The aim of the course is to provide an introduction to space science, by showing the essential physical principles and phenomena underlying the dynamics of the Earth’s magnetosphere as well as its interactions with particles coming from the Sun and from the extra-solar sources. Part of the course is devoted to physical processes occurring in the stars as well as their evolution. The effects of radiation and of reduced gravity on biological systems (in particular the human body) are also treated. An overview on some of the instruments used for space exploration and in the scientific missions is given, with emphasis on the physical principles which they are based on.
Physics of the Sun and the solar wind.
Evolution and classification of the stars. Nuclear processes in the stars: formation of the elements. Structure of the Sun. The core of the Sun and its atmosphere. The active Sun. Magnetic fields in the solar atmosphere. The spectrum of the solar radiation. The solar corona. The solar wind and its origin. The solar cycles. The solar system. Exoplanets.
Physics of Solar system plasmas.
Motion of charged particles in electric and magnetic fields. Drift motion. Plasma as an ion-electron gas; quasi-neutrality. Equations of conservation of mass, momentum and energy. Maxwell’s equations applied to a plasma; the magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) approximation and frozen-in flows, MHD wave modes; shock waves.
Physics of the Earth’s ionosphere.
Formation of the ionosphere; photoionisation and ionization of energetic particles. Loss mechanisms.
Physics of the Earth’s magnetosphere.
Structure and dynamics of the Earth’s magnetosphere. The geomagnetic field near the Earth; motion of charged particles in the geomagnetic field. The distant geomagnetic field; magnetopause and magnetospheric tail. The interaction of the solar wind with the magnetosphere: absorption and dissipation of the solar wind energy. Reconnection. Magnetospheric currents. Auroras phenomena: morphology and origin. Magnetic storms: origin and effects on technological systems. The magnetospheres of the outer planets.
Space effects on biological systems.
Radiation effects. Different kinds of radiations; their interactions with matter. Radiation units. Cellular damage: direct and indirect effects. Cellular and organ sensitivity to radiation. Effects of high and low doses of radiation.
Effects of reduced gravity on the human body and on biological systems. Technological applications of microgravity. Methods to obtain microgravity on the Earth. Methods to simulate gravity in deep space.
Space weather and Universe observation.
Telescopes and radiotelescopes. Proportional counters. Scintillation counters. Solid state detectors. Cerenkov detectors. CCD detectors. Gamma ray telescopes. Mass spectrometers. Time of flight spectrometers. Magnetometers and electric field sensors. Methods to reveal neutrinos and cosmic rays. Researches on dark matter.