The Heliophysics Science Division (HSD) of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center includes five laboratories that conduct research on the Sun, solar wind, geospace, ionosphere, thermosphere, mesosphere, and space weather. The Division provides high level management and oversight of the laboratories, and supports cross-cutting activities, such as education and public outreach, hardware and software technology development, and data archiving and dissemination. PHaSER researchers, along with an ever changing collection of students, postdocs, and visiting scientists in HSD, bring the breadth of knowledge and expertise that enable the Division to address its scientific and technical objectives.
The PHaSER research plan is designed to provide maximum value and efficiency in support of HSD’s science and mission requirements. Below, we identify the scientific challenges, approaches, objectives, and staffing plan for the five laboratories, along with a general plan for subsequent years.
Solar Physics Laboratory (Code 671)
The Solar Physics Laboratory leads in the exploration and understanding of the Sun as a star and as the primary driver of activity throughout the solar system. Studies of the Sun are carried out over the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum with instruments on satellites, spacecraft, sounding rockets, balloons, and the ground. Research includes studies of active regions, coronal holes, the solar atmosphere, magnetic fields, fundamental physical processes such as reconnection, eruptive events including flares and CMEs, space weather, helioseismology, and irradiance. The Solar Physics Lab defines and develops innovative instruments and mission concepts, theoretical models, and techniques to access and analyze data. The Laboratory is involved with mission planning and supervision, advanced instrumentation development, experiment participation, data analysis, and theoretical modeling for increased understanding of the basic processes involved. Missions currently under development for flight include PUNCH and CODEX, and involvement with MIDEX missions in Phase A feasibility studies such as MUSE and Solaris. The Lab runs the Solar Data Analysis Center (SDAC) and the CDAW Data Center that archive data products from space missions to enable ongoing science return from NASA missions. The Lab also hosts the secretariat of the International Space Weather Initiative (ISWI) that promotes science and outreach activities in space weather.
During the last five years, CEPHEUS and GPHI scientists have led or collaborated on investigations with civil servant scientists to address the Solar Physics Lab’s high-level challenges and aspirations, which include
- Understanding how and why the corona is structured the way it is, and determining its heating mechanism(s).
- Understanding how magnetic fields evolve, energy is released, particles are accelerated, plasma is heated, and mass flows and turbulence are generated during eruptive events including flares and CMEs.
- Understanding how the Sun’s interior is coupled to its photosphere, chromosphere, and corona, and ultimately to the solar wind.
- Understanding the variability of solar activity on timescales from seconds to decades, and predicting space weather throughout the heliosphere.
- Advancing solar observations using innovative technologies, and validating atomic physics quantities against observations and theoretical calculations.
- Preserving calibrated observations from satellite, spacecraft, sounding rocket, balloon, and other NASA missions in readily accessible, publicly available, documented archives.
Staffing and Skill Mix: Areas of expertise of staff members who conduct this work include but are not limited to SmallSat and suborbital instrumentation (Kevin Albin); EUV and UV spectroscopy (Jeffrey Brosius), coronal heating (Brosius, Vadim Uritsky, Lars Daldorff, Leon Ofman, Craig Johnston); physics of flare impulsive onset (Brosius); calibration, software, science data analysis tools for CODEX (Marta Casti); leader for CODEX Ground Operations and Systems, developer of CODEX Operation Concept Plan (Nelson Reginald), development of adaptive carbon nanotube mirrors (Peter Chen); 3D visco-resistive MHD simulations, coronal magnetic reconnection (Daldorff); periodic density structures in the solar wind and their geo-effectiveness (Simone Di Matteo); quasi-periodic pulsations in flares (Andrew Inglis, Brosius); calibration and final archiving of RHESSI data (Inglis); upgrading and quantifying predictive accuracy of the WSA model, guidance to Parker Solar Probes (PSP) operators for solar targets magnetically connected to the spacecraft during periods of encounter (Shaela Jones-Mecholsky); numerical techniques and solar atmosphere modeling (Craig Johnston); CME modeling, transport, and space weather prediction (Christina Kay, Hong Xie, Sachiko Akiyama-Yashiro); CMEs in extrasolar systems (Kay); radiation hydrodynamic simulations, flare chromospheric heating by waves and beams, and return currents (Graham Kerr); comparing WSA coronal hole predictions with STEREO images (Andrew Leisner, Jie Zhang); BITSE (Pertti Makela, Reginald, Seiji Yashiro); coronal and interplanetary shocks, and radio emission (Makela), filament oscillations and eruptions (Karin Muglach); MHD modeling of fast mode waves and flows in prominences, and ion-cyclotron instability in the solar wind (Ofman); semi-analytical modeling of diffuse corona for comparison with imaging data, global coronal fields, and simulations (Uritsky); waves in coronal loops, periodic modulations in magnetic free energy during flares, AIA DEMs, and flare theory (Tongjiang Wang); flux-ropes during sustained gamma-ray emission events, and STEREO/COR1 CME catalog (Xie); SOHO/LASCO CME catalog, coronal and interplanetary shocks, and radio bursts (Yashiro).
Research in the Following Years: PHaSER scientists will partner with their civil service counterparts in the development of new instruments and mission concepts. It is anticipated that staffing levels will increase as SPICE data continue to arrive from Solar Orbiter, CODEX is launched to the ISS (~2023), PUNCH is launched (~2024) and its science budget is increased, and if MIDEX missions MUSE and Solaris (both with GSFC involvement) are selected for flight. Although RHESSI has been decommissioned, its catalog of flare observations is a treasure trove has been decommissioned, its catalog of flare observations is a treasure trove that will continue to be used. Theoretical, modeling, and observational work on flares, CMEs, coronal heating and the solar wind will continue, some with ongoing ISFM support and some with Guest Investigator and/or Supporting Research grants to PHaSER scientists. The EUNIS launch is currently postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the instrument is ready to fly and will hopefully do so in 2021. Ground-based observations with the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) and the Expanded Owens Valley Solar Array (EOVSA) will be sought particularly when their coordination with satellite, spacecraft, and sounding rocket observations fill gaps in coverage that are needed to more completely understand flares, CMEs, coronal heating, and the solar wind.
Heliospheric Physics Laboratory (Code 672)
The research focus of the Heliospheric Physics Laboratory (HPL) is to understand the origin and evolution of the solar wind, low-energy cosmic rays, and interaction of the solar wind with the interstellar medium. HPL scientists develop space instrumentation and conduct the planning, implementation and operation of space missions. They develop numerical models to analyze data and simulate physical processes in the solar wind and heliosphere. They also create and maintain databases used for community-based research.
This domain of research naturally leads to a close relationship and collaboration with not only the other Heliophysics laboratories but also other NASA divisions, such as the Astrophysics and Planetary Sciences Divisions. HPL’s space missions often provide in-situ measurements for years or even decades, and therefore require long-term support starting from the mission planning, through instrument development, data collection, calibration and processing, to archival of data and enabling public access to it. The Laboratory continues to improve and develop new instrumentation for advancing our understanding of the plasma phenomena in the heliosphere. This is also aided by a strong focus on data analysis and development and utilization of theoretical and numerical models. The public and scientific community are served by the Laboratory’s strong commitment to the development and maintenance of a variety of data services. Collaborations and partnerships with the international scientific and engineering community are extensive and an essential component of the Laboratory’s success. Scientists in the Laboratory play key roles in a vast array of missions and projects, including ACE, DSCOVR, IBEX, Parker Solar Probe, STEREO, Voyager 1&2, Wind and the Space Physics Data Facility (SPDF).
PHaSER scientists lead and collaborate on investigations with civil servant scientists to address the Laboratory’s high-level challenges and aspirations, which include
- Understanding the origin and evolution of the solar wind.
- Understanding the CME and solar energetic particle (SEP) events.
- Understanding the interaction of the heliosphere with the interstellar medium
- Production and management of data from current and new heliospheric missions.
- Developing new instrument and mission concepts for heliospheric applications.
Staffing and Skill Mix: PHaSER scientists have collective skills which align well with the Heliospheric Physics Laboratory goals and objectives as outlined in the previous tables. One of the most exciting heliospheric missions up to date, the Parker Solar Probe, is for the first time studying the solar corona in situ. Several HPL scientists are part of the PSP mission and instrument teams and are responsible for many tasks ranging from providing calibration results for the PSP magnetometers to data analysis and interpretation (Melvin Goldstein, Andriy Koval, Jan Merka). However, the Laboratory is responsible for data collection and production from numerous other missions and the current scientists are intricately involved with many of those. For example, Koval (PI for the Magnetic Field Investigation on Wind) is involved with the calibration of fluxgate magnetometers on the WIND, DSCOVR, PSP, and Voyager 2 spacecraft and he is also responsible for producing science-quality data products from the Wind and DSCOVR spacecraft magnetometers; Tan processes and validates the solar energetic particle (SEP) data obtained by the Wind/EPACT/LEMT instrument; Merka performs WIND SWE electron data processing from Level 0 to Level 2 data and delivery to the CDAWeb facility and supports the Mission Scientist in Parker Solar Probe SWEAP instrument data issues; Lal monitors incoming data from the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft’s Cosmic Ray Subsystem (CRS) and modifies the data processing as the instruments change their responses with age. A close collaboration with Space Physics Data Facility (SPDF) is part their responsibility and include areas such as the metadata description and conversion to the common data format (CDF) of various existing or new data products (e.g. SOHO), with the subsequent ingestion of the data products to the SPDF/CDAWeb.
A continuous development of new instruments, mission concepts and missions assures that the Laboratory will be able to stay at the forefront of heliospheric research in the future. HPL scientists are an active part of mission development and planning. A number of instrument miniaturization efforts is aiming at the CubeSat mission proposals, which allow for a relatively cheap and quick way to build and launch space missions. For example, an intense effort is dedicated to a miniaturization of energetic particle or solar wind ion instruments (Alessandro Bruno, Teresa Tatoli, Robert Michell). Next, Steven Sturner supports various instrumental projects, for example he investigates shielding schemes for the HELENA (HELio Energetic Neutral Atom) detector, which is part of the Science-Enabling Technologies for Heliophysics (SETH) program. Vratislav Krupar will support the SunRISE spacecraft–a fleet of six CubeSats operating as a single large radio telescope to be launched in 2023 (Heliophysics Explorer Mission of Opportunity).
Integrated analysis of data from in-situ and remote observations of solar wind very often leads to a close collaboration with scientists from other laboratories and projects. For example, measurements are compared with models or used to validate them, which leads to joint work with the CCMC and NOAA SWPC (Koval - providing calibration results, Merka - evaluating potential improvements in CME arrival time forecasts at Earth). Ian Richardson provides SEP and related solar event databases to be used as input into the SPRINTS machine learning SEP prediction model to provide context to the analysis of type III radio bursts and help assess which characteristics of these radio bursts may be used as a predictor of SEP events. This SEP research includes interpretation of SEPs, interplanetary magnetic field and other contextual data. The GEANT simulation package is expertly used by Sturner to aid research in two main areas: 1) understanding the effects of energetic particle interactions in outer solar system objects and 2) understanding the background signals in particle detectors to aid in analysis of their data and to aid in the design of future instruments. The SEPSTER solar energetic particle event prediction code is under development (Richardson) in conjunction with the CCMC at Goddard and the Space Radiation Group (SRAG) at the NASA Johnson Space Center in support of the Integrated Solar Energetic Proton Alert/Warning System (ISEP), a joint SRAG/CCMC collaboration to improve space weather prediction for crew protection during near-term lunar surface and Cis-Lunar missions including ARTEMIS.
Interaction of the solar wind with the local interstellar medium is studied using a variety of data including ongoing measurements from the Voyager 1 and 2 Cosmic Ray Subsystem (CRS) (Nand Lal). The CRS consists of seven solid-state detector telescopes and is designed to measure composition and spectra of cosmic rays. Both spacecraft are now in the very local interstellar medium (VLISM), Voyager-1 crossed the heliopause on 25 August 2012 and Voyager-2 followed on 5 November 2018. The kinematics and distribution(s) of particles in the outer heliosheath will be studied using the IBEX-Lo observations and by investigating the exospheric hydrogen density distribution around the Earth from the IBEX ENA observations (Jeewoo Park). He creates trace-back flux maps of low energy neutral atoms to obtain a new model-free map of IBEX-Lo observations of interstellar neutral atoms.
Research in the Following Years: The heliospheric missions are typically operational for many years and therefore the most clearly identifiable tasks after the first year are those necessary for mission support or development, community support and most importantly the actual heliospheric research utilizing the mission data as discussed in a little more detail above. The following briefly outlines only the major expected (funded) missions for clarity.
The Parker Solar Probe plans its closest solar approach for December 2024 and the mission will likely continue operating for at least one more year after that. The Wind spacecraft provides important solar wind data at 1 AU and this capability will not be fully replaced until IMAP is launched in 2024. IMAP’s ten instruments will provide a complete and synergistic set of observations to simultaneously dissect the particle injection and acceleration processes at 1 AU while remotely probing the global heliospheric interaction and its response to particle populations generated by these processes. Substantial efforts will continue focusing on CubeSat missions, one already funded is the SunRISE mission (launch in 2023). PHaSER scientists will continue to be part of all these missions and we expect additional scientists coming to support the upcoming projects.
Geospace Physics Laboratory (Code 673)
The Geospace Physics Laboratory is engaged in the exploration and understanding of the physical processes in planetary magnetospheres and their interaction with the solar wind, and associated phenomena. With a focus on overarching plasma processes such as reconnection, turbulence, and acceleration, the Laboratory explores the heliosphere, from the near-Earth geospace to the edge of the solar system. The science and exploration objectives are supported by extensive capabilities in theory, modeling and simulations of space plasmas, and analysis of data from missions. The instrument development in a range of detector and imaging systems foster the conception and development of missions, and mission support enables wide use of data and products by the heliophsics community at large. The explorations of the plasma phenomena throughout geospace, other planetary magnetospheres, and the heliosphere, will be aided by the deployment of smallsat and CubeSats in constellations. The Laboratory has a long legacy of developing novel and improved instrumentation, and their deployment in space missions. This has fostered partnerships throughout the international heliophysics community in joint missions and in providing data access, analysis tools, and user support. The Laboratory personnel play key roles in a number of NASA Science Mission Directorate missions, including Wind, Voyager, THEMIS, Messenger, MMS, TWINS, IBEX, ACE, DSCOVR, Solar Orbiter, and many other missions.
During the last 5 years, CEPHEUS and GPHI scientists have led or collaborated on investigations with civil servant scientists to address the Geospace Laboratory’s high-level challenges and aspirations, which include:
- Understanding fundamental plasma processes in the geospace and planetary environments, from the shortest electron scale to the global scale.
- Understanding the physical processes underlying magnetic reconnection, particle acceleration and plasma turbulence
- Understanding the evolution of radiation belt structure by acceleration and loss of energetic particles in the Earth’s magnetosphere by wave-particle interactions.
- Understanding the magnetosphere-ionosphere-thermosphere coupling under variable solar wind conditions, through exploration and modeling.
- Advancing geospace observations using innovative technologies and new capabilities, including miniaturization for distributed platforms and cubesats
- Developing new mission concepts for exploration of the Geospace environment at multiple scales and their cross-scale coupling.
PHaSER scientists address these challenges and aspirations through a variety of new research projects, and identify new scientific objectives which further expand the horizons of the Laboratory.
Staffing and Skill Mix: The current CEPHEUS and GPHI scientists have collective skills that align well with the Geospace Physics Laboratory goals and objectives, viz. advancing the understanding of geospace phenomena, developing innovative techniques and methodologies for spacecraft-borne sensors (particle and field detectors, imaging sensors), and developing new missions exploring geospace at unprecedented spatial and temporal scales. The modeling and simulation of geospace phenomena uses multiple numerical codes. The studies of plasma kinetic phenomena in the magnetosphere use particle-in-cell, Vlasov and hybrid simulation codes (Naoki Bessho, Alexander Klimas, Alexander Lipatov, Jonathan Ng, Jason Shuster, Suzanne Smith, Adolfo Vinas, and Shan Wang), The modeling of the inner magnetospheric phenomena and radiation belts, and their coupling to the global phenomena use the Comprehensive Inner Magnetosphere Ionosphere (CIMI) and Coupled Global MHD-Ring Current (CGMRC) models (Natalia Buzulukova, Christian Ferradas, Suk-bin Kang, Colin Komar, Denny Oliveira). The development of particle detectors for geospace missions have used innovative spectrometers for electron and ions, their fabrication, testing and calibration. The instruments flown on recent missions include the Dual Electron Spectrometers (DES), Fast Plasma Investigation (FPI) for the MMS mission (Levon Avanov, Dennis Chornay, Glyn Collinson). The development of new flight missions includes the Solar-Terrestrial Observer for the Response of the Magnetosphere (STORM), Artemis Lunar mission, Cubesats and sounding rocket missions (Avanov, Chornay, Collinson,and Kyle Murphy).
Research in the Following Years: PHaSER scientists will explore and initiate new research in the Geospace Laboratory in collaboration with their civil service counterparts. The efforts in theory, modeling and simulation play a major role in the research and are expected to expand with the growing data from missions. The unprecedented data from the exploration of Earth’s magnetosphere by MMS have led to a variety of new results and new approaches, including kinetic (Vlasov and PIC) modeling and machine learning, and will be explored further. With the current emphasis on a deeper understanding of the inner magnetosphere, active engagement in the current efforts and participation in new initiatives, including multi-agency programs, is expected to grow. The long record of CEPHEUS and GPHI scientists in the development of new detector systems for missions will be leveraged for exploration of opportunities new mission concepts. Current engagements in missions (Artemis, IMAP, Solar Orbiter, Solar Orbiter Plus, STORM, as well as Cubesats and sounding rockets) provide a representative outlook for the near- and long-term collaboration. Mission support, including the data preparation and management, and Scientist-in-the-Loop, are integral part of the collaborative activities and is expected to grow with new missions.
Space Weather Laboratory (Code 674)
The Space Weather Laboratory (SWL) undertakes data analysis, theoretical, and modeling studies of the causal chain of events that lead to space weather effects of interest to NASA, other US government agencies, and the general public. SWL maintains a world-class space environment research program, including leadership roles in the development of space environment theories and models. SWL also plays active roles in the development of space environment projects and missions, analysis and visualization tools, and state-of-the-art computational models. SWL is committed to communicating research results and models to the scientific community, to various space weather end users, and to the general public. SWL holds strong partnerships with the heliophysics and space-weather communities worldwide, Federal agencies, industry, academia, and international organizations.
PHaSER researchers lead or collaborate on investigations with civil servant scientists to address the Geospace Laboratory’s high-level challenges and aspirations, which include:
- Studying and understanding the chain of events from Sun to Earth that triggers space weather effects using observations, theories and models.
- Developing and improving space weather models and prediction using new insights.
- Validating and prototyping space weather models for reach-to-operation transitions, and convey critical space weather information to users with innovative and effective products.
- Enabling and enhancing space weather research of a broad community through access to models, tools and data streams.
Staffing and Skill Mix: PHaSER scientists have collective skills that align well with the Space Weather Laboratory’s goal and objectives. They work on the GSFC/CCMC-Johnson SRAG collaborative ISEP project, dedicated to collecting and displaying results of numerous SEP models as a scoreboard, in-house at CCMC (Aleksandre Taktakishvili). They make update for the SWMG Solar-Helio Model (Taktakishvili). They improve the accessibility of data by the science community available from the SPDF (Scott Boardsen). They are experts in developing science and engineering requirements, data and software management policies, and working with all instrument teams to define L1-L3 data requirements for STORM mission (Kyle Murphy). They specialize in understanding the complex chain of energy transfer and the dynamics of space weather at the Earth which drives both substorms and geomagnetic storms (Murphy). They employ global hybrid simulation and data from multiple HSD missions to investigate foreshock bubble formation, particle acceleration by foreshock bubbles and the magnetospheric impacts of foreshock bubble by employing (Lee). They specialize in studying plasma waves, plasma structures and their interaction with particles in planetary magnetospheres for the MMS, RBSP and MESSENGER missions (Boardsen). They specialize in studying Geo-electric field events using MHD simulations under extreme conditions (Blake). The staffing of the CCMC includes Aleksandre Taktakishvili, Jia Yue, Anna Chulaki, Anne Michelle Mendoza, Elon Olsson, and Kyla Roberts. They have many years collective experience in running space weather models, carrying out essential space weather forecasting activities for NASA missions, and training the next generation of space weather professionals.
Research in the Following Years: PHaSER scientists will continue and strengthen the close partnership with the Community Coordinated Modeling Center (CCMC) established through the CEPHEUS award. This includes staff participation in model implementation, testing, validation, and assessment. We will also support the forecasting functions of the CCMC, in particular by involving students from the SESI program and from the Space Weather educational curricula at CUA and GMU. We will work closely with CCMC staff in related programs, including the Capabilities Assessment activities launched in 2017, the COSPAR International Space Weather Action Team (ISWAT) contributions to preparing a space weather roadmap, and the newly started Moon to Mars Space Weather Office.
Near-term challenges for the CCMC include the need to balance its expanding role in supporting NASA missions with its traditional role serving the community by providing access to models, runs on request, and state-of-the-art display options for model output. Our approach to this challenge will be to partner effectively with CCMC in efficiently providing highly qualified personnel to address the growing and changing staffing needs.
PHaSER scientists are also poised to support the unprecedented global view of the space weather system provided by the Solar-Terrestrial Observer for the Response of the Magnetosphere (STORM). Existing data, along with the modeling capabilities resident at the CCMC, will aid in mission planning activities for STORM over the next few years.
Ionosphere-Thermosphere-Mesosphere Physics Laboratory (Code 675)
The Ionosphere, Thermosphere, and Mesosphere (ITM) Laboratory studies the physics and chemistry of the middle and upper atmosphere (above 50 km altitude), including its internal dynamics, electrodynamics, and chemistry, and also its coupling to the magnetosphere and lower atmosphere, as well as its response to variations in direct solar forcing. The ionosphere-thermosphere is a critically important region where many physical processes take place, including space weather effects that can lead to significant societal impacts. This transition region between the atmosphere and space offers a natural laboratory to study fundamental phenomena of plasma-gas interactions and plasma electrodynamics that are universally important for understanding our solar system and beyond.
The ITM lab actively participates in mission development in every stage from inception to launch and is currently involved in various large-scale Living With a Star (LWS) missions and projects such as MMS, ICON, GOLD, AIM, Geotail, TIMED, and THEMIS, covering the mesosphere, thermosphere, ionosphere, and magnetosphere. The Laboratory develops state-of-the-art instrumentation, theoretical models, and data analysis techniques to investigate neutral and electrodynamic processes. The Laboratory participates in international collaborations through Grand Challenge Initiative projects and supports innovative citizen science projects such as Aurorasaurus which lead to new scientific discoveries and participates as a “data science hub” in support of artificial intelligence and machine learning efforts of the Helios Analytics group. The HSD Science and Engineering Student Internship (SESI) summer internship program is orchestrated by the members of this lab that is of primary importance to the educational goals of the Division.
PHaSERe scientists lead or collaborate on investigations with civil servant scientists to address the Ionosphere, Thermosphere, and Mesosphere Laboratory’s high-level challenges and aspirations, which include:
- Maximizing science return from current missions, such as AIM, TIMED, and more recent ones like ICON and GOLD.
- Understanding the role of internal atmospheric waves and the lower atmosphere in driving the dynamics and variability of the ITM.
- Understanding plasma-neutral interactions, auroral electrodynamics, and their coupling to space weather.
- Understanding the role of internal atmospheric waves and the lower atmosphere in driving the dynamics and variability of the ITM.
- Quantifying the effects of meteor impacts on Earth’s atmosphere using new data from southern hemisphere meteor radars.
Staffing and Skill Mix: The ITM Laboratory includes researchers with a combination of theoretical, observational and modeling expertise in disciplines that span the breadth of phenomena occurring in Earth’s middle and upper atmospheres.These include lightning and transient luminous event (TLE) modeling and data analysis (Burcu Kosar), multi-instruments studies of auroral electrodynamics and ionospheric radars (Robert Robinson), atmosphere-ionosphere modeling along with gravity wave and tide studies (Erdal Yiğit, Guiping Liu), atmospheric remote sensing and the lunar exosphere (Erin Dawkins), radar and optical studies of meteor showers (Sebastian Bruzzone), substorms and steady magnetospheric convection (Anna DeJong), ion outflow (Kosar, DeJong), data science initiatives, Helio Analytics & ITM Data Science Group (Kosar), and citizen science (Kosar).
Research in the Following Years: PHaSER scientists will continue to support Geospace Dynamics Constellation (GDC) mission development using model simulations and data analysis. These activities will produce new scientific results, while demonstrating where gaps are that the GDC mission will address. Scientific expertise in gravity waves, ionospheric electrodynamics, and ion-neutral coupling will also help prepare for data returned from the Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE), planned for launch in August 2022. . ITM Lab is interested in developing new balloon campaigns to obtain critical measurements below 50 km that can significantly enhance our understanding of the electrodynamics of this region (including but not limited to poorly explored lightning related upper atmospheric discharges). ITM Lab will continue its involvement in sounding rocket missions that are focused on expanding our knowledge of auroral phenomena (specifically pulsating aurora).
Cross-cutting and interdisciplinary activities
Interdisciplinary research and studies that integrate science across Laboratories are critical to achieving HSD strategic goals. The PHaSER partnership is ideally structured to facilitate such undertakings. We plan to form virtual working groups involving staff from different laboratories and, in some cases, other divisions at GSFC. These working groups will meet regularly to discuss emerging methodologies that can be applied to the most complex and compelling science challenges. The following are examples of such working groups where expertise already exists in our current staff.
Machine Learning Working Group. Machine learning is becoming more important in successfully mining large scientific databases. Recent results have indicated the high efficiency of machine learning techniques in the identification of structures associated with physical phenomena, such as in the solar atmosphere and magnetospheric boundaries, complementing first-principles approaches. However, the applications of machine learning techniques are in early stages, and the need for a better understanding of their reliability as a research tool has been recognized in the formation of the cross-disciplinary HelioAnalytics group in code 670. The Machine Learning working group will support these efforts to apply ML techniques to archived data and newly acquired observations and model output.
Observing System Simulation Experiments. With the growing deployment of satellite constellations, it is essential that mission planning activities thoroughly simulate the observations to optimize the number of spacecraft, orbital configuration, and instrumentation to achieve mission scientificgoals. Simulation experiments in the laboratory have been an essential component of spacecraft instrumentation development and testing. These have included experimental facilities to simulate the magnetic field configurations and high radiation environments in space. The capability to simulate the observing systems using new modeling approaches and tools will complement the current tools and expand the conditions in space in which they are deployed.
Citizen Science. Citizen scientists are playing an increasingly important role in enhancing observations, undertaking data processing and analysis activities, and providing context to space weather phenomena. This working group will work closely with existing citizen science projects in HSD to support the growing network of citizen scientists.
These represent just a few of the opportunities that PHaSER researchers will help establish or contribute to. Others include activities focused on:
- Preserving calibrated observations from spacecraft, sounding rocket, balloon, and other NASA missions in readily accessible, publicly available, documented archives.
- Mentoring undergraduate students for short-term internships, advising graduate students for advanced degrees, and engaging diverse public audiences in outreach activities.
- Encouraging and supporting high risk research and technology development.
- Effectively communicating the results of HSD research to the GSFC and NASA management, the broader scientific community, and the general public.
- Successfully developing new mission concepts for future opportunities.
- Exploiting new small satellite technologies, satellite constellations, and emerging commercial capabilities and data sources to address HSD science priorities.
- Enhancing the research-to-operations and operations-to-research cycle in space weather forecasting.
With the extensive network provided by the PHaSER partner institutions, virtual working groups can be enhanced and expanded, with a greater footprint in the broader community. This model is currently being used by COSPAR in organizing its International Space Weather Action Teams (ISWAT). These efforts will contribute to HSD’s continuing success as a leading institution in the international science community.