Antonius Otto

Course Syllabus

Physics F672
Location REICH 138
Time MWF 10:30a

Scope and Contents of the Course:

Planetary magnetospheres are unique plasma systems in many respects. The dynamics of the magnetosphere determines the plasma environment of the planet and controls the physics of the ionosphere. Geomagnetic storms and substorms cause the magnificent auroral displays which we observe at high geomagnetic latitudes. Magnetospheres are a highly inhomogeneous and nonlinear plasma environment in which plasma and magnetic field properties vary over many orders of magnitude. In situ satellite observation make the Earth's magnetosphere probably the best studied plasma environment for our understanding of fundamental plasma processes such as microscopic plasma processes, equilibrium configurations, plasma instabilities, particle acceleration, highly nonlinear eruptive plasma processes, and global dynamics which involves the interaction of various regions of the magnetosphere. Compared to Earth's magnetosphere, observations of the giant magnetospheres of Jupiter and Saturn demonstrate fascinating differences in the global dynamics caused by size, rapid rotation and mass loading from planetary satellites.

The course will introduce these various aspects of magnetospheric physics with a systematic discussion of the various elements of the magnetosphere, their structure and dynamics, and a discussion of the relevant plasma physics. This will include basic aspects like particle dynamics and equilibrium theory as well as more advanced concepts like non-local instability processes and nonlinear dynamics. The course will combine many observational results with the relevant plasma physics and theory.

Analytic theory is limited with respect to the nonlinear processes. It is planned to provide plasma simulation codes to demonstrate and visualize some of these processes.

(Prerequisites: Plasma physics recommended; Graduate standing or permission of instructor; 3 + 0 credits)

Conduct of the Course:

Grading Policy:

A large portion of the course will be based on the textbook by Baumjohann and Treumann, Basic Space Plasma Physics. Supplementary information is taken from the texts by Parks, Physics of Space Plasmas, by Kivelson and Russel (ed.), Introduction to Space Physics and Treumann and Baumjohann Advanced Space Plasma Physics. However, no textbook currently available covers all relevant aspects of magnetospheric physics. Additional original literature will be provided as necessary. The simulation codes will be written in FORTRAN and access to computer resources and visualization software (IDL) can be provided if necessary.

Homework will be mostly analytical. Some exercises in the second half of the course will make use of the provided simulation codes. Every student is expected to make a short presentation on a specific topic which may be the presentation of a specific research paper or of a simulation project.

There will be a midterm test and a final exam.

Homework: 50%

Presentation of project: 20%

Final exam: 30%


Baumjohann and Treumann, Basic Space Plasma Physics, Imperial College Press (1997, 2012): A good introduction to many aspects of space plasma physics. The focus of this book is more on the plasma physical aspects compared to other books in the list. Magnetospheric physics is addressed in various parts of the book. The combination with the more advanced volume Advanced Space Plasma Physics by Treumann and Baumjohann provides a very thorough graduate level course in space plasma physics.

Parks, Physics of Space Plasmas, Addison-Wesley (1991, 2003): A good introduction to many aspects of space plasma physics. These include single particle dynamics, electromagnetic fields, plasma waves and discontinuities, and simple instabilities. The book has some shortcomings particularly in several areas of plasma physics. It has also limitations in the coverage of the various regions of the Earth's magnetosphere.

Kivelson and Russell (eds.), Introduction to Space Physics, Cambridge University Press (1995): A good introductory text book of various topics of space physics. The book presents a very good phenomenological overview of various aspects of magnetospheric physics but it has shortcomings in many aspects of the more advanced plasma physics.

Gurnett and Bhattacharjee, Introduction to Plasma Physics: With Space and Laboratory Applications, Cambridge University Press (2005): A systematic discussion of plasma physics. Magnetospheric physics is introduced through various applications but not the focus of this book.

Melrose, Instabilities in space and laboratory plasmas, Cambridge University Press (1986): A systematic discussion of many plasma instabilities, however, limited mostly to homogeneous plasmas and kinetic processes.

Krall and Trivelpiece, Principles of Plasma Physics, San Francisco Press (1986): Very detailed text on plasma physics but not particularly written for space plasmas. While coverage of traditional plasma physics is excellent, it also lacks many of the nonlinear aspects of plasma theory.

Other: Gombosi: Physics of the Space Environment, Cambridge University Press (2004); Kallenrode: Space Physics: An Introduction to Plasmas and Particles in the Heliosphere, Springer (2005); Schindler: Physics of Space Plasma Activity, Cambridge University Press (2006).

Magnetospheric Physics - List of Contents

  1. Contents

  2. Introduction

    1. History

    2. Structure of the magnetosphere

    3. Coordinate systems

  3. Basic Plasma Properties

    1. Basic plasma properties

    2. Kinetic plasma equations

    3. Fluid plasma

  4. Electric and Magnetic Fields

    1. Magnetic fields

    2. Electric fields

  5. Particle Dynamics

    1. Motion in electromagnetic fields

    2. Adiabatic invariants

  6. The Inner Magnetosphere

    1. Motion in electromagnetic fields

    2. Adiabatic invariants

  7. The Bow Shock and the Magnetosheath

    1. Solar wind

    2. Discontinuities and shocks

    3. The bow shock and the magnetosheath

  1. Magnetic Reconnection

    1. Basic properties

    2. Sweet-Parker and Petschek reconnection

    3. Other properties and applications

  2. The Magnetopause

    1. Basic properties and observations

    2. Magnetopause structure

    3. Magnetic Reconnection

    4. Viscous Interaction

  3. The Quiet Magnetotail

    1. Magnetotail models

    2. Convection in the magnetotail

  4. Magnetospheric Activity

    1. Magnetosphere – Ionosphere coupling

    2. Magnetospheric substorms

  5. Other Magnetospheres

    1. Size, fast rotation, and mass loading

  6. Appendix

  7. Literature

Homework and Exams

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Mid term
Final Exam
1D MHD code: mhd1d_code
Solutions 1
Solutions 2
Solutions 3
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Solutions 10
Solutions 11
Mid term exam
Final Exam

Antonius Otto 2014-04-02