported by the Royal Astronomical Society. All MIST scientists are invited to join the RAS.

Recent News

    Near Universe Advisory Panel (NUAP) Consultation Process

    submitted 22 May 2009

    NUAP have initiated community consultation to update STFC's strategy. To stimulate this consultation a series of documents have been drafted in the relevant areas. For the MIST community the document in question is on Space Physics. Your views can be submitted via this web-based questionnaire. The deadline is Friday 5th June 2009. To quote from the STFC website:

      It is imperative that the community appreciates that the documents simply serve as a starting point to which reactions from the community are REQUIRED, and that the purpose of the next stage of the NUAP process, which is full consultation with the community, relies on community input in order to derive a complete strategy which MUST be prioritised.

      If we as a community do not prioritise, then PPAN and STFC will do it for us. Eventually the final strategy will emerge through a prioritisation across the entire panel remit.

    MIST council would be very interested to hear the views of the community when they respond to this consultation as this will help inform the creation of the community White papers recently announced on the MIST mailing list.

    To ensure a transparent and representative process minutes fromall NUAP meetings will be made available. See this page for more details

    MIST at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science

    submitted 22 May 2009

    The recent MIST meeting was once again held jointly with the RAS NAM and UKSP meetings. Many thanks to all session conveners and chairs and of course to the speakers. A particular thank you to Gary Abel for working hard to ensure a successful joint meeting. Our thanks also go to Dr. Richard Horne and Dr. Richard Harrison for providing excellent plenary talks on the very first morning of the conference.

    A MIST business meeting was held during teh science meeting and slides provided by MIST chair, Mike Hapgood, can be found here.

    Slides from the Space Weather splinter meeting are also available.

    MIST input to STFC consultation

    submitted 25 March 2009

    General remarks

    Our community is awaiting the outcome of the discussions on the transfer of responsibility to NERC for "those parts of solar terrestrial physics (STP) research which are most relevant to the NERC mission". In this submission we focus on those parts of solar terrestrial physics research which are most relevant to the STFC mission - in particular its Royal Charter commitment to support space science. We highlight two areas:

    a. the study of fundamental collisionless plasma physics in space, an area of space science where the UK has world-class strengths in both experimental and theoretical work. This area has natural links with both solar and plasma astrophysics - indeed it is arguably part of plasma astrophysics and one with exceptional opportunities to test theory through experiments.

    b. The application of STP to other planets. The scientific concepts underlying STP are directly relevant to space environments at other planets - both in the solar system and beyond. Their application will change because of differences in circumstances, e.g. atmospheric composition, planetary magnetic fields, stellar UV emission, stellar winds, etc. Our growing ability to study other planets opens up the possibility to apply STP ideas in the context of comparative planetology. A key area of growing interest is to understand the role of STP phenomena (e.g. space weather) in constraining the potential for living organisms on exo-planets. The UK STP community has already developed a strong position in studies of the atmospheres and magnetospheres of other planets in our solar system and now has growing interest in applying its skills to exo-planets.

    The present strategy document lacks clear statements on where these areas, and many other areas, of space science fit within STFC's current thinking. We are aware that STFC is now planning to develop a separate science vision and urge STFC to follow standard practice (as in the recent Astronet activity at European level) and seek community ideas on what should be in its science vision. This is important to capture UK highlights across the many areas not covered in the present document - including the two areas above. The STFC advisory system has an important role here and its members should be encouraged to seek inputs from the wider community. We are aware that some informal consultation has taken place; we welcome that and encourage its expansion into a more formal activity.

    Response to consultation questions.

    We wish to contribute to two of the consultation questions (2 and 9) as shown below.

    2. What do you see as the most appropriate way to determine the optimum balance of our research portfolio between curiosity-driven and application-led?

    The balance of the STFC research portfolio is important. But the issue is more subtle and complex than posed in this question. It is now widely recognised in the science policy community that there is an area of fundamental research that is distinct from both curiosity-driven and application-led research. This area is usually termed use-inspired fundamental research, e.g. research which adds to the stock of basic knowledge about physical phenomena that may underlie future applications, but research which does not have a specific application in view. STFC 's strategy should balance its research portfolio across all three research motivations namely (a) curiosity-driven research, (b) use-inspired fundamental research and (c) fully applications-led research (translational research). The processes by which this is done must be clear and open so that the community can gain confidence in the decisions. To achieve this it is vital to engage senior scientists as members of the relevant committees and to provide resources that allow those committees to consult the community on a regular basis. The decision processes should recognise that both curiosity-led and use-inspired research are primarily dependent on sponsorship by the Research Councils, whilst applied research is more open to substantial partnership with end users in industry and other government agencies. This argues for STFC funding to be primarily aimed at both curiosity-led and use-inspired research while providing some funds to leverage applications research through partnerships with other bodies.

    9. Have you identified any areas of impact which are missing from the Economic Impact strategy? If so, could you please provide details?

    Given STFC's responsibility for space science, as established in the Royal Charter, STFC needs to consider the economic impact arising from space phenomena that influence the environment on and around the Earth.

    a. The most obvious is space weather. This is now internationally recognised as an area of space science that has important practical implications through its impact on a wide and growing range of technological systems and that also has health implications for astronauts, aircrew and frequent users of long-distance air travel. There is a growing programme of space weather research and operations around the world, e.g. in the emerging space situational awareness (SSA) programmes in the US and Europe and in the growing appreciation of the threat posed to modern technology by extreme space weather. The UK has many strengths in this area and STFC is ideally positioned to exploit those strengths through research to develop improved methods of monitoring and forecasting space weather, of assessing long-term risks from space weather and of mitigating space weather hazards. STFC should work with the relevant UK scientific and industrial communities to assess the potential economic impact from space weather research.

    b) Magnetotelluric imaging of submarine strata for oil exploration purposes, including utilising ULF waves artificially stimulated by high power radiowave facilities, and predictions of the natural ULF wavefield. An initial project is already being funded jointly by STFC and the oil industry.

    c) The effects of the ionosphere-plasmasphere system on a wide range of applications including navigation, communications and space surveillance. Many of these have clear relevance to 'Our safety and security' pt These effects also have direct relevance to radio astronomy as sources of systematic and stochastic error in advanced systems such as SKA.

    d) Community expertise could be used to develop areas such as protection of space assets by remediation of radiation belt enhancements - whether caused naturally or by hostile human action (clear relevance to

    e) Subject to the outcome of its discussions with NERC, STFC may be able to develop economic impact through cooperation with NERC on environmental change to support the UK's growing expertise in the assessment of solar activity and cosmic rays as contributing factors to climate change.

    STP projects advance in Europe

    submitted 16 December 2008

    The 2008 update of the ESFRI Roadmap was released on 10 December and contains good news for the solar-terrestrial physics community across Europe. The Roadmap seeks to identify future research infrastructures that are needed to advance European research and which need to be developed at a multi-national level. The 2008 update identifies two projects of great future value to the STP community:

    1. EISCAT-3D, the advanced radar system that will replace the existing EISCAT radars. Its use of phased-array technology will open up new areas of science for our community. See the EISCAT press release.

    2. SIAEOS, the Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System, which will focus and enhance the already extensive research infrastructure in Svalbard, including those relevant to STP. See news items on the UNIS home page.

    Both items have been placed in the Environmental Sciences section of the Roadmap, reflecting the growing recognition that the solar-terrestrial environment is a significant part of the environment in which human activities must take place.

    MIST Council is delighted to hear this news. It is an important step in developing the generation of STP research and should be a great stimulus to the many young scientists who are keen to pursue careers in this area. We thank everyone who has worked to achieve this success and look forward to the community making a strong case for continued UK involvement in these projects.

The STP facilities have been included in the efforts of the SaveAstronomy website. Further information regarding the background and ongoing actions of the STFC supported communities can be found at the excellent websites set up by Prof. Paul Crowther and Dr. Mark Lancaster

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