The Umeå Space Plasma Physics Group focuses on studying naturally occurring plasmas in the solar system.
One specific focus is the analysis of plasma processes in Earth’s magnetosphere and the coupled solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere system. Magnetospheric regions high above Earth's surface are directly connected through magnetic fields to lower altitudes, and we study phenomena in the magnetospehere and upstream solar wind that can cause disturbances closer to the ground, for example in the form of auroras (northern lights). We also study plasma processes in the neighbourhood of other objects in the solar system such as Mars, Venus, planetary moons, and comets. In our work we use data from both spacecraft and ground-based observatories as well as from computer simulations.
We utilize in-situ satellite data from multi-national space agencies such as NASA, ESA and JAXA. The space data are complemented by worldwide ground based observations to complete the bigger picture which are made possible thanks to international joint efforts across the globe. We conduct large scale computational simulations of several solar system objects ranging from magnetised bodied (e.g. Earth) to unmagnetised bodies (e.g. Venus), from terrestrial planets (e.g. Mercury) to gas giants (e.g. Jupiter) and from airless bodies (e.g. the Moon) to bodies with large atmospheres (e.g. 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko) and many more. Such simulation studies are of great significance since they put the analysis into context. Moreover, they can reveal small-to-large scale plasma phenomena in various modelled environments, which are otherwise unachievable if analysis is solely conducted from spacecraft data.
The group is also playing an active role in pursuing being part of current and future space missions for example ESA's Comet Interceptor mission, which will be launched in 2028 and provide the first multi-point measurements at a comet ever. The spacecraft will be launched to the Sun-Earth Lagrange point L2, and wait there for a dynamically new comet, that is to say, a comet that is passing through the inner solar system for the first time, to appear. Then the spacecraft will move to intercept that comet in a fast flyby. Just before the comet encounters the spacecraft will separate into three parts that each will collect data along its own trajectory through the cometary plasma environment.
The Space Plasma Physics Group is also actively participating in the Umeå Lunar Venture project. The aim is to put the first electric field instrument ever on the surface of our moon. The project is conducted in collaboration with, among others, the German company PT Scientists.