Contact Information

Instructor: Jim Crumley
Phone: 363–3183
Office Hour:1 pm days 1 and 2, noon day 5 (or by appointment or just stop by)

Course Information

Lecture: 8:00–9:10 am Days 246 (Mods C+D)
Room: 319 Peter Engel Science Center
Textbook:Space Science edited by Harra and Mason
Web Site:


Space Physics is the study of what goes on in the solar systems between the Sun and its satellites — the planets, moons, comets, asteroids, etc. In elementary science classes this region is often described as vacuum that contains no matter. This is an exaggeration — even though the number density of particles in most regions of the solar system is small enough to be considered a vacuum by earthbound standards, matter still exists in all regions. This matter usually exists as a plasma. Along with the plasma, many different types of waves exist in space. Much of this course will deal with the plasma and waves in space and their interactions with each other.

In some ways, Space Physics is one of the oldest branches of physics. Since before recorded history, people have been fascinated by the night sky. Much of what interested ancient people involved the stars, which would now be classified as astronomy, but some of the most striking phenomena, including most importantly the aurora borealis and australis, have their roots in Space Physics. Though Space Physics has its roots in the distant past, it did not really come into its own as a field of study until after man-made satellites were first launched into space. In-situ measurements are key to understanding the space environment and in this course we will often look at spacecraft data.

Homework Assignments

Homework will be assigned roughly once a cycle and be due roughly a cycle later.

Research Projects

For this you will be required to write a 5–8 page research paper and make a 5-8 minute presentation on your topic. You can have a lot of latitude in picking your topics — almost anything related to Space (broadly defined) is fair game. Scientifically focused papers on on the current understanding of a topic from Astrophysics, Planetary Physics, Astrobiology, Cosmology, or Space Physics would great. Topics of a less technical nature that bring in areas like science policy would be great too. For example, manned versus robotic space exploration, or space versus ground-based observations.

Please begin thinking about topics now, and talk to me about your topic ideas before the topic deadline.


The grade in this class will be 30 % from the homework, 15 % from the research project, 10 % from quizzes/participation, 17 % from the first test grade, and 28 % from the final test. Overall grades will be curved.

Course Schedule

Cycle Date SectionsTitle Topics Project
7-2W 3/09 1, 4.1–4.4Intro. to Space Phys. Plasmas and space
7-4 F 3/114.5.1–4.5.4Basic Plasma PhysicsMHD and shocks
Spring Break
7-6 T 3/224.5.5–4.5.7Plasma as Particles Reconnection and magnetospherestopics
8-2 R 3/24 4.5.7–4.6Magnetospheres SW interaction with other bodies
8-4M 3/28 6.1–6.3Intro. to the Sun Solar structure, energy
8-6W 3/30 6.4–6.6More on the Sun Neutrinos, helioseismology, BSun
9-2 F 4/01 6.7–6.9Solar atmosphere Photosp., chromosp., corona
9-4 T 4/04 6.10–6.12Solar Wind Solar wind and flares first draft
9-6 R 4/07 1,4,6Review Review for Test 1
10-2M 4/11 1–5Test 1
10-4W 4/13 5.1–5.4Aurora Solar activity and aurora
10-6 F 4/15 5.4–5.6Aurora II Aurora and substorms
11-2 T 4/19 5.7–5.12Solar Activity Flares, ionosphere, CMEs
Easter Break
11-4 T 4/26 5.13–5.16Magnetic Storms Storms, substorms, and CMEs talks start
11-6 R 4/28 9.1–9.3Intro. to MHD Conservation and Maxwell’s eqns final draft
12-2M 5/02 9.4–9.7MHD details Momentum eqn, reconnection
12-4W 5/04 9.8–9.9MHD waves Acoustic and Alfven waves
12-6 F 5/06 1,4–6,9Review Review for Final
Final R 5/12 1,4–6,9Final Exam