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Space Physics

Space Physics Group website

Mission Statement

The mission the Space Physics Group at the University of Houston is to conduct original research in the areas of atmospheric electricity, upper atmospheric physics, atmospheric chemistry, space physics and aeronomy. The term space physics as used here incorporates the disciplines of ionospheric physics, magnetospheric physics, space plasma physics, solar heliospheric physics and cosmic rays physics. In addition, it is also the mission of the space physics group to provide instruction in these topics to the students of the University of Houston. The main objective of this aspect of our mission is providing a source of qualified, trained personnel to the space-oriented employers of the Houston area. Finally, it is the mission of the group to provide knowledgable consulting services in these areas and topics to all elements of the Houston community that request such support.

Research Objectives

As a group, we have conducted experiments to measure and image electron bremsstrahlung beneath auroras, to measure electron bremsstrahlung accompanying both natural and triggered VLF events, auroral zone electric fields, plasmapause electric fields, electric fields at high altitude due to thunderstorms, and the electromagnetic radiation spectrum of lightning at high altitude, VLF magnetic fields accompanying active experiments in the ionosphere, dc plasma properties in the ionosphere near pulsating aurora, ionospheric electric fields near the magnetospheric cusp, and ground level atmospheric electric field and air-Earth current at the South Pole.



The Space Physics group occupies a total of four large laboratory rooms totalling approximately 370 squ. meters [4000 squ. ft.] floor area in Science & Research Building 1. This space includes a darkroom and a fume hood.


Most of the Space Physics Group faculty members have an office of about 11 squ. meters [120 squ. ft] floor area in Science and Research Building, I. Three additional offices of similar size are available for graduate students.


The University has also provided the Space Physics Group with two computers for data analysis. The main Physics Department computer is a DEC AlphaServer 2000/233 with 64 MB RAM, 18 GB of disk, of which 8.6 GB is reserved for Space Physics, a TZ87 20GB cartridge tape drive, a CD-ROM reader, and network connections to a variety of other peripherals. The Space Science Data Center facilities include the University of Houston Space Physics Computer, which is a dedicated VAX 11/750 with 16 MB of main memory and 1.6GB of disk space, and two 9 track tape drives {a TU-77 and TU-78}. Peripherials include 8 color graphics terminals, 5 black and white terminals, an LNO3 Plus laser printer, a Kinetic Systems model 1502 CAMAC crate with controller and various IO devices for digitizing, two color ink jet printer/plotters, and Ethernet connection to the other computers on campus. In addition, the group has a total of 8 PC workstations all connected to the Campus LAN.

Additional computational resources are available on campus at the University Computing Center. The central mainframe at the UCC is an AS/9000N with 3 megawords of memory and 5 gigabytes of disk capacity. The Physics AlphaServer and the Space Science Vax 11/750 have links to this machine, via the campus LAN.

The University also maintains dedicated leased lines to two supercomputers, an NEC SX-2 at the Houston Area Research Center, and a CRAY XLM-P that has been made available by the Cray Co.

Major Equipment

The Space Physics group has exclusive use of the following equipment. All items are located in the laboratory space described above. {1} Extensive electronic lab. test equipment, including 4 multi-beam wide-band Tektronix oscilloscopes, a Keithley electrometer and assorted other standard equipment. {2} Thermal and vacuum testing chambers. {3} Dark box with goniometer for X ray camera calibration. {5} Printed circuit board photo-lithography and etching equipment.

Other Resources

The Physics Department has a large full-service machine shop with a staff of 5 full-time machinists.

The Physics Department office provides full clerical and bookkeeping support. At present, the University budget suports a staff of 5 FTE senior personnel augmented with several work-studies.