Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Studies in the Upper Polar Atmosphere
Academic Year
Semester 2
PH22510; and specific academic requirements as in the students' handbook
External Examiners
  • Professor Pete Vukusic (Professor - Exeter University)

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment AGF301  Combined: Written Examination + Approved Project Report  50%
Semester Assessment AGF304  Combined: Oral Examination +Approved Project Report  50%
Supplementary Assessment As determined by the Departmental Examination Board  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Describe how the energy from the solar wind is deposited in the Earth’s magnetosphere/ionosphere system, and how this is related to physical processes.
2. Discuss basic plasma physics in terms of both the fluid and kinetic theory approaches leading to their application in the incoherent scattering processes.
3. Demonstrate an understanding of measurements made by various optical instruments at the Kjell Henriksen Observatory.
4. Display competence of radar techniques used by EISCAT Svalbard Radar in space plasma and ionospheric research and of the methodology and mathematical descriptions used in the signal analysis.
5. Operate and calibrate optical instrumentation and operate an incoherent scatter radar. Recognise radar analysis techniques and utilise the data analysis package.
6. Communicate an understanding of the physical principles, observing techniques and analysis methods in writing and orally.
(See UNIS courses AFG-301 and AGF-304 for full details.)

Brief description

The module, which is delivered and assessed at UNIS located in Longyearbyen, Svlabard, consists of 2 parts:
AGF-301 The Upper Polar Atmosphere.
AGF-304 Radar Diagnostics of Space Plasma.

These qualify for 30 ECTS credits which are equivalent to 60 Aberystwyth Credits.


AGF-301 The Upper Polar Atmosphere (15 ECTS)
This course describes the interactions between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetosphere and the consequences of these processes for the ionised region of the upper atmosphere i.e. the ionosphere. Energy, particles and momentum transferred from the solar wind manifest themselves in the upper Polar atmosphere, particularly as the aurora, but also in terms of powerful electric currents and wind systems (ion winds as well as winds in the neutral gas). Central elements in this course are descriptions of the Earth's magnetic field, the magnetosphere, ionisation processes and the formation of the ionosphere.

AGF-304 Radar Diagnostics of Space Plasma (15 ECTS)
The course begins by discussing basic ionospheric HF sounding techniques and radar design. An introduction is given to basic plasma physics, discussing both the fluid and kinetic theory approaches before providing a detailed description of how these fundamental theories are applied to the incoherent scattering processes. Lectures also focus on the mathematical techniques utilised in the signal analysis process and the resulting autocorrelation function and power density spectrum. A technical description is given of the EISCAT Svalbard Radar (ESR) including transmitter, receiver and antenna design.

For the full details on these courses see the UNIS Course Catalogue on
Prior to the courses students are required to attend one week of compulsory Arctic survival and safety training (AS-101).

Transferable skills

Fieldwork at the Kjell Henriksen Observatory and the EISCAT Svalbard Radar.


This module is at CQFW Level 7