Contact Information

Instructor: Jim Crumley
Phone: 363–3183
Office Hour:1 pm days 146 (or by appointment or just stop by)

Course Information

Lecture: 8:00–9:10 am Days 246 (Mods C+D)
Room: 167 Peter Engel Science Center
Textbook:Understanding Space Weather and the Physics Behind It by Delores Knipp
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 DateSectionsTopics Project
7-2 F 3/08 1Plasmas and space
7-4 T 3/12 2Energy concepts
7-6 R 3/24 4Electric and Magnetic fields topics
8-2M 3/18 6Plasmas
8-4W 3/20 3.1–2Solar structure
8-6 F 3/22 3.3–4BSunandsolarcycle
Spring Break
9-2W 4/03 5.1Solar Wind
9-4 F 4/05 5.2Heliosphere first draft
9-6 T 4/09 1–6,Review Review for Test 1
10-2 R 4/11 Test 1
10-4M 4/15 7.1–2Geomagnetic fields and structures
10-6W 4/17 7.3–4Single particle dynamics
11-2 F 4/19 8.1–2Ionosphere and aurora
11-4 T 4/23 9.1Solar Cycle talks start
11-6 F 4/26 9.2Solar Activity final draft
12-2 T 4/30 11.1Magnetospheric storms
12-4 R 5/02 11.2–3
12-6M 5/07 1-10Review Review for Final
Final R 5/09 6-8pmFinal Exam