Northern Lights are the result of the solar wind's interaction with Earth's upper atmosphere and magnetic fields and is part of space weather. Our global society relies on advanced technology vulnerable to space weather disturbances, which can shut down electric power-grids, disrupt satellite communication, and cause GPS positioning errors. This Master's program gives you a broad education in Space and Plasma Physics and teaches how to observe the physical processes in the ionosphere associated with space weather with the EISCAT radars and other research facilities near Tromsø, as well as how to replicate and study them in the Aurolab Plasma Laboratory of The Department of Physics and Tehcnology at UiT The Arctic University of Norway.
Space Physics is a discipline of the Master's degree programme in physics.
Tromsø is in a unique geographical position to study the Aurora Borealis and the upper Polar atmosphere, and we have long traditions since the early 1900's within this field of research. The Auroral Observatory in Tromsø formed the original basis of the physics studies at UiT The Arctic University of Norway. Today, the activities have been extended to research on the solar corona, the Sun-Earth interaction, and the upper atmosphere. Researchers at the Department of Physics and Technology work with data from the EISCAT (European Incoherent SCATter) radars and other instruments at Ramfjordmoen, Svalbard, and Andøya, with numerical modelling, and with laboratory experiments (Aurolab).
The Northern (and Southern) Lights are manifestations of space weather that has its origin in the variability of the Sun's activity. Most auroras occur as a result of huge solar magnetic explosions (solar mass ejections and solar flares) that enhance the solar wind and solar radiation arriving at the Earth. The scales of the perturbations that follow (geomagnetic storms) vary from the size of the Earth's magnetotail (about 200 Earth radii) to the fine structure of the aurora (tens of meters) at 100-200 km height above the Earth's surface.
As a student on the Master's degree programme in physics, you can choose one-year projects on a range of topics, for example:
- Observations with EISCAT of phenomena in the upper polar atmosphere, e.g. ion instabilities, fine structures in the aurora, and space weather (dynamics).
- Analysis and interpretation of EISCAT and other radar observations.
- Experimental, theoretical and numerical studies of dusty plasmas in the mesosphere with rockets, mesospheric and EISCAT radars.
- Theoretical and numerical analysis of turbulence and transport in space and laboratory plasma.
- Experimental studies of plasma phenomena in laboratory plasmas.
Compulsory courses in the Space Physics discipline:
- FYS-2009 Introduction to plasma physics
- FYS-3003 Cosmic geophysics
- FYS-3900 Master's thesis in physics
Recommended optional courses approved in the Space Physics discipline:
- FYS-3000 Introduction to satellite and rockets techniques and space instrumentations
- FYS-3002 Techniques for investigating the near-earth space environment
- FYS-3017 Experimental methods in laboratory and space plasma
Other optional courses approved for Space Physics:
- FYS-3001 Earth observation from satellites
- FYS-3007 Microwave techniques
- FYS-3011 Detection theory
- FYS-3012 Pattern recognition
- FYS-3023 Environmental monitoring from satellite
- FYS-3026 Fusion plasma physics
- FYS-3030 Fluid dynamics of atmospheres and oceans
- FYS-3810 Individual special curriculum
- MAT-3113 Nonlinear partial differential equations
- MAT-3200 Mathematical methods
Optional courses should be determined in collaboration with your supervisor in connection with choice of research topic in the Master's thesis. Other optional courses may be approved on application or if recommended by your supervisor. An individual special curriculum or project paper may also be part of the degree.
If the Master's thesis involves work in a laboratory, in the field or on a research cruise, it is mandatory to conduct a course in safety education prior to commencing the thesis.
Knowledge - The candidate:
- has a solid basis in natural sciences in general, and in particular in physics
- has advanced knowledge of theory and methods in one of the offered disciplines of physics
- has thorough knowledge about mathematical and statistical methods for analysis of physical problems
- can apply knowledge on new areas of research in one of the offered disciplines of physics
- has good knowledge of scientific method and knows how to conduct a research experiment
- can analyse and assess scientific literature and research in the field of physics
Skills - The candidate:
- can use scientific measurement equipment and carry out advanced experiments
- can evaluate and analyse measurement data in a critical manner
- can assess sensors and measurement devices and evaluate and quantify their error sources
- can use programming tools and advanced software for solving physical problems numerically
- can work independently with problem solving following scientific method
- can evaluate and analyse published theories, methods and experiments in the physics literature
- can carry out an independent, limited research or development project under supervision in physics or related areas
Competences - The candidate:
- displays good communication skills, oral and written, in the presentation of scientific work for both the general public and for the specialists in the field
- can analyse academic, professional and research ethical problems in the field of physics
- displays good working habits and follows the code of ethics in scientific work
- is able to continue a career within research, teaching, production, development and technical professions in the society
- can produce a well-structured presentation of an extensive independent scientific work
- can contribute to new thinking and innovation processes in the field of physics
With a master of science in physics with specialization in space phyiscs you will be very sought after in fields such as:
- Rocket and space research
- Sensor and instrumental development
- Theoretical space and physics research
- Statistical analysis
- Technology and innovation companies
- Technical engineer
Exchange studies abroad or at the University Centre in Svalbard can be recognised in the Master's degree if recommended by your supervisor, and only if the external courses are validated prior to departure. The period of time for the exchange studies depends on the individual educational plan, and should be planned in collaboration with the student advisor and the students supervisor.
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