Space Plasma Physics
Director, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space
Professor, UNH Department of Physics
Ph.D., Univ. of Calif., Los Angeles
Theoretical and experimental space plasma physics; cosmic rays and radiation belt processes; heliospheric, planetary magnetospheric, lunar, and auroral physics.
Harlan E. Spence earned his BA in Astronomy and Physics at Boston University in 1983 and his MS and PhD in Geophysics and Space Physics at UCLA in 1985 and 1989. His early research was on the physics of the terrestrial magnetosphere, namely global structure and dynamics of space plasmas. Between 1989 and 1994, Spence worked at The Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, CA where he had his first experimental experience, leading the development of an energetic charged particle instrument on the NASA Polar mission. In 1994, Spence returned to Boston University as an Assistant Professor of Astronomy and moved up through the ranks to full Professor and Department Chair over his 15 years there. In 2010, Spence joined UNH where he assumes the Directorship of EOS and also holds a Professorship in the Department of Physics.
Dr. Spence leads a research group that studies the physics of cosmic plasmas, from the Sun's corona to interplanetary space to Earth's upper atmosphere, using experimental and modeling techniques. Several fundamental themes unify Spence's research projects: energy conversion processes, including magnetic reconnection; plasma turbulence and structuring, and their roles in various plasma environments; charged particle acceleration, transport, and losses, both in explosive solar phenomena and at interplanetary shocks as well as in Earth's radiation belts; and solar cosmic ray production and galactic cosmic ray modulation. Spence and his research team develop and use physics-based, numerical models to understand the powerful dynamics of interacting solar and planetary plasmas ("space weather") and the resultant deleterious effects on space technologies and astronauts. Professor Spence complements these modeling efforts with the development of instruments on NASA and NSF spacecraft and the analysis of the new observations needed to fuel understanding. He was co-Investigator on two energetic particle instrument packages in orbit on the POLAR satellite since 1996 and is co-Investigator on a suite of particle instruments on the upcoming Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission. He is Principal Investigator on a cosmic ray sensor launched on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in June 2009, and is Principal Investigator of a comprehensive charged particle instrument suite that will provide key measurements for the NASA's Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission to be launched in 2012. Finally, Spence is Principal Investigator of an NSF Cubesat mission aimed at exploring the physics of relativistic electrons which reach Earth's upper atmosphere from the radiation belts. Spence serves on several national committees that advise NASA and NSF on future space missions and research programs and is a frequent reviewer of publications in top journals and proposals to national and international funding agencies.Links to Dr. Spence's Research Projects:
CRaTER Principal Investigator
RBSP-ECT Principal Investigator
FIREBIRD NSF CubeSat Principal Investigator
MMS SMART co-Investigator
TWINS Team Member
IBEX Team Member