Section 2.8: Magnetospheric Physics

Researchers from the Northwest University and the South African Space Agency visit GFZ

In the framwork of the project on "Joint South Africa-Germany Space Weather Studies During Solar Cycle 25 and Beyond", funded by the Alexander von Humboldt foundation, three researchers (Prof. Du Toit Strauss, Dr. Stefan Lotz and Mr. Jabus van den Berg) from the Northwest University and the South African Space Agency visited GFZ and researchers from Sections 2.3 and 2.8. The purpose of the visit was to initiate the group-linkage cooperation, explore topics for collaboration and prepare the deployment of a mini Neutron Monitor on the South African Research Vessel SA Agulhas II, to explore the Cosmic Ray flux variation in the South Atlantic and polar regions. We are looking forward to the coming years of productive collaboration between South Africa and Germany in geomagnetic and space research.

A new way to create Saturn's radiation belts

November 29, 2018

Around Saturn, and other planets including the Earth, energetic charged particles are trapped in magnetic fields generated by the planets. Here the particles arrange in doughnut-shaped zones, known as radiation belts, such as the Van Allen belts around the Earth where electrons travel close to the speed of light.

Irina Zhelavskaya Awarded 2018 Outstanding Student Poster and PICO (OSPP) Awards

April 2018

Systematic analysis of machine learning techniques for Kp prediction in the framework of the H2020 project ‘SWAMI’ (Zhelavskaya, I.; Shprits, Y.; Vasile, R.; Stolle, C.; Matzka, J.)

Click here to download the poster/PICO file.

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Million fold increase in the power of waves near Jupiter's moon Ganymede

August 07, 2018

Listening to electro-magnetic waves around the Earth, converted to sound, is almost like listening to singing and chirping birds at dawn with a crackling camp fire nearby. This is why such waves are called chorus waves. They cause polar lights but also high-energy 'killer' electrons that can damage spacecraft. In a recent study to be published in Nature Communications, the authors describe extraordinary chorus waves around other planets in our solar system.

How do electrons vanish from the Van-Allen-Belts?

December 21, 2017

Super fast electrons are pushed into the atmosphere whereas less fast electrons stay – Findings are important for satellite safety and exoplanet studies.

Satellites at risk: Space weather models need better validation

December 28, 2016

Accuracy of space weather prediction depends strongly on the quality of the models. A team led by the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences demonstrates how errors in the algorithms can lead to wrong predictions. The authors present a new algorithm for modelling of the electron flux in the geosynchronous orbit which is important for telecommunication and navigation satellites.

Yuri Shprits follows call to the University of Potsdam

November 8,  2016

Yuri Shprits, Head of the research group Magnetospheric Physics at the GFZ section Earth’s Magnetic Field, was appointed Professor at the Institute of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Potsdam, on 24 October. Shprits was successfully...

Wave-induced loss of ultra-relativistic electrons in the Van Allen radiation belts

1. Oktober 2016

A geomagnetic storm on January 17, 2013, provided unique observations that finally resolved a long-standing scientific problem.

A perfect sun-storm

September 28, 2016

A geomagnetic storm on January 17, 2013, provided unique observations that finally resolved a long-standing scientific problem. For decades, scientists had asked how particles hitting the Earth's magnetosphere were lost. A likely mechanism involved certain electromagnetic waves scattering particles into the Earth's atmosphere. More recently, another mechanism was proposed that caused particles to be lost in interplanetary space. Yuri Shprits from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences and the University of Potsdam, together with colleagues from several institutions, recently found that both mechanisms play a role affecting particles at different speeds. “This study resolves some fundamental scientific questions about our space environment and may also help understand fundamental processes that occur elsewhere in space, on the Sun, in outer planets, distant galaxies, and exoplanets,” says Yuri Shprits. He adds: “This study will also help us predict and now-cast the space environment and protect valuable satellites in space.” The study appeared in Nature Communications on Wednesday, September 28.

Dr. Tatiana Podladchikova Awarded International Alexander Chizhevsky Medal

January 8, 2016

Applied Mathematician Dr. Tatiana Podladchikova was awarded the International Alexander Chizhevsky Medal at the 12th European Space Weather Week, for major results in space weather.

Zebra stripes in space resolves a half-century mystery

July 27, 2015

This structure is pretty close to the Earth, which is important because people want to understand the environment where satellites operate. Usually plasma undergoes a number of different instabilities, and waves tend to move from one region in space to another, so everything you see is noisy, very short-lived, and on smaller scales. But this structure seems to be very persistent, highly coherent in space, and was remarkably organized and structured, which we didn’t know could exist to such high degree.

Unusual stable trapping of the ultrarelativistic electrons in the Van Allen radiation belts

September 29, 2013

RBM group scientists have successfully modeled and explained the unprecedented behavior of this third ring, showing that the extremely energetic particles that made up this ring, known as ultra-relativistic electrons, are driven by very different physics than typically observed Van Allen radiation belt particles. The region the belts occupy—ranging from about 1,000 to 50,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface—is filled with electrons so energetic they move close to the speed of light.

Irina Zhelavskaya: Invited talk

September 2017

Invited talk "Empirical modeling of the plasmasphere dynamics using neural networks", Space Weather: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach Workshop at the Lorentz Center, September 25-29, 2017, Leiden, the Netherlands.

Irina Zhelavskaya: Invited talk

August 2017

Invited talk "Deriving electron density from electric field measurements on the Van Allen Probes spacecraft and building a global dynamic model of plasma density using neural networks", IAPSO-IAMAS-IAGA 2017, August 27 - September 1, 2017, Cape Town, South Africa.

Irina Zhelavskaya

June 2017

Award for the best student poster presentation "Empirical modeling of the plasmasphere dynamics using neural networks", GEM 2017 Summer Workshop, June 18-23, 2017, Portsmouth, VA, USA.

Irina Zhelavskaya: Invited talk

May 2017

Invited talk "Empirical modeling of the plasmasphere with neural networks", POF PT I Workshop: From Atmosphere to Space Weather, May 30, 2017, Potsdam, Germany.

Juan Sebastian Cervantes Villa

April 2017

Best EGU poster at GFZ 12th PhD day in April 2017, entitled ”Three-dimensional data assimilation and reanalysis of radiation belt electrons”.

Irina Zhelavskaya

March 2017

Award for the best student oral presentation "Global dynamic evolution of the cold plasma inferred with neural networks", DGG 2017, March 27-30, 2017, Potsdam, Germany.

(GFZ Potsdam)
(GFZ Potsdam)
(GFZ Potsdam)
(GFZ Potsdam)

The near-Earth space environment is hazardous and poses a significant risk for satellites and humans in space. Currently, there are hundreds of operational commercial satellites with a revenue stream of tens of billions of dollars per year. There are also a number of other satellites that assist in navigation, weather prediction, and telecommunication. Frequent satellite failures caused by space weather have fueled a surge in interest with specification and prediction of space weather during the last decade.

Our section is working on understanding of the dynamical evolution of the hazardous space radiation environment and developing the tools for specification and prediction of the adverse effects of space environment using models and data assimilation. We study fundamental processes in the near-Earth environment and focus on understanding fundamental processes responsible for the evolution of space radiation. Our research will help safely design and operate satellites and maintain ground networks. In our research we try to bridge our theoretical studies with high performance computing to develop tools that can be used by engineers.

Below you can find more details on the main areas of research in our section:

Radiation Belt Modelling

(GFZ Potsdam)

Earth’s radiation belts consist of highly energetic protons and electrons trapped by Earth’s magnetic field in the region of 1.2~8 Re (Earth radii) away from Earth’s center, which can be hazardous for satellite equipment. Our group uses modelling approaches to better understand the dynamic evolution of the outer radiation belts. Specifically, we have developed physics-based 3D and 4D Versatile Electron Radiation Belt (VERB) codes to help us understand important mechanisms controlling the dynamic evolution of radiation belts, such as radial diffusion, local acceleration, local loss, magnetopause shadowing and electric convection.

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Data Assimilation

(GFZ Potsdam)

Analysis of radiation belt observations present a major challenge, as satellite observations are often incomplete, inaccurate and have only limited spatial coverage. Nevertheless, through data assimilation observations can be blended with information from physics-based models, in order to fill gaps and lead to a better understanding of the underlying dynamical processes. We have developed a scheme that enables efficient data assimilation from multiple satellite missions into the state-of-the-art partial differential equation-based model of the inner magnetosphere Versatile Electron Radiation Belt (VERB-3D).

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Machine Learning

(GFZ Potsdam)

Machine learning (ML) methods and algorithms can be applied to space weather related problems in order to develop new data-driven models of different physical phenomena in space and to enhance existing physics-based models. In our group, we use ML algorithms to develop predictive models of electron density in the plasmasphere and Kp index, and use these models to enhance our radiation belt forecasts.

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Ring Current Modelling

(GFZ Potsdam)

The ring current is an electric current encircling the Earth at the distances between ~3 and ~5 Earth’s radii from the center of the Earth in the equatorial plane. It is a crucial component in our understanding of the magnetosphere dynamics and geomagnetic storms, and it can also affect human infrastructures such as high-latitude power grids or currently operating communication or navigation satellites. In our group, we use the four-dimensional Versatile Electron Radiation Belt (VERB-4D) code to model the dynamics of the ring current.

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Yuri Shprits
Section Head
Prof. Dr. Yuri Shprits
Magnetospheric Physics
Albert-Einstein-Straße 42-46
Building A 42, Room 202/203
14473 Potsdam
+49 331 288-28899
Sandra Paulin
Magnetospheric Physics
Albert-Einstein-Straße 42-46
Building A 42, Room 204
14473 Potsdam
+49 331 288-1831