How do we get beyond the large-scale static picture of the ionosphere?

  • How does magnetic reconnection work?

  • What controls large-scale magnetospheric dynamics?

The Theory and Modeling group at the Birkeland Centre for Space Science is complementing Birkeland Centre research through modelling and analytical plasma theory. Group research addresses both small- and large-scale aspects of space plasma dynamics. On the small, kinetic, scale, the magnetic reconnection process, the main mechanisms behind magnetic explosions in space, forms a team research focus. Research methodologies range from analytic theory to particle-in-cell simulations and the analysis of spacecraft observations. The group also has a major involvement in NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, which provides empirical evidence to test theories, as well as inspiration for the development of new reconnection models.


For research of larger-scale plasma processes, such as magnetospheric convection and the formation of current systems, we employ both local and global magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) models. These models can be tailored to a specific condition of interest, or they can be used to investigate the magnetospheric response to different solar wind driving conditions. A recent development in this context is to deploy magnetospheric models to support ESA’s space weather program and Norway’s space weather needs. Here we endeavour to test models, to use them to derive forecasts of harmful space weather effects, and to operate these models continuously.

Finally, the group is involved in a number of future space research mission concepts both at ESA and at NASA.