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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T01735X/1
Title: Magnetic drums in space: Where, when and how do the boundaries of planetary magnetospheres resonate?
Principal Investigator: Archer, Dr M
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Researcher Co-Investigators:
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Department: Physics
Organisation: Imperial College London
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 October 2020 Ends: 03 February 2025 Value (£): 556,935
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Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
03 Dec 2019 Stephen Hawking Fellowship Announced
21 Jan 2020 Stephen Hawking Fellowship Interview Panel 1 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The interplay between the magnetic field generated within Earth's core and the wind of electrically charged particles that blows off of the Sun forms a shield in space, protecting us against most of the harmful radiation from the Sun and more distant sources. However, this shield is not perfect and certainly isn't static - it's somewhat like an entire orchestra of magnetic musical instruments in space which encompass our planet.

While the analogues of sound waves in space are much too weak and low in pitch to be audible to humans, they constantly bounce around within our magnetic shield forming well-defined notes in the same way as in string, wind and percussive instruments. These waves transfer energy from outside our magnetic shield to regions inside it, such as the radiation belts and upper layers of our atmosphere, thereby playing a key role in how space poses a risk to our everyday lives by affecting power grids, GPS, passenger airlines, mobile telephones etc.

A drum-like instrument, formed by ripples on the outer surface of the shield bouncing off of the magnetic poles, had eluded us for 45 years since it was first proposed. However, through satellite measurements I was recently able to demonstrate these drum-like vibrations of our magnetic shield do in fact occur when it is struck by strong impulses. Because of the long time between when this drum was first theorised and later discovered, very little is known about this instrument. I will therefore tackle several of the key outstanding questions about this natural response of our magnetic shield to the impulsive events which trigger intense space weather by using state-of-the-art computer simulations.

The entire region on the boundary where these ripples vibrate like a drum is not currently known. This is because previous theory has used a highly simplified picture of our magnetic shield, whereas in reality its shape and properties are incredibly complicated making simple mathematical descriptions almost impossible. It also isn't clear how this drum goes on to affect different parts of near-Earth space, e.g. possibly triggering other types of instruments. The simulations will determine how important this magnetic drum is throughout our magnetic shield.

The wind from the Sun, much like those we are familiar with every day, is highly variable and gusty. It had been proposed that this might render Earth's magnetic drum harder to make a distinct sound. However, this gustiness might in fact contribute in triggering the drum. By using a series of simulations which increase the amount of variability within this wind from zero to typical levels, I will solve this conundrum.

Finally, Earth is not the only planet which has a magnetic shield. The sizes and properties of these shields vary considerably throughout the solar system however, from Mercury's tiny one to the behemoths of Jupiter and Saturn, and the peculiar case of Jupiter's moon Ganymede - the only magnetic shield within another magnetic shield. While there is plenty of evidence from space missions of similar sounds within these environments, these magnetic drums have not been considered. I will therefore assess how common these types of vibrations should be across the solar system.

In addition to this research, I will produce virtual reality experiences and a magnetospheric drum kit to be used by artists, filmmakers and musicians in creating works for performance as well as communities within the public that don't normally seek out or are underrepresented in science. Through integrating into community, music and arts festivals as well as programmes of activities with youth clubs and adult learning centres, I will engage these groups instilling the value of research in this area.
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.imperial.ac.uk