Christopher Chaston

Closed (1) ‘Turbulent field topology and particle scattering in the Solar Corona’

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

In this project we seek to advance understanding of how turbulent electromagnetic field topologies may scatter ions in the plasmas close to Sun. This process may drive heating and energization of the ion distributions through this region of space and forces plasma outward from the Sun in the Solar Wind. Understanding this process is one of the main drivers of NASA’s mission to the Sun known as the Parker Solar Probe.

The students will perform analyses of electromagnetic fields measurements from the Parker Solar Probe to identify morphological features. Using statistical techniques and theoretical models, movies replicating the 3-D dynamics of the fields and plasma will be created. Time permitting, these model fields will be used to drive test-particle distributions of ions to determine if the observed character of the particle distributions are consistent with those observed from the spacecraft. The students will gain experience in time series data analysis techniques and basic space plasma physics. , Staff Researcher

Qualifications: The student should be familiar with Maxwell's equations and the Lorentz force. The ability to write computer code is necessary.

Weekly Hours: 3-5 hrs

Off-Campus Research Site: Covid safe/Remote

Related website: https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/parker-solar-probe

Closed (2) ‘Relativistic electron scattering in electromagnetic turbulence’

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

Recent discoveries in near-Earth space have demonstrated a correlation between rapid changes in relativistic electron populations and the onset of intervals of electromagnetic turbulence during geomagnetic storms. Understanding the dynamics of these energetic particles remains an enigma despite decades of observations and theoretical modeling. Multiple processes have been identified as driving these variations, yet the time scales and spatial distributions of the drivers often to do not concur with the observed variations. In this project we seek to determine if a robust correlation between the occurrence of broadband electromagnetic turbulence and variations in energetic electron fluxes exists. We will consider the processes that may lead to scattering and if the properties of the electrons observed are consistent with what may be expected through this interaction.

The students will analyze observations from NASA’ Van Allen Probes spacecraft and implement data-analysis techniques to extract wave and particle distribution properties. Statistics will be compiled to examine the occurrence of wave activity and energetic electron flux variations through the near-Earth space region typically identified as the outer radiation belt. The student will gain experience in the implementation of spectral analysis techniques and familiarity with basic space plasma physics.

Qualifications: The student should be familiar with Maxwell's equations. The ability to write computer code is necessary.

Weekly Hours: 3-5 hrs

Off-Campus Research Site: Covid Safe/Remote

Related website: https://www.nasa.gov/van-allen-probes

Closed (3) 'Energy Transport, Conversion and Dissipation in Earth's Magnetotail'

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

Understanding turbulence in fluids and plasmas is one of the great challenges of physics. In Earth's near-space environment, known as the magnetosphere, turbulent fluctuations in electromagnetic fields and flows transport vast quantities of energy inward toward Earth through a channel of stretched magnetic field known as the magnetotail. This region is characterized by explosive energy releases that drive particle acceleration and scattering to form dazzling auroral displays at the poles and energize plasmas near in the equator to the extent that they dramatically modify Earth's magnetic field. In this project we shall identify and quantify the different forms of energy transport through this region of space with the ultimate aim of mapping their distribution under varying space weather conditions.

The student will implement data-analysis techniques designed to extract the different forms of energy transport from multi-point time-series measurements of electromagnetic fields and particles. These measurements are provided by the Magnetospheric Multi-Scale mission. Statistics will be compiled to map the distribution of the different forms of transport and to identify general characteristics of the turbulent fields and flows through this region of space. The student will gain experience in the implementation of spectral analysis techniques and familiarity with basic space plasma physics.

Qualifications: The student should be familiar with Maxwell's equations. The ability to write computer code is necessary.

Weekly Hours: 3-5 hrs

Off-Campus Research Site: Covid Safe/Remote

Related website: https://lasp.colorado.edu/mms/sdc/public/

Closed (4) 'Flow tracing through the auroral acceleration region'

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

The spectacular display of light seen at high latitudes and known as the aurora is a consequence of the conversion of electromagnetic energy to particle kinetic energy. The motions in these luminous features are a marker for how the energy conversion operates. This project seeks to trace the motion of elements of light seen in these displays to identify the physics defining the energy conversion process.


This research will involve the analysis of visible imagery in the form of movies of active auroral displays. Techniques to trace optical elements in these features will be implemented to derive flow patterns describing the flow of plasmas above the Earth's atmosphere. The student will gain experience in the analysis of dynamic imagery and familiarity with the physics of auroral particle acceleration. , Staff Researcher

Qualifications: The student should be familiar with Maxwell's equations. The ability to write computer code is necessary.

Weekly Hours: 3-5 hrs

Off-Campus Research Site: Covid Safe/Remote

Related website: https://www.isas.jaxa.jp/e/forefront/2006/hirahara/index.shtml