Space Missions

I am a Co-Investigator for the Solar Wind Plasma Analyser (SWA) instrument on board ESA’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft. Solar Orbiter will launch in 2020 and explore the inner heliosphere and its connection with the Sun in great detail. The SWA instrument suite will measure the in-situ properties of protons, electrons, alpha particles, and heavy ions with unprecedented resolution and quality. Here is some of the media coverage that the launch of Solar Orbiter generated with my involvement:

I have written a News & Views feature article “A step closer to the Sun’s secrets” for Nature about the first results from the Parker Solar Probe. This mission was launched in the summer of 2018 and has now reached the inner parts of the solar system. No spacecraft has explored these regions before. The initial results are promising and show that the solar wind is more structured than previously expected and that the amplitude of fluctuations is greater near the Sun. You can read my Nature article and the related research articles here. I have also written a summary piece for The Conversation and was interviewed about the Parker Solar Probe results by the Cosmos Magazine and the New York Times. Another summary article can be found on space.com.

I am the Mission Co-PI Science for the Debye mission. This mission concept underwent the review process for ESA’s F-class programme and is now the backup for the Comet Interceptor mission. If selected, Debye will answer the science question “How are electrons heated in astrophysical plasmas?”. It will consist of one main spacecraft that measures electrons with very high cadence and resolution, electric fields, magnetic fields, and protons. Then it will have three smaller deployable spacecraft that measure high-frequency fluctuations in the magnetic field. The spacecraft separation will vary from a few hundred metres to a few thousand kilometres during the mission lifetime. In this way, Debye will study the thermodynamics of electrons on small plasma scales in the solar wind. The major challenge for these measurements lies in the requirement to count electrons very rapidly in order to resolve electron-scale structures in the particle distribution. Debye also features in my AGU Narratives podcast interview for the American Geophysical Union’s centennial and the Space Mission Special on BBC Four’s Sky at Night programme.
In relation to our Debye mission proposal, we have submitted the White Paper “A Case for Electron-Astrophysics” to ESA’s Voyage 2050 programme. In this White Paper, we argue for the importance of electron-scale physics to understand the global plasma evolution in the solar wind and throughout the Universe.