Space Science

The New Mexico Consortium (NMC) and Los Alamos National Laboratory's (LANL) Intelligence and Space Research (ISR) division pursue joint research in space science. Research topics include space weather, plantetary exploration, and remote sensing of the earth. The NMC and LANL seek to increase student and faculty involvement in research, and we also hope to facilitate the development of new missions. Currently space science research at the NMC includes: 

Electron Acceleration and Emissions from the Solar Flare Termination Shock

Fan Guo, LANL Staff Scientist, NMC Affiliate

The overarching goal of the project is to understand electron acceleration and emission by reconnection-driven termination shocks in solar flares. Solar flares are remarkable sites for particle acceleration and high-energy emissions in the solar system (Lin et al. 2003). However, how the nonthermal particles are accelerated is currently under debate. The goal of this project will be to model the dynamical evolution of the termination shock and its electron acceleration through several studies. The outcome will advance our understanding of multi-wavelength emissions and the role of the termination shock in dissipating energy and accelerating particles in solar flares.


Space Weather Research and NASA's Van Allen Probes Mission    

Geoff Reeves: NMC-LANL Senior Scientist and Project Lead
Mick Denton, Sean Fu: NMC Research Scientists
Alex Boyd, Cristian Ferradas: NMC Post-Docs
Brian Larsen, Reiner Friedel, Yue Chen, Greg Cunningham, Mike Henderson, Ruth Skoug, Steve Morley, Vania Jordanova, Andrew Walker, Phil Fernandes, Lisa Winter:  LANL-NMC Research Scientists 
This NASA funded project conducts research on Space Weather - the environment and activity in space that can harm satellites and endanger Earth-based systems that depend on them. In particular the project focuses on analysis of space weather data from NASA’s Van Allen Probes (RBSP) satellites ( The Helium Oxygen Proton Electron (HOPE) plasma spectrometers on the twin Van Allen Probes satellites was designed and built at Los Alamos and is not maintained and operated by NMC. Additionally, the NMC leads the science and analysis team for the Energetic particle, Composition, and Thermal plasma (RBSP-ECT) instrument suite, operates the Science Data and Operations Center.

The Energetic particle, Composition, and Thermal plasma (RBSP-ECT) instrument suite, led by Prof. Harlan Spence of the University of New Hampshire, is a collaboration that includes Los Alamos National Laboratory, The Aerospace Corporation, the University of Colorado, and Southwest Research Institute.

RBSP-ECT Science Data and Operations Center:

Collaborative Research: Turbulence, Structures, and Diffusive Shock Acceleration

Fan Guo, LANL Staff Scientist, NMC Affiliate

Although shock waves are thought to be effective accelerators of particles via the diffusive shock acceleration (DSA) mechanism, the predicted characteristics of the energetic particle distribution are often inconsistent with observations. We propose to investigate the amplification and generation of turbulence by fast mode shock waves, and the subsequent acceleration of charged particles, particularly electrons, in the turbulent wake of a shock. For the first time, we will develop quantitative and testable models of particle energization in turbulence generated and amplified by shocks that is dissipated via reconnection current layers and associated magnetic islands. 


INSPIRE Track 1: Aurorasaurus - Citizen Scientists Experiening the Extremes of Space

Elizabeth MacDonald: Founder, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NMC Affiliated Researcher
Matt Heavner: Co-PI, NMC Research Scientist
Burcu Kosar: NMC Postdoc, NASA GSFC
Kasha Patel: Science Communication, GSFC, NMC
Michael Cook: Outreach, University of North Dakota
Past Collaborators:  Michelle Hall, Jessica Clayton, Science Education Solutions, Andrea Tapia, Nicholas Lalone PSU, Nathan Case, Lancaster University, Sean McCloat, University of North Dakota, Ideum
The INSPIRE program aims for transformative, interdisciplinary research. This project has three intertwined goals. In the area of Geospace the goal is to create a robust system for rapid collection, management, visualization, analysis, interpretation, and redistribution of data on auroral events contributed by citizen observers that significantly improves our understanding of auroral physics and nowcasting of space weather. In the area of citizen science, the goal is to create an informal science learning environment that engages a diverse public audience to participate in reporting auroral observational data and conducting citizen science research activities. In the area of human­centered computing, the goal is to design a computer interface incorporating social media and commication technologies that enable a virtual community to participate in advancing understanding of space weather.  
From this program came the Aurorasaurus website, the first aurora borealis mapping program of its kind using social media. Auroasaurus displays public sightings of the northern lights where individuals can provide observations via Tweet or direct observations.The website displays pertinent scientific background and satellite and groundbased observations for further inquiry. 
The most significant new result from this project has been the citizen scientist assisted discovery of the Steve aurora. Aurorasaurus is leading the publication of this new result, along with the University of Calgary and others. The paper will be submitted to Science Advances, a high impact journal, in Sept. 2017. The result is significant because citizen scientists have documented a new type of aurora, AND because it is in the sub­auroral region but highly connected to both auroral physics and magnetospheric physics.
Aurorasaurus articles at
Aurorasaurus press at
Steve aurora blog post at

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