School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

UTD Space Scientist Invited to Present Lecture at the University of Leicester, and to Collaborate with Two Space Science Groups in the United Kingdom

Presentation consisted of overview of UTD Space Sciences research

UTD research scientist Marc Hairston, Ph.D., has been in contact with a group of scientists at the University of Leicester for several years. Last year during a meeting in Britain, he met with another team of scientists from the University College in London.

"Both research groups work with radar studies of the ionosphere and have expressed interest in collaborating with the UTD Center for Space Sciences." Dr. Hairston said.

"We coordinated with each other to find a week that would work for us to have me come over and talk about our research programs here and plan out some future collaborative work." He added.

Hairston presented an overview of the research done at the UTD Center for Space Sciences with the UTD-built instruments that have been flying on Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) spacecraft since 1987, including polar ionospheric convection studies, cross polar cap potential studies, potential saturation studies, Super Dual Aurora Radar Network (SuperDARN)-DMSP comparisons, Sub-Auroral Ion drifts (SAID) / Sub-Auroral Plasma Stream (SAPS) studies, and examinations of equatorial plasma bubbles. 

Hairston also discussed the on-line data distribution system that allows users outside of U. T. Dallas to inspect and download the DMSP data for their own research.

DMSP Satellites Carry UTD-Built Research Instruments

The nine DMSP satellites have carried a thermal plasma instrument package built by the Center for Space Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas.  These instruments measure the three-dimensional ion flow, the plasma density and composition, and the ion and electron temperatures of the topside ionosphere at the satellite's altitude of roughly 840 km. In the nearly 20 years of operation, the UTD Center for Space Sciences, has collected over 47 satellite-years worth of ionospheric data. 


DMSP (Defense Meteorological Satellite Program) consists of a series of polar orbiting weather satellites at an altitude of approximately 840 km operated by the United States Department of Defense.  The spacecraft are in 96 degree inclination orbits which means the orbit precesses through 360 degrees per year, which means the orbit stays locked to a local time throughout the year.

SuperDARN is an international program where we operate and share data from approximately 15 radars in the northern polar region and the Antarctic region that study the behavior of the polar ionosphere.

SAID/SAPS are westward flows of ions that appear in the ionosphere equatorward of the aurora during or after magnetic storms. SAIDs (Sub Auroral Ion Drifts) were first identified by the late Bill Hanson here at UTD in the 80s and Phil Anderson (alumnus of UTD space science and the new faculty member we have here) did his Ph.D. thesis on these and is still working on them. SAPS stands for Sub Auroral Plasma Stream and is a new term for SAIDs and other associated phenomenon we see with them.

The William B. Hanson Center for Space Sciences at The University of Texas at Dallas conducts a vigorous research program in Space Plasma Physics. It is composed of faculty, researchers, and graduate students affiliated with the university's Physics department. The center's goal is to advance the understanding of the evolution of Solar system bodies and their interaction with the Sun.

  • Updated: February 10, 2014