Space Physics — Graduate Research

Cassini satellite

Space Physics is the study of everything above Earth's atmosphere, up to the edge of the solar system. It includes the Earth's ionosphere (the ionized gas just above the atmosphere), the magnetosphere and magnetotail (beyond the ionosphere), the Sun's corona and solar wind, the planets, inter-planetary space, and cosmic rays. Our research program includes all these subjects. Student research projects include analyzing spacecraft data, performing theory, building equipment for sounding rocket experiments, or simulating space physics conditions using laboratory experiments. Students also participate in weekly seminars.

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With the strong international reputation of our space physics faculty, including a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and our commitment to graduate research, Iowa is a long-established leader amongst universities in space physics. Our faculty includes experimenters who have built instruments for spacecraft including Voyager, Cassini, Polar, Cluster, Juno, Van Allen Probes, and Magnetospheric Multiscale and sounding rockets. Space physics research at Iowa attained international prominence in 1958 when Prof. Van Allen discovered energetic particles trapped in Earth's geomagnetic field, forming the "Van Allen Radiation Belts." Iowa has always been a preeminent center of space research since then.