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Saul Krasner Memorial Science Lecture Series
Dr. Jorg-Micha Jahn – Southwest Research Institute/University of Texas San Antonio

"Space Weather in Earth's Magnetosphere: How “Vacuum” Can Be Stormy" 

Abstract: Surprising to many, outer space surrounding Earth is far from being an empty vacuum. Earth's magnetic field forms the “magnetosphere”, a more or less closed magnetic bubble that is immersed in a stream of particles and fields emitted by the Sun. This magnetosphere is populated by plasma as well as by an extended neutral atmosphere. The plasma is constantly churned thanks to energy provided directly and indirectly by the Sun, creating what we commonly describe as "Space Weather". The most obvious and well-known consequence of space weather is Earth’s northern light, the aurora. To set the stage, I will discuss the basic structure of the magnetosphere and its interaction with the Sun. I will introduce some of the fundamental dynamic Space Weather events that occur in the magnetosphere, describe how major space storms evolve in this system, and how space weather events can impact human technologies we have come to take for granted.  

Biography: Dr. Jahn is a Principal Scientist at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas, where he works on the topic of “Space Weather”, the global interaction of plasma regions in Earth’s magnetosphere under external driving by the Sun. He studies the global dynamics of charged particles in the magnetosphere, and the interactions between solar wind, magnetosphere, and ionosphere. He has analyzed data from numerous instruments on NASA, ESA, and DoE missions as well as ground-based measurements. He is also working on developing instrument concepts for space flight, focusing on new measurement techniques for particles, and on miniaturizing detectors suitable for small spacecraft. Dr. Jahn is a Co-Investigator and instrument developer for the NASA Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission to be launched in 2012, and he was as a Participating Scientist for the 2000–2005 NASA IMAGE mission. Dr. Jahn holds a M.S. in Geophysics from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, Germany, and a Ph.D. in Physics from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.