Master Thesis Proposals

Presented here are thesis proposals for students, supervised by staff at the Space Physics group.  


The scope of these proposals can be adjusted and are equally suitable for students from the 5-year integrated masters (30sp) and the 2-year master’s program in Physics (60sp) 

 

The Space Physics group currently have the following project proposals:

 


 

 

Aperture design of a dust collector instrument for a mosespheric rocket

Supervisor: Ingrid Mann

Required course: contact supervisor

Recommended courses: FYS-1002, FYS-2009, FYS-2019

Description:

To bring dust particles from the mesosphere back to Earth for laboratory studies, collector instruments can be flown during rocket flights with payload recovery. This project is related to the sample collector instrument MESS which is currently in development stage. To facilitate that collected samples are not contaminated by other particles, the sample collector needs to have an aperture that opens and closes during the rocket flight and that is tightly closed otherwise under severe conditions of launch, re-entry and recovery. The goal of this project is to develop on test level the aperture mechanism and the electronic control of the motors for opening and closure. Aside from the launch conditions, the design also needs to be suitable for the required cleanliness and handling of samples. This work is linked to a project on dust in the mesosphere that it funded by RCN.

This project is interesting for students who like more technically oriented work.

To the top

Arc discharges in a DC plasma

Supervisor: Professor Åshild Fredriksen, ashild.fredriksen@uit.no

Required course: FYS-2001, FYS-2009 and FYS-3017

Recommended courses: FYS-2006, FYS-2008, FYS-3000, FYS-3002, FYS-3007 and MAT-2201

Description:

Recently, hyper-velocity dust impacts of micron-sized particle have been shown to generate impact plasma clouds which show up as particular signatures in monopole and dipole plasma probes on board satellites, e.g. STEREO [1, 2, 3, 4]. These bear some resemblance to plasma probe signals generated by arcing, which is frequently observed in plasmas generated by radio-frequency (RF) waves and plasmas with large DC electric fields. Large-amplitude electric fields may induce sparks at corners and other sharp edges and uneven surfaces in a plasma. These are detected as noise in probe signals, as the sparks apparently generate localized plasma clouds which affect the plasma background even at long distances.

Arc discharges have been investigated in the Space Simulation Chamber (SSC) at a pressure of about 10-5 atm, wherein corona discharges exist. Ion and electron current signals from an arc between a grounded cathode and an anode at 1 kV bias were investigated in some detail, applying conditional averaging to single out similar signal shapes before averaging.

In this project, the aim is to investigate i) more closely the generation of arc discharges at lower pressures, where higher DC bias on the anode is needed to create an arc, ii) to induce and investigate arcing in a tenuous background plasma to investigate how arcing is affected by charges already present in the environment, and 3) to analyze time series by conditional sampling and statistical methods for comparison with signals from dust impact on satellites as reported in the literature.

Most suitable for 1 year Master's project (60 stp) in Physics but may be adapted to a 5 year Integrated Masters project (30 stp + 10 stp preparatory project).

References:

1. Meyer-Vernet et al., (2009), Sol. Phys., 256(1), 463-474.

2. Zaslavsky, A. et al., (2012), J. Geophys. Res., 117, A05102.

3. Malaspina et al., (2014), Geophys. Res. Lett.,41, 266.

To the top

Auroral Image Processing

Supervisor: Patrick Guio, patrick.guio@uit.no

Overview:

VOronoi Image SEgmentation (VOISE), described inGuio, P. and Achilleos, N.(2009) is adynamic and self-organising algorithm to create a partition of an image into Voronoi cells ac-cording to a prescribed cost function, presently a homogeneity criterion.

The VOISE algorithm was developed to provide an automated and objective method tocharacterise auroral emissions (mean intensity, spatial extent, length scale) observed at Saturnand Jupiter. For instance ultraviolet (UV) images collected by the Hubble Space Telescope, butalso infrared (IR) images collected by ground-based telescopes at Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

Scientific Aims:

The aim is to develop an efficient and versatile image processing around VOISE that can beused on a variety of research studies based on auroral imaging, but also explore the possibil-ities in other ‘big-data’ domains, such as medical imaging and Earth observation. The graphdata generated by VOISE could potentially be used for further processing via machine learningalgorithms, such as clustering.Planetary auroral / particle-dynamics mapping studies are particularly timely with currentand future missions to Jupiter, NASA Juno and ESA Juice, as well as the successful missionto Saturn, Cassini. Auroral imaging processing is also a relevant topic to the field of spaceweather.

Work Summary:

The project is suitable for a one-year Master’s project (60 STP) in Physics or a five-year In-tegrated Master’s project (30 STP + 10 STP preparatory project), and several strands for theproject are available

• Develop 2D/3D tools within VOISE for image pre- and post-processing, as well as datavisualisation.

• Design a versatile, extensible implementation of VOISE where new cost functions caneasily be ‘plugged in’.

• Explore applications to other ‘big-data’ domains, such as medical imaging, Earth obser-vation.

Pre-requisites:This project would suit a student with an interest for mathematical / computational modellingand programming. The available code is written in Matlab and C++, so experience with theselanguages and similar languages is an advantage.

References:
 
Guio, P. and Achilleos, N., The VOISE Algorithm: a Versatile Tool for Automatic Segmen-tation of Astronomical Images,Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc., pp. 1051–+, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2009.15218.x, 2009.2
 
Jia, C., Y. Li, M. B. Carson, X. Wang, and J. Yu, Node Attribute-enhanced Community De-tection in Complex Networks,Scientific Reports,7, 2626, doi:10.1038/s41598-017-02751-8,2017.
 
Kvammen, A., K. Wickstrøm, D. McKay, and N. Partamies, Auroral Image Classification WithDeep Neural Networks,J. Geophys. Res.,125(10), e27808, doi:10.1029/2020JA027808,2020.
 
Lamy, L., R. Prang ́e, F. Henry, and P. Le Sidaner, The Auroral Planetary Imaging and Spec-troscopy (APIS) service,Astr. Comput.,11, 138–145, doi:10.1016/j.ascom.2015.01.005,2015.
 
Li, Y., C. Jia, and J. Yu, A parameter-free community detection method based on centrality anddispersion of nodes in complex networks,Physica A Statistical Mechanics and its Applica-tions,438, 321–334, doi:10.1016/j.physa.2015.06.043, 2015.
 
Sequeira, R. E., and F. J. Preteux, Discrete voronoi diagrams and the skiz operator:A dynamic algorithm,IEEE Trans. Pattern Anal. Mach. Intell.,19(10), 1165–1170,doi:10.1109/34.625128, 1997.
 
Tuceryan, M., and A. K. Jain, Texture segmentation using voronoi polygons,IEEE Trans. Pat-tern Anal. Mach. Intell.,12(2), 211–216, doi:10.1109/34.44407, 1990.
 

To the top

Dust destruction during Coronal Mass Ejections

Supervisor: Ingrid Mann

Required course: contact supervisor

Description:

Coronal mass ejections (CME) are strong outbursts of mass from the solar corona into interplanetary space. These frequently occurring events are characterized by a temporal increase of the solar wind density and by a large number of heavy ions. When high-energy ions hit a solid they remove atoms out of the solid. This process, called sputtering leads to surface erosion at small solar system objects that are exposed to the solar wind. Sputtering removes atoms from dust particles and can fully destroy them. Our ongoing study showsthat the sputtering rates increase by about two orders of magnitude during CME in comparison to quite solar wind conditions. The goal of this project is to investigate the time variation of the dust destruction caused by CME and to investigate whether the near solar dust cloud can disappear during periods of high solar activity with strong CME. This work is linked to a project on dust in the heliosphere that is funded by RCN.

To the top

Dust measurements with Solar Orbiter

Supervisor: Ingrid Mann

Required course: contact supervisor

Description:

The interplanetary medium between the planets contains small dust particles that are fragments from comets and asteroids. When these particles impact onto a spacecraft they generate small fragments, ions and electrons. The generated free charges change for short time the electric potential of the spacecraft which usually is determined by solar wind and solar photon fluxes. In this way, dust impacts influence antenna measurements made from the spacecraft and dust fluxes can be inferred from the antenna measurements. In February 2020, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the Solar Orbiter spacecraft. Solar Orbiter orbits the Sun in an elliptic trajectory that crosses the orbits of Venus and Mercury and passes regions of high dust density. While Solar Orbiter moves initially in the ecliptic, i.e. the same plane as the orbits of the planets, the spacecraft will gradually move out of the eclipticand encounter unexplored solar wind conditions and dust fluxes. The goal of this project is to study the conditions of the dust impacts onto the spacecraft along its trajectory and to simulate the dust fluxes onto the spacecraft based on model assumptions and observational data. This work is linked to a project on dust in the heliosphere that it funded by RCN.

To the top

Dynamics of charged particles in planetary magnetospheres

Supervisor: Patrick Guio, patrick.guio@uit.no

Overview:

The Earth’s magnetic field is to a good approximation dipolar, and magnetospheric chargedparticles, depending on their kinetic energy, pitch angle and equatorial distance, can remaintrapped in this field with their motion characterised by an azimuthal drift, a meridional bouncemotion and gyration motion around the field line (see for instance ̈Ozt ̈urk(2012). High-energyelectrons and protons in the van Allen radiation belts are such examples.At the gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn, the magnetic field deviates from a dipole dueto the internal source of plasma provided by their moons, Io and Enceladus resp. and the fastplanetary rotation period (∼10 h), developing into a disk-like structure at the equator wherecentrifugal force is largest. This structure is often referred to as a magnetodisc.

Scientific Aims:

The aim of this project is to investigate and characterise deviations of the dynamics of chargedparticle trapped in a magnetodisc magnetic field compared to a pure dipole magnetic field usingnumerical modelling, and possibly analytic calculation. The numerical modelling will build onthe existing University College London (UCL) Magnetodisc Model and other existing code forcharged particle motion tracing.This project is particularly timely with the current and future missions to Jupiter, Juno andJuice, as well as the successful mission to Saturn, Cassini. The physics of trapped particles inmagnetospheres is also a relevant topic to the emerging field of space weather.

Work Summary:

The project is suitable for a one-year Master’s project (60 STP) in Physics or a five-year In-tegrated Master’s project (30 STP + 10 STP preparatory project), and several strands of theprojects are available

• Include the effect of centrifugal force in the so-called guiding centre approximation.

• Validate the guiding centre approximation calculations with direct particle tracing.• Compare the dynamics of charged particle at Saturn and Jupiter.

• Investigate the effects of the solar wind and internal conditions at the gas giants on thedynamics of trapped particles.

 
References:
 
Achilleos, N., P. Guio, C. S. Arridge, N. Sergis, R. J. Wilson, M. F. Thomsen, and A. J. Coates,Influence of hot plasma pressure on the global structure of Saturn’s magnetodisk,Geophys.Res. Lett.,37, L20,201, doi:10.1029/2010GL045159, 2010.
 
Connerney, J. E. P., M. H. Acuna, and N. F. Ness, Saturn’s ring current and inner magneto-sphere,Nature,292, 724–726, doi:10.1038/292724a0, 1981.2
 
Connerney, J. E. P., M. H. Acuna, and N. F. Ness, Currents in Saturn’s magnetosphere,J.Geophys. Res.,88, 8779–8789, doi:10.1029/JA088iA11p08779, 1983.
 
Guio, P., N. Staniland, N. A. Achilleos, and C. S. Arridge, Trapped particle motion in magne-todisc fields,J. Geophys. Res.,125(7), e27827, doi:10.1029/2020JA027827, 2020.
 
Kivelson, M. G., Planetary Magnetodiscs: Some Unanswered Questions,Space Sci. Rev.,187,5–21, doi:10.1007/s11214-014-0046-6, 2015.
 
Kivelson, M. G., and F. Bagenal, Chapter 7 - Planetary Magnetospheres, inEncyclopedia of theSolar System (Third Edition), edited by T. Spohn, D. Breuer, and T. Johnson, 3rd ed. ed., pp.137–157, Elsevier, Boston, doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-415845-0.00007-4, 2014.
 
Kivelson, M. G., and D. J. Southwood, Dynamical consequences of two modes of cen-trifugal instability in Jupiter’s outer magnetosphere,J. Geophys. Res.,110(A9), 12,209–+,doi:10.1029/2005JA011176, 2005.
 
Mauk, B. H., Comparative investigation of the energetic ion spectra comprising themagnetospheric ring currents of the solar system,J. Geophys. Res.,119, 9729–9746,doi:10.1002/2014JA020392, 2014. 
 
Ozt ̈urk, M. K., Trajectories of charged particles trapped in Earth’s magnetic field,Am. J. Phys.,80, 420–428, doi:10.1119/1.3684537, 2012.
 
Roederer, J. G., and H. Zhang,Dynamics of Magnetically Trapped Particles, Springer, Berlin,doi:10.1007/978-3-642-41530-2, ISBN 978-3-642-41529-6, 2014.
 
Sorba, A. M., N. A. Achilleos, N. Sergis, P. Guio, C. S. Arridge, and M. K. Dougherty, LocalTime Variation in the Large-Scale Structure of Saturn’s Magnetosphere,J. Geophys. Res.,124(9), 7425–7441, doi:10.1029/2018JA026363, 2019.
 
Southwood, D. J., and M. G. Kivelson, An Improbable Collaboration,J. Geophys. Res.,125(12),e28407, doi:10.1029/2020JA028407, 2020.
 
Vogt, M. F., M. G. Kivelson, K. K. Khurana, R. J. Walker, M. Ashour-Abdalla, and E. J. Bunce,Simulating the effect of centrifugal forces in Jupiter’s magnetosphere,J. Geophys. Res.,119,1925–1950, doi:10.1002/2013JA019381, 2014.
 

To the top

Measurement of three dimensional high resulution winds from PMSE echoes

Supervisor: Ingrid Mann

Required course: contact supervisor

Description:

Polar Mesospheric Summer Echoes (PMSEs) are intense scattering of VHF radar signals resulting from formation of ice particles in the summer polar upper mesosphere. Tristatic EISCAT radar observations are made at 224 MHz during summertime. The radar transmitter and receiver are located at Tromsø, Norway and two other receiving stations are at Kiruna, Sweden and Sodankyla, Finland. Using the Doppler shifts of the common volume PMSE echoes as tracers, the three dimensional winds may be estimated with high temporal resolution. The goal of the work is to estimate the winds and validate it with the help of wind estimations by other techniques. This work is linked to a project on dust in the mesosphere that it funded by RCN.

To the top

Meteors and meteor ablation

Supervisor: Ingrid Mann

Required courses: contact supervisor

Description:

Cosmic dust particles are heated and vaporize when they enter the Earth’s atmosphere. This leads to the formation of meteors and the process is called ablation. Ablation rates depend on the entrance velocity of the dust as well as on its size and composition. Meteors typically occur at altitudes between 70 and 110 km. They are the source of dust particles in the mesosphere, the region of the atmosphere at altitudes around roughly 50 – 95 km. The ablation generates layers of heavy atoms in the mesosphere that are the seed of newly forming mesospheric dust. Some dust particles survive the entry, so that also unaltered cosmic dust exists in the mesosphere. The goal of this project is to study the entry conditions of the cosmic dust in order to estimate the number of heavy ions that the dust generates and the amount of remaining dust particles. The results will be used to investigate the composition and variability of dust and heavy ion layers in the mesosphere. This work is linked to a project on mesospheric dust that it funded by RCN.

To the top

Model calculations of mesospheric clouds

Supervisors: Ingrid Mann and Rune Graversen

Required courses: Contact supervisor

Description:

Cosmic dust and meteoroids and their fragments play an important role in the physical and chemical processes of the upper atmosphere. Cosmic dust particles that enter the atmosphere are heated, producing evaporated material that dissociates and ionizes at about 140–60 km altitude. Small meteoroids and dust particles, gaseous species that originate from the meteoroids, and small meteoritic smoke particles re-condense and are a core for ice condensation which leads to the formation of mesospheric clouds. The observed shape of the clouds indicates the transport of the particles in the atmosphere. At UiT we have observational data related to mesospheric clouds from in-situ rocket observations and from radar observations. We also collaborate with a group that carries out optical observations.

The WACCM-CARMA from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research is an atmospheric high-altitude model, Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM), coupled with anaerosol microphysical model (CARMA). This project aims to use output from the WACCM-CARMA model for studying the particle transport in mesospheric clouds, the shape of these clouds, and to compare with observations. Given that the model can reproduce observed aspects of the mesospheric clouds, the model can be used to investigate the physics governing these clouds.This work is linked to the RCN funded projects on mesospheric dust and on Arctic climate,

To the top

Plasma structuring in the high-latitude ionosphere

Main supervisor: Andres Spicher

Background:

Plasma density irregular structures with scale-sizes ranging from hundreds of kilometers to a few meters are known to be common in the high-latitude ionosphere. Even though some of these irregularities can have significant impacts on technology, the details of their sources and formationare still poorly understood.

Scientific aim:

The aim of this project is to investigate and characterize the physical processes accompanying ionospheric density irregularities at high latitudes using in situ measurements such as the ones from the Swarm satellites1 or possibly from ground-based instruments such as the EISCAT radars. The project will be divided into selected case studies followed by statistical analysis to place the results in a broader contextThe outcome of such studies will be essential in the future to be able to develop models allowing to predict hazardous Space Weather effects on technology.

Pre-requisites:

The project is merely based on data analysis, and would suit student(s) interested in that area. Experience with time series analysis and signal processing techniques would be an advantage.

To the top

 

Simulation of magnetospheric plasma in a laboratory experiment

Supervisor: Åshild Fredriksen, ashild.fredriksen@uit.no

Required courses: FYS-2001, FYS-2009 and FYS-3017

Recommended courses: FYS-2006, FYS-2008, FYS-3000, FYS-3002, FYS-3007 and MAT-2201

Description:

This project aims to study the plasma confined in a dipole magnetic field. A background plasma is generated by a small plasma source (Menja@Aurolab) utilizing the electron cyclotron resonance (ECR) to generate a plasma beam moving with approximately the ion sound speed. By placing an appropriate array of strong permanent magnets in the beam, one can obtain a plasma within the closed magnetic field lines of the dipole field. A similar setup has previously been reported by Baitha et al., Rev. Sci. Instrum.,89, 023503 (2018).

The tasks will be

-To design, test, and install an array of permanent magnets, with water cooling.

-To investigate the surrounding plasma by means of various Langmuir probes.

-Try to answer the question of how features of the dipole plasma can be related to the plasma of the magnetosphere of the Earth.

The project is mostsuitable for a one-year Master's project (60 stp) in Physics but it may be adapted to a 5 year Integrated Masters project (30 stp + 10 stp preparatory project).

To the top

The characteristics of dynamics of the upper atmosphere at high latitude

Supervisors: Professor Chris Hall (TGO), chris.hall@uit.no, and Professor Ulf-Peter Hoppe, u.p.hoppe@fys.uio.no

Required courses: Contact supervisor

Description:

Climate change can be detected in the upper atmosphere as well as just in the well-known “global warming” scenario. However, in order to study this, the interactions between the different height regions in the atmosphere must be better understood. Time series from one or more atmospheric radars (either at Tromsø or on Svalbard or both) will be employed to investigate characteristics of the neutral air dynamics of between 60 and 100 km at various timescales. This region lies between the ozone layer and the aurora, and is perhaps the least understood part of our atmosphere.

To the top

Wind velocities from PMSE echoes

Supervisor: Ingrid Mann

Required course: contact supervisor

Recommended courses: FYS-1002, FYS-2009, FYS-2019

Description:

Polar Mesospheric Summer Echoes (PMSEs) are intense scattering of VHF radar signals resulting from formation of ice particles in the summer polar upper mesosphere. Tristatic EISCAT radar observations are made at 224 MHz during summertime. The radar transmitter and receiver are located at Tromsø, Norway and two other receiving stations are at Kiruna, Sweden and Sodankyla, Finland. Using the Doppler shifts of the common volume PMSE echoes as tracers, the three dimensional winds may be estimated with high temporal resolution. The goal of the work is to estimate the winds and validate it with the help of wind estimations by other techniques. There is also an opportunity to define other topics on PMSE studies for interested students. This work is linked to a project on dust in the mesosphere that it funded by RCN.

This topic is interesting for students who are interested in working with observational data and for students who are interested in theoretical studies. The focus can be adjusted according to the interest of the student.

To the top