Space Physics

Space physics at the IFT deals with the Earth's upper atmosphere, the ionosphere and the magnetosphere. The northern lights are a well-known phenomenon in the region between the Earth’s atmosphere and the magnetosphere at high latitudes. Conditions and processes here are associated with the influx of electromagnetic radiation and charged particles (the solar wind) that originate in the Sun and determine the near-Earth space weather.






The University of Tromsø is the host institution of EISCAT (European Incoherent Scatter Radar), an international research organisation, and thus has access to EISCAT's radar facilities in Ramfjordmoen near Tromsø and in Longyearbyen on Svalbard for the investigation of the upper polar atmosphere, the ionosphere and the magnetosphere and the aurora. As the ionosphere is in the plasma state, Space Physics is largely based on plasma physics. Therefore, in addition to studying geophysical phenomena, the EISCAT radars can also be used to study plasma physics, especially with the aid of the EISCAT Heater that can modify the ionospheric plasma state in a controlled manner. Participation in the EISCAT organisation provides opportunities for international cooperation, as well. 

Scientists at the University of Tromsø conduct rocket experiments using the Andøya Rocket Range and SVALRAK in Svalbard to study the electrically charged dust particles (dusty plasma) in the middle atmosphere. Studies of the solar wind and its interaction with the Earth's magnetosphere are also part of the space research programme in Tromsø.

                                                                  rocket payload


The space physics activities at the Department are strengthened by the plasma laboratory Aurolab that can be employed to investigate plasma processes found in space, especially those occurring during energetic particle precipitation that cause the Aurora. The Aurolab's plasma chamber Njord is designed to study flows and beams in weakly magnetized, low-temperature plasmas, the physical processes that cause charged particle acceleration, magnetic field-aligned electric fields, and plasma instabilities and turbulence.

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