KL7021 - Advanced Space Plasmas

What will I learn on this module?

This module is designed to provide you with knowledge in special topics in astrophysics at the forefront of the research landscape using a directed learning strategy. The content of the module includes, but is not limited to, theoretical, technical and computational aspects. The module aims at enhancing your skills for independent work, specialist knowledge in astrophysics, critical thinking and appraisal of scientific research outputs.

Outline Syllabus
The content of the coursework will be drawn from areas that map to the research strengths in the Department of Mathematics, Physics, and Electrical Engineering. The following list is indicative, rather than prescriptive, of the topics to be covered:

Fundamentals of Space Plasmas
Solar System and the Sun-Earth connection, fundamentals of plasma physics, single particle theory, planetary radiation belts and currents, review of magnetohydrodynamics.

Stellar wind-magnetosphere interactions
Review of the solar wind, collisionless shocks, stellar wind-magnetosphere interactions, aurora and particle acceleration. Earth’s magnetosphere will be used a primary example, before applying theories to other planets.

Stellar wind interaction with unmagnetised bodies
Moons, Venus, comets and asteroids.

How will I learn on this module?

The module is delivered using a substantial amount of directed independent learning supported by lectures and practical workshops. The teaching strategy consists of a rotation system where lectures and wokshops are delivered by staff members from the Department of Mathematics, Physics, and Electrical Engineering.

Lectures are used to introduce an overview of a topic at the forefront of astrophysics along with a contextual background of the current research landscape linked to that topic. Workshops are held in an IT lab and are used to steer the students learning and to give feedback on on-going assignments.

Group activities will bring recent research data into the workshop environment, giving students an opportunity to apply their knowledge to interpret real-world examples and test current theory. Students will work in small groups to visualise the data (using software such as Python or Matlab) and propose their own interpretation of the observations. Interpretations will then be discussed within the workshops.

This module provides a collegial environment for active scientific discussion and engagement, thus strengthening your employability through knowledge and critical thinking about special topics in Astrophysics and the current Astrophysics research landscape. This is augmented through technology-enhanced learning opportunities such as with Python.

Independent study is supported by further technology-enhanced resources provided via the e-learning portal, including lecture notes and source open-access journal papers. You will be provided with a reading list and a list of aspects of the topic to be further developed as an assignment.

The assessment consists of two coursework assignments (50%, 50%). Feedback will be provided individually. The module will make use of electronic submission, assessment and feedback. Formative feedback will be provided during workshops.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

In addition to direct contact with the module team during lectures and workshops, you are encouraged to develop your curiosity by making direct contact with the module team either via email or the open door policy operated throughout the programme. You will also be regularly referred to supporting resources including relevant texts and multimedia relevant to the module. References to these resources will be made available through the e-learning portal and in lectures and workshops.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Analyse advanced concepts in astrophysics from areas at the forefront of the discipline, and to apply such ideas to simple problems at a conceptual, mathematical and computational level.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
2. Evaluate the application of special topics in astrophysics in the context of the current research landscape in the field.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
3. Manage your own learning, through knowledge of available reading sources, including advanced texts and research papers and scientific databases.
4. Effectively and concisely communicate complex astrophysics-based ideas in written form.

How will I be assessed?

The assessment consists of two coursework assignments (worth 50% and 50%) each relating to one special topic in Astrophysics covered in Space Plasma Physics. One coursework (maximum 3000 words/20 pages) will be a problem set on Space Plasma Physics and the second will be a computational assignment.

1. Coursework (50%)
2. Coursework (50%)

1. Workshops 1,2,3,4

Feedback will be provided individually and also generically to indicate where the cohort has a strong or a weaker answer to questions.

Written feedback will be provided on coursework.
Formative feedback will be provided during workshops.





Module abstract

The aim of this course is to learn about how plasma in space interacts with magnetised and unmagnetised bodies that are enveloped by it. You will learn about the principles of plasma physics, and be introduced to different theoretical methods of describing a plasma in electric and magnetic fields. You will learn about stellar winds using the Sun’s solar wind and how it interacts with various bodies in the solar system as an example and be able to relate these interactions to other stellar-planet systems. You will learn about the processes that energise particles to generate planetary aurora and relativistic radiation belts. You will also take an active part on testing the theories in the aurora and radiation belt research through practical applications.

You will be attending formal lectures during which you will become conversant with both the theory and observations across these subjects. Two assignments will be set during the course. Advanced Space Plasmas will give you a clear understanding of physics of the Solar System and ways to test the current prevailing theory as preparation for further graduate study, and an overview of practical applications for the space sector.

Course info

UCAS Code F2W4

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 4 years full-time or 5 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2022 or September 2023

Fee Information

Module Information

All information on this course page is accurate at the time of viewing.

Our Campus based courses starting in 2022 and 2023 will be delivered on-campus with supporting online learning content. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to adjust the delivery of our education accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

On-campus contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with any additional restrictions, which may be imposed by the Government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors. This could potentially mean increased or fully online delivery, should such restrictions on in-person contact time be required.


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