Participating Faculty: Walter Harris
The space environment is not empty, but is in reality an interconnected web of neutral and charged particles bound together by gravity and magnetic fields. In the solar system, space is controlled by the Sun and solar wind, which carves out a cavity within the interstellar medium that is 10s of billions of km across. The individual planets are embedded within this medium and respond to it according their local characteristics of atmosphere, magnetic field, location, and gravitational attraction. As our technological civilization expands into the space, the changing conditions in the heliosphere (space weather) have left the abstract realm to become an integral part of our daily lives. The study of the space is highly interdisciplinary, including a combination of chemistry, electro-dynamics, atmospheric physics, and geology, all applied toward the goal of understanding the complex region that begins a mere 10 km above us.
Researchers in the department of applied science work to develop new interferometric instrumentation for the study of space from both a ground and space based perspective. The primary research aims of this development is to understand the structure of planetary upper atmospheres, aurorae, the thin atmospheres of planetary satellites, the composition and evolution of cometary atmospheres, and the global structure of the heliosphere.