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Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung


Research Areas and Projects

Aeronomy is the study of the Earth´s lower and upper atmosphere. In the past years the Max-Planck-Institut für Aeronomie has considerably broadened its research activities beyond these original fields. The research scope of the institutes is now concerned with the whole solar system. In three research areas the following systems are investigated:

Atmospheres, Ionospheres and Magnetospheres
Sun and Heliosphere
Planets, Moons, Comets and small bodies


In addition to these mainly observational and experimental activities new theoretical approaches are developed, physical models are derived and numerical simulations are carried out: Theory and modelling

Atmospheres, Ionospheres and Magnetospheres

more about atmospheres & ionospheres
more about magnetospheres
Projects

Here we are primarily concerned with the investigation of the Earth´s atmosphere as well as of its magnetosphere, the region of space filled by the terrestrial magnetic field. The measuring methods include ground-based optical observations, sonding of the atmosphere and ionosphere by radio waves, measurements of trace gases in the atmosphere by balloons and rockets, and even by the Space Shuttle; the terrestrial magnetosphere is investigated by rockets and satellites. The Institute´s ground-based measuring systems are located in Lindau, in the Harz mountains, in northern Scandinavia, in Spitzbergen and on Crete. Balloon flights to gather trace gases (also ozone) in the stratosphere are carried out in Scandinavia, southern France, and in India. For the magnetospheric research, Institute scientists have participated on a multitude of satellite projects with measuring detectors developed here. The experimental investigations are supported by theoretical studies and modelling.

Sun and Heliosphere

more about the sun and heliosphere
Projects


Beyond the magnetosphere is where interplanetary space begins, a region filled with the waves and particle beams of the solar wind. Even the resulting electromagnetic waves play an important role. The research is concentrated on the solar atmosphere, the interplanetary medium, and its influence on other bodies in the solar system, whereby measurements are carried out from spacecraft. Furthermore, a ground-based coronagraph is operated in the Andes (Argentina). The research field too is supported by theoretical calculations for the interpretation of the measurements.

Planets, Moons, Comets and small bodies

more about planets, comets, and small bodies
Projects


The goal here is the investigation of the surfaces, atmospheres, and magnetospheres of the other planets in our solar system, of cometary nuclei, and of other small bodies (e.g. asteroids) and their immediate environment, as well as interplanetary dust. Measuring devices developed at this Institute are employed, such as camera systems and particle analyzers, which are mounted on the spacecraft. An especially well-known example is the camera on board the GIOTTO spacecraft that took the first pictures of the nucleus of comet Halley and transmitted them to the Earth. This camera was developed at this Institute. The MPAe is also involved in planetary missions to Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars. World-wide attention was attained in 1997 by the pictures from the Martian surface taken by the IMP camera on the American spacecraft PATHFINDER. Essential parts of this camera were designed and built at the MPAe. Scientists from the Institute will be taking part in further planetary and cometary mission in the future. Observerations of comets, planets, and small bodies are also carried out from the ground with large telescopes.

Theory and modelling

Research works

The theoretical and modelling activities in the institute are closely related with the experiments and measurements, carried out directly in Lindau or in the framework of international collaboration. New theoretical approaches are developed and numerical simulation methods are applied. A major topic of theoretical research at the MPAe is the investigation of magnetized solar-system and astrophysical plasmas. Key processes in this regard are the dynamo process, creating magnetic fields, the magnetic convection, determining the motion of magnetized plasmas, and magnetic reconnection, which controls the storage and release of magnetic energy, heats the plasma and accelerates particles to high energies. One current research goal is to understand the heating of the solar corona to temperatures of millions of degrees, much higher than the 5500 degrees at the solar surface. Other problems, addressed, are the acceleration of the solar wind, and, e.g., the processes, which detach hot magnetic bubbles (CME) from the sun and those, which determine their consequences for the Earth. While the dynamo and magnetoconvection are described mainly by magnetohydrodynamic methods, magnetic reconnection has to be described plasma-kinetically. Turbulence and nonlinear wave processes are another subject of theoretical investigation in the institute. They appear to be decisive for plasma transport and dissipation processes all over the heliosphere from the sun to planetary ionospheres.


 

Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung

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Further information: http://www.mps.mpg.de