MarsExpress Copyright:ESA

Open PhD Projects in the Planetary Plasma Group

Interaction of non-magnetized planets with the solar wind

Solar wind reaches the upper atmosphere of Mars while the Earth atmosphere is protected bz the Earth magnetic field. (Image @NASA/GSFC).

The observations made by the European Mars and Venus Express satellites have revolutionized our understanding of the interaction between the ionized atmospheres of Mars and Venus with the solar wind. For the first time we have measured the chemical composition and motion of ions in the region above both planets were solar forces and planetary matter interact.

Since October 2014 the NASA spacecraft MAVEN is in orbit around Mars. It delivers data at much higher resolution than Mars Express and allows a much deeper insight into the plasma physics of the Martian system.

In this thesis project you can either dig into the large amount of observational data to find interesting features and correlations or you can combine the observations with numerical models of the plasma environment of Mars and Venus to deepen our understanding of the interaction with the Sun.

Escape of volatiles of terrestrial planet atmospheres into space

Electric fields extract ions from the Martian atmosphere. (Image @NASA/GSFC).

In this project you can combine atmospheric and magnetospheric observations to deepen our understanding on how planets Earth, Mars and Venus loose matter into space. To understand the impact of our current observations on planetary evolution you can also combine models of planetary atmospheric composition and solar activity spanning the age of the solar system. Observations which can be used for this project are not only from the Mars and Venus Express missions, the MAVEN mission but also from remote sensing of planetary exospheres and paleo-history of the terrestrial planets.

Dynamics of planetary ionospheres

The MAVEN satellite in orbit around Mars scanning the Martian ionosphere (Image @NASA/GSFC).

In this project you investigate how planetary ionospheres are generated and how they react to changes in solar radiation and solar wind. We are currently mainly interested in how the upper ionospheres of Mars and Venus are put into motion by the induction of the solar wind electromagnetic fields. This can be investigated using observations by Mars and Venus Express, by MAVEN or by 3D numerical models of the ionospheres.

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