The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 11,800 und
HARLAN E. SPENCE is the director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, and also professor of physics, at the University of New Hampshire (UNH).Dr. Spence leads a research group that studies the physics of cosmic plasmas, from the Sun's corona to interplanetary space to Earth's upper atmosphere, using experimental and modeling techniques.Dr. Spence and his research team develop and use physics-based, numerical models to understand the powerful dynamics of interacting solar and planetary plasmas ("space weather") and the resultant deleterious effects on space technologies and astronauts.
Dr. Spence was co-investigator on two energetic particle instruments on the NASA Polar satellite and is co-investigator on a suite of energetic particle instruments on the recently launched NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale mission.
He is deputy principal investigator on a cosmic ray sensor on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission and is principal investigator of a comprehensive charged particle instrument suite on NASA's Van Allen Probes mission.Finally, Spence is principal investigator of the NSF FIREBIRD-II CubeSat mission exploring the physics of relativistic electrons which reach Earth's upper atmosphere from the radiation belts.Dr. Spence worked at The Aerospace Corporation.Dr. Spence joined the faculty at Boston University as an assistant professor of astronomy and moved up through the ranks to full professor and department chair before moving to UNH.He is a recipient of an NSF Young Investigator Award, received the Wisneski Award for Excellence in Teaching at Boston University, received two Editor's Citations for Excellence in Refereeing from AGU publications, and has earned numerous NASA Group Achievement Awards.Spence earned his Ph.D. in geophysics and space physics from the University of California, Los Angeles.He served on the Academies Committee on Solar and Space Physics, the Solar-Wind Magnetospheric Interactions Decadal Survey Panel, and the Steering Committee of 2013-2022 Decal Survey in Solar and Space Physics.
CRaTER, whose principal investigator is Harlan Spence, director of EOS and a co-developer of PREDICCS, has made the most accurate and comprehensive measurements of radiation at the Moon since the dawn of the space age.
"We care about this because the belts' high-energy particles, particularly the electrons, pose a real risk to spacecraft," says Harlan Spence, UNH principal investigator for the FIREBIRD II mission.
"So if we understand these physical processes better, we'll be able to predict how the radiation belts will behave and both protect the satellites we depend upon for telecommunications, weather monitoring and prediction, etcetera, and design them to withstand this high-energy radiation."
FIREBIRD II is a follow-on to the inaugural 2013 FIREBIRD mission, which according to Spence provided the best quality microburst data of its kind to date "despite the size of the spacecraft."
With improvements made in the wake of the first mission, including more robust software and power systems, FIREBIRD II is anticipated to provide the very first characterization of the spatial scale of microbursts, without which scientists won't fully understand the global consequences of the loss of energetic particles to Earth's atmosphere.
Moreover, greatly expanding the science, other measurements will be made in the radiation belt environment by separate missions occurring in tandem with FIREBIRD II, including NASA's Van Allen Probes mission, on which Spence is a principal investigator, and NASA's upcoming Magnetospheric Multiscale mission that will carry critical, UNH-built components.
Says Spence, "We are starting to look in the key energy range of interest between what we see with the FIREBIRD nanosatellites and what we see with the Van Allen Probes, and from those comparisons we can start learning about the physics of how particles are lost from the radiation belts to the atmosphere."
Co-authors of the new research include Qianli Ma, a graduate student who works in Thorne's lab; Wen Li, Binbin Ni and Jacob Bortnik, researchers in Thorne's lab; and members of the science teams on the Van Allen Probes, including Harlan Spence of the University of New Hampshire (principal investigator for RBSP-ECT) and Craig Kletzing of the University of Iowa (principal investigator for EMFISIS).
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