Space Plasma Physics
Joint Appointment Department of Physics
Ph.D., Ruhr-Universität, Bochum
Eberhard Möbius earned his degrees at the Ruhr-Universität in Bochum, Germany, in the field of laboratory plasma physics: Physics Diploma in 1973 and Dr. rer. nat. in 1977. He worked as a research scientist at the Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik (MPE) in Garching, Germany, and is on the Physics faculty at UNH since 1990.
Research Interests: Acceleration of ions in the Earth's magnetosphere, in interplanetary space, and in solar flares; interaction of interstellar gas with the solar wind and the study of the local interstellar medium.
Acceleration of ions and electrons to high energies occurs at many places in the universe in regions with rapid reconfiguration of magnetic fields and at shock waves. For example, rapid reconfiguration of magnetic field lines is observed in the Earth's magnetotail during magnetospheric substorms or in solar flares. A well-established laboratory for the in situ study of shock acceleration is the Earth's bow shock. From Earth-orbiting and interplanetary space probes, such as Cluster and ACE we study these sites in detail with instrumentation that determines the mass and charge composition as well as the directional and energy distribution of ions. This information is key to unravel the origin of the observed particle populations, the composition and physical conditions at their source, as well as to establish constraints on the acceleration and transport of these particles. The parameter range of our instrumentation includes in-situ measurements of particle populations in the Earth's auroral zone, in the magnetotail, at the bow shock, energetic particles accelerated in interplanetary space and in solar flares. In the mid-'80s our instrumentation has also opened the exciting field of direct studies of the interstellar gas in the heliosphere. Data from the time-of-flight spectrometer SULEICA (developed at MPE) have presented the first direct evidence of pickup ions originating from interstellar gas in the solar wind. From these measurements the density, temperature, and flow velocity of the interstellar gas as well as its composition can be determined. Over the past few years we have been active to make the interstellar neutral gas directly accessible to observations. The group has developed and is further improving instruments based on the time-of-flight technology and on energy loss in thin window proportional counter systems, which are at the forefront of technology. Our research involves close collaboration with a number of other institutions in the U.S. and in Europe. Data are currently returning from mainly UNH built instruments on the aurora mission FAST, the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE), both by NASA, and on the ESA/NASA multispacecraft mission Cluster, which was rebuilt and successfully launched in 2000 after the launch failure in 1996. We have mature data sets from the particularly exciting time of the solar maximum activity in 2000/2001, with an abundance of solar flares, higher activity in the Earth's magnetosphere and increased aurora sightings. Currently, our group is finishing the PLASTIC instrument to measure the solar wind and suprathermal ion composition for NASA's STEREO mission and involved in several studies for exciting future missions to Earth's magnetosphere and the heliosphere.
Graduate and undergraduate students in our group have the opportunity to work with us on the development and testing of space instrumentation and to analyze data sets from past and current space missions. Students also support our Education and Outreach program. In addition to the involvement of physics students in our research, several Senior Projects have been completed in the fields of mechanical and, electrical engineering, integrated in the development of space physics instrumentation. Already undergraduate students gain experience in an interdisciplinary work environment.