Solar System Physics

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Overview

Energy and matter emerge from the Sun and flow through our heliosphere, interacting with planetary atmospheres and surfaces, powering many of the processes which shape our world and define the planetary environment we live in. The Solar System Physics Group at Aberystwyth studies this single system from the development of eruptive features on the Sun, through the evolution and structure of material in the solar wind, and the impact of this flow on the environments of the inner planets. This science exploitation goes hand in hand with a programme of solar system exploration, and the group also researches the robotic technology for future missions that will dramatically improve their science return.

The group carries out research in four main themes whose aim is to expand our knowledge of solar-planetary interactions out to the orbit of Mars, and to maximise the scientific return from the next generation of planetary exploration missions. These themes are as follows:

Solar Physics

The solar physics theme investigates the processes on the Sun that can lead to the outflow and eruption of solar material into interplanetary space. These processes are strongly related to the Sun's magnetic field, and research is undertaken on the structure and dynamics of the magnetic field in the solar atmosphere.

The Solar Wind and Heliosphere

To investigate the structure and dynamics of these outflows and eruptions as they expand into the heliosphere

Planetary Magnetospheres and Ionospheres

To investigate the effect of solar material as it interacts with planets, and how it affects the loss of planetary atmospheres, particularly at Venus; Compare the behaviour of the magnetospheres, ionospheres and exospheres of the inner Solar System planets.

Planetary Surfaces and Robotic Exploration

To determine the composition of the Moon and inner planets and identify their formation history; to develop the next generation of robotics for planetary exploration.