The Earth’s aurora or northern (and southern) lights are one of the most beautiful manifestations of the Sun’s influence on the Earth. They arise as a result of the interaction between the solar wind, the magnetosphere (the region of space surrounding Earth), and the upper atmosphere. Our understanding of both the aurora and magnetosphere has transformed from humble beginnings in the early 20th century to the modern day, yet many questions remain and they are both active topics of research both for those interested in pure scientific research (“How does our Solar System work?”) and the application of this field on modern technology (space weather).
Dr Robert Fear is a Principal Research Fellow and Head of the Space Environment Physics group at the University of Southampton. He obtained his PhD at University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, and carried out postdoctoral work at the University of Leicester before being awarded an STFC Ernest Rutherford Fellowship and moving to the University of Southampton in 2013. His research interests include the interaction between the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetosphere, and the formation, evolution and dynamics of so-called “high-latitude” auroras.