Professor Stan Cowley

photoProfessor of Solar Planetary Physics

Office: Physics and Astronomy, F69

Tel: +44 (0)116 223 1331


Personal details

  • BSc, ARCS, PhD, DIC, C Phys, FRS

I was educated at Caludon Castle School, Coventry, and Imperial College, London, where I graduated with first class honours in Physics in 1968. I subsequently undertook postgraduate studies at Imperial under the supervision of Professor Jim Dungey and was awarded a PhD in 1972 for my thesis entitled Self-Consistent Models of Magnetic Neutral Sheets.

Following a Visiting Fellowship at the University of Colorado in 1972-3, I returned to post-doctoral studies at Imperial, being awarded a SERC Advanced Fellowship in 1977, a Lectureship in 1982 and promotion to Reader in 1985. I became Professor in 1988.

I became Head of the Space and Atmospheric Physics Group at Imperial in 1990. In 1996, I moved to the University of Leicester, succeeding Professor Tudor Jones as Head of the Radio and Space Plasma Physics group, where I remain to date.

I am the author or co-author of ~400 research publications in the refereed scientific media.

I was awarded

  • the Chapman Medal - 1991
  • the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society - 2006
  • the Julius Bartels Medal of the European Geophysical Union - 2006

I was elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 1995 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 2011.


Since becoming Professor Emeritus in 2013, my teaching has been concentrated on postgraduate studies including PhD student supervision. I teach a postgraduate course in alternate years on Kinetic Theory of Collisionless Plasmas.


Recent publications

Talboys, D.L., E.J. Bunce, S.W.H. Cowley, C.S. Arridge, A.J. Coates, and M.K. Dougherty, Statistical characteristics of field-aligned currents in Saturn’s nightside magnetosphere, J. Geophys. Res., 116, A04213, doi: 10.1029/2009JA016102, 2011.

Kellett, S., C.S. Arridge, E.J. Bunce, A.J. Coates, S.W.H. Cowley, M.K. Dougherty, A.M. Persoon, N. Sergis, and R.J. Wilson, Saturn’s ring current: Local time dependence and temporal variability, J. Geophys. Res., 116, A05220, doi:10.1029/2010JA016216, 2011.

Provan, G., D.J. Andrews, C.S. Arridge, A.J. Coates, S.W.H. Cowley, G. Cox, M.K. Dougherty, and C.M. Jackman, Dual periodicities in planetary period magnetic field oscillations in Saturn’s tail, J. Geophys. Res., 117, A01209, doi: 10.1029/2011JA017104, 2012.

Andrews, D.J., S.W.H. Cowley, M.K. Dougherty, L. Lamy, G. Provan, and D.J. Southwood, Planetary period oscillations in Saturn’s magnetosphere: Evolution of magnetic oscillation properties from southern summer to post-equinox, J. Geophys. Res., 117, A04224, doi: 10.1029/2011JA017444, 2012.

Cowley, S.W.H., Response of Uranus’ auroras to solar wind compressions at equinox, J. Geophys. Res., 118, 2897-2902, doi: 10.1002/jgra.50323, 2013.

Cowley, S.W.H., and G. Provan, Saturn’s magnetospheric planetary period oscillations, neutral atmosphere circulation, and thunderstorm activity: Implications, or otherwise, for physical links, J. Geophys. Res., 118, 7246-7261, doi: 10.1002/2013JA019200, 2013.


My research interests have centred on the physical processes that shape the outer plasma environments of Earth and the magnetised planets, undertaken through a combination of theoretical studies and the analysis of relevant data.

The principal interactions are those between the flowing shocked solar wind and the planetary magnetic field at the magnetopause boundary, and the further interactions that occur between the magnetospheric field/plasma and the planetary ionosphere and upper atmosphere.

My early interest focused on the role of magnetic reconnection in mediating solar wind-magnetosphere coupling at Earth.  More recent work has centred on the dynamics driven in outer planet magnetospheres through coupling to the rapidly-rotating planetary atmosphere. Relevant data are obtained through my participation in international space missions, auroral observations of outer planets using the Hubble Space Telescope, and use of ground-based radars at Earth.

Currently-active spacecraft Co-Investigator roles include the ESA Cluster four-spacecraft terrestrial mission and the NASA Cassini Saturn-orbiter mission.

I am also involved as Co-Investigator in the NASA Juno mission, currently en route to Jupiter, where it will be inserted into polar orbit in 2016.

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