Space research

Space research

Solar eruptions are the main drivers of space weather, i.e., the physical conditions in the near-Earth space that can influence the performance and reliability of technical systems both in space and on ground, including telecommunications, electric power systems and satellite navigation. The space research group is actively engaged in studying each link in the Sun-Earth connection from a space weather point-of-view: from the birth of the solar eruptions in the solar corona, to the propagation and evolution in interplanetary space and, finally, to the consequences of their interaction with the near-Earth space environment.

We aim at a profound understanding of the physics behind space weather phenomena and at using this knowledge to develop services for the society.

The philosophy of the group is to pursue a diversity of research methodologies including data analysis and interpretation, theoretical modeling and numerical simulation. An emphasis is on actively participating in the design and implementation of instrumentation for scientific space missions.

Instrument design and implementation

The space research group is involved in the developement and scientific planning of several space-borne instruments.

The XSM instruments onboard Smart-1 and Chandrayaan-1, implemented by our high energy astrophysics group, conducted X-ray spectroscopy of the solar corona. A similar instrument is currently operating on-board NASA's Messenger, and is also under study for future application as a standard X-ray Flux Monitor for ESA missions as well as commercial satellites.

BepiColombo is an ESA-led mission to Mercury scheduled for launch in 2015. The SIXS instrument on-board BepiColombo is developed by UH, FMI as well as several Finnish companies. It will measure solar X-rays, electrons and protons. The particle detector system of SIXS is also under study for future application as a standard Energetic Particle Spectrometer (EPS) for ESA and commercial satellites. The group is also part of ESA’s Solar Orbiter mission. Solar Orbiter will monitor the Sun and the solar wind from distances as close as 60 solar radii, closer than any spacecraft before.

The group is also participating in the Finnish Aalto-1 nanosatellite project.

Modeling and data analysis

A key focus area of the space research group is the study of phenomena related to solar eruptions and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) in particular. CMEs are huge ejections of magnetized plasma in which billions of tons of solar material is hurled into interplanetary space with speeds up to several thousands of kilometers per second.

The two STEREO and the SOHO spacecraft together monitor the Sun from three widely separated viewpoints. The availability of nearly simultaneous imaging observations can be used to build three-dimensional reconstructions of CMEs. In conjunction with global magnetohydrodynamic computer simulations, the evolution and propagation of CMEs can be studied. From a space weather point-of-view, fast CMEs are particulary important, since they drive shock waves that can accelerate particles to high energies. Monte Carlo particle simulations are employed to study the energization process.

When a CME reaches the orbit of the Earth, usually within 2-4 days after they were released from the Sun, in-situ magnetic field, plasma as well as particle measurements from various spacecraft are utilized to analyze the properties of the CME. If the CME impacts the Earth, it can cause magnetically disturbed periods lasting several days. Observations in the magnetosphere, on the ground as well as numerical simulations are used to study the effect of the CME on the near-Earth space environment.

Further information

Kumpula Space Centre

MHD Simulations of CMEs at UH


Poster of the activities of the space research group


Hannu Koskinen, Professor
Physicum C327
09-191 50675, 09-1929 4639
hannu e koskinen (at) helsinki fi

Rami Vainio, University lecturer
Physicum C326
09-191 50676
rami vainio (at) helsinki fi
Emilia Kilpua, Academy fellow
Physicum C327
09-191 50675
emilia kilpua (at) helsinki fi

Katerina Andreeova, Post-doc
Dynamicum 2B23a

katerina andreeova (at) fmi fi
Alexandr Afanasiev, Post-doc
Physicum D328
09-191 40619
alexandr afanasiev (at) helsinki fi

Jens Pomoell, Ph.D. Student
Physicum D315
09-191 51197
jens pomoell (at) helsinki fi
Heli Hietala, Ph.D. Student
Physicum D315
09-191 51198
heli hietala (at) helsinki fi

Alexey Isavnin, Ph.D. Student
Physicum D326
09-191 40036
alexey isavnin (at) helsinki fi