Ionospheric Plasma Physics

The main themes of our programme of active experiments using high-power ground-based radio transmitters to stimulate the space plasma environment involve both fundamental plasma physics of small scale waves and irregularities as well as applications to broader geophysical processes such as magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) waves.  In addition to being phenomena of fundamental importance in astrophysical plasmas, MHD waves in the ULF (ultra-low frequency) band represent an important coupling mechanism between the magnetosphere and the ionosphere, transferring both energy and momentum.  As such their investigation is a key area in the exploitation of active radar systems for studying ULF waves, and probing the underlying geophysical processes with which they are associated with unprecedented resolution, has been a focus of those activities and one which has received a great deal of international attention.  The current programme of work is a natural continuation of the group’s existing activities in an area which has a large potential for further growth.  It is anticipated that the results of this research will continue the group’s high international standing and contribute significantly to our understanding of magnetospheric morphology and dynamics.  A complementary programme of experiments involving the generation of plasma instabilities and turbulence on small scales which provides one of the few ways of studying nonlinear wave interactions in space plasma under virtually laboratory conditions will also be undertaken.  The group has been at the forefront of the international effort to improve understanding in this crucial area of fundamental plasma physics.

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