Physics Research Bites: The Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer (SMILE)

Our guest speaker Dr Jennifer Carter will be giving a talk on the University of Leicester’s involvement with the Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer (SMILE), and how the mission is used to monitor the movement of Earth’s magnetopause boundary!

UPDATE: Leicester locals can watch the presentation here.

Refreshments will be available in the foyer afterwards, as well as a chance to ask any questions and chat!


The Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer (SMILE) is a joint European and Chinese mission due for launch in 2025 and will explore coupling between the solar wind and Earth’s magnetosphere. The University of Leicester is heavily involved in the SMILE mission. SMILE will simultaneously monitor the movement of the magnetopause boundary and the subsequent response of the Northern Hemisphere ionosphere using two imaging cameras with offset field of views. The magnetopause is known to respond to changes in the incoming solar wind and interplanetary field, but this will be the first time that real-time images of this movement will be tracked. The high-latitude ionosphere is connected to near-Earth space via terrestrial magnetic field lines. Phenomena in the ionosphere, such as patches of aurora and precipitating particle signatures may be provoked as a direct result of processes at the dayside magnetopause. Alternatively, night side or magnetotail processes lead to the large-scale phenomena such as a substorm.

In this talk we will explore how SMILE will contribute to resolving the large outstanding questions regarding the Earth’s magnetosphere. We will examine the efforts of the global solar-terrestrial community to use multiple and varied experimental data, for example from radar, ground magnetometers, and all-sky auroral imagers in unravelling these questions at large, medium, and small temporal and spatial scales. 

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