Armagh Observatory
College Hill
N. Ireland

STFC Introductory Solar System Plasmas Summer School



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The UK has a very vibrant solar system science community highly regarded internationally. To maintain and enhance this position the UK must not just continue to make major discoveries and provide critical insight into key solar system science problems but also train new solar system scientists. Because the solar system is accessible to highly detailed remote sensing and a variety of unique in situ measurements, critical understanding of fundamental cross-scale physical processes is possible such as dynamo theory, particle acceleration, reconnection and disc accretion. This allows studies of a rich sample of cross-scale coupling processes where microphysical structures can derive significant system-wide effects. The knowledge gained from such research has significant application to other STFC science areas, and indeed the science of other research councils. Furthermore, the question of the origins of life in the solar system, as well as the current state of our local space environment have much broader cultural and intellectual interest than to pure science alone. Thus solar system science can play an important role in promoting STFC's science and society strategy.

Astronomers provide a singular perspective on our place in the Universe, addressing fundamental questions such as the origin of the Earth, the origin of Life, and `Are we Alone?'. Curiosity-driven research is important in its own right, attracting able and creative people into subjects such as physics and astronomy. Research in these areas provides foundations for the improvements in the quality of life and wealthcreation associated with a modern, knowledge-based society. As society becomes increasingly complex and increasingly reliant on the fruits of modern technology, a vibrant physics base and a broad understanding of basic scientific concepts is an essential part of our culture. The dissemination of the accumulated knowledge from past research to other specialisms and to the community at large is a very important part in the role of a contemporary research scientist. Thus, astronomy impacts directly on areas of Education and the Economy, particularly Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; and it has important secondary impacts in the fields of Social Inclusion, Equality and Health.

Solar system science is currently undergoing an unprecedented period of growth, e.g.

Several space- and ground-based observatories as well as sophisticated computer modelling are revolutionizing our understanding of the Sun, our closest star, and how it impacts our terrestrial environment. By combining these high-resolution observations with comprehensive theoretical studies, we have an opportunity to obtain an unparalleled insight into the underlying mechanisms of energy flows from the solar interior through the solar atmosphere and into the solar wind until it impacts the Earth;

the UK plays a leading international role in solar and solar-terrestrial theory and observations, providing space hardware, expert data analysis and advanced theoretical modelling;

PhD students are often involved in either theoretical modeling or data analysis and it is vitally important that these twin strands come together both to educate observers about fundamental theoretical concepts and inform theorists of the latest observations.

This proposed summer school has the precise aim of demonstrating the advantages of such a complementary approach using experts in each of the stated research areas, and to provide the training necessary to produce inter-disciplinary scientists who can work effectively in teams at the interfaces between different science areas. We therefore seek support to provide the 2012 Introductory Solar System Plasmas School, which will provide valuable training for the next generation of solar system scientists.