Polar logo.

(Close up) PVO entry into
Venus atmosphere.


UCLA is recognized internationally as a leader in the plasma physics of space. Magnetometers designed and fabricated at UCLA have enabled space science faculty and students to greatly expand our understanding of the magnetic structure and dynamics of the Earth, Venus, Jupiter, their satellites, asteroids, and the solar wind. UCLA scientists built the magnetometers for ground-based arrays such as the Sino Magnetometer Array at Low Latitudes established in 1998 and the MEASURE array, as well as the magnetometers on many satellite missions: the Apollo 15 and 16 subsatellites, launched in 1971 and 1972; the International Sun-Earth Explorers (ISEE) 1 and 2, launched in 1977; The Pioneer Venus Orbiter (PVO), launched in 1978; and the Active Magnetospheric Particle Tracing Experiment (AMPTE) United Kingdom Satellite (UKS), launched in 1984, and Galileo about Jupiter. Currently operating are magnetometers on the Polar spacecraft in high Earth orbit; and the FASTand Fed Sat spacecraft in low Earth orbit. UCLA space physicists are also participating in the Cassini mission to Saturn and the Rosetta comet mission. The regions studied by UCLA space physicists range from the surface of the sun to the outermost reaches of the solar system.

Research done by the magnetospheric, space physics, space plasma simulations , space weather and upper atmosphere and space physics groups includes data analysis, simulation, modeling, and theoretical plasma physics.

Galileo approach on Jupiter.
Painting by Ken Hodges.

Simulation of dayside
magnetosphere boundry.

Topics of interest include the dynamics of the solar wind and the magnetospheres of the Earth and planets and the interaction of the solar wind with bodies in the solar system: asteroids, planetary satellites, unmagnetized planets, and planetary magnetospheres. Recent discoveries include the determination that Jupiter's moon Ganymede has an internally generated magnetic field; evidence for an ocean under the icy surfaces of both Europa and Callisto; observations of substorms in the jovian magnetosphere; the discovery of the type of lightning causing high frequency radio bursts in the Earth's ionosphere and how the Earth's polar cusps are formed. Much effort is being expended towards the understanding of terrestrial magnetospheric activity, including geomagnetic storms and substorms and the aurora. Faculty and students attend many national and international meetings and workshops, and have strong contacts with the international space science community. UCLA is closely associated with national solar wind monitoring and forecasting activities as well as NASA data management. NASA's Planetary Data System (PDS) planetary plasma interaction node is run and maintained at UCLA. Extensive computer resources are placed at the disposal of the students. An excellent electronics laboratory is available for experimental projects. The engineering group in the Space Science Center has participated in over 30 projects since 1965.

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Last updated: March 18, 2005