The Magnetosphere-Ionosphere Research Laboratory (MIRL) at the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS), University of New Hampshire contributes to a variety of research projects in space physics. The lab primarily focuses on the development of instrumentation for ground-based, rocket-based, and satellite observations of space physics phenomena and analysis of the resulting observations.

Current research methods include:


Updated News

8 February 2018

On January 31, 2018, the Space Studies Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine hosted a celebration of the 60th anniversiary of the Explorer 1 mission and the associated discovery of the Earth's radiation belts. Dr. Allison Jaynes, former MIRL member and current faculty member at the University of Iowa, gave a talk on the "Cutting Edge of Radiation Belt Research."

Cutting Edge of Radiation Belt Research from The National Academies on Vimeo.

The conference focused on scientific and technological advances over the last 60 years, beginning with the history of the mission and radiation belt discoveries, and then continuing with the latest results from NASA's Van Allen Probes and other missions observing the Earth system.

2 February 2018

From the Washington Post:

NASA lost contact with a satellite 12 years ago. An amateur just found its signal.

NASA confirmed an incredible discovery Tuesday — that an amateur radio astronomer, on the hunt for a classified government satellite, stumbled instead upon signals from a spacecraft that had been thought lost 12 years earlier, raising hope that NASA can resurrect a mission that changed our understanding of the “invisible ocean” around the Earth.

8 January 2018

From the New Hampshire Union Leader: Officials with the University of New Hampshire say 30 students from Manchester High School West and Dover High School with academic talent and financial need can earn scholarships to attend college and study in the fields of science, technology, engineering or math as part of a new program. The Finishers’ Program, which has received a five-year $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation, will provide up to four years of scholarships as well as ongoing academic support and job placement assistance, said UNH spokesman Erika Mantz.

The program, according to Mantz, grew out of a need to continue supporting students participating in Manchester’s STEAM Ahead program. It partners with West and Dover high schools, as they represent the largest and fastest growing urban areas, respectively, in New Hampshire. Dover High School also offers STEM opportunities through its career and technical education programs.

“STEAM Ahead is a successful public school/private industry partnership — participating students are absent one-fifth as often and have almost a point higher GPA than those not participating in the program — but when they graduate high school the support stops,” said David Mattingly, assistant professor of physics at UNH and the head of the program. “This new program helps students transition from high school to college and persist through a four-year college degree and STEM career by providing the financial and academic support they need.”

Read the full article here.

28 November 2017

Professor Harlan Spence, director of EOS and plasma physicist in the UNH Physics Department has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Professor Spence was named among 396 new fellows.


Click image for an article with more details.

17 November 2017

MIRL is involved with the UNH team working on MEME-X, or the Mechanisms of Energetic Mass Ejection eXplorer. This potential next generation NASA satellite to study the interaction of the Sun with the Earth's atmosphere. MEME-X was selected by NASA for Phase-A funding under NASA's Small Explorer Program to develop the mission further for possible selection as a funded mission. For further details, click the photo below.

18 October 2017

Congratulations to recent UNH alum, Morgan O'Neill, on her appointment to the faculty at Stanford University starting in 2018! Morgan was a 2009 graduate of the UNH Physics program who went on to earn her doctorate from MIT in 2015.

At UNH Morgan worked with Dr. Eberhard Moebius on the IBEX satellite mission and was directly involved with calibration of the IBEX star sensor using the MIRL optical calibration facility.


Morgan O'Neill and George Clark worked in the EOS Facility for Optical Calibration at Low Light Levels where they calibrated the star sensor for the IBEX mission. (Photo by D.Sims, UNH-EOS, Aug. 2009)

12 October 2017

UNH Professor Nathan Schwadron was recently highlighted by explaining how UNH researchers explore the effects of solar wind and radiation on the Earth.

"Radiation from the sun’s solar wind can damage satellites we depend on for things like cell phones and ATMs. Professor of physics Nathan Schwadron aims to understand that radiation and how it affects us here on Earth."

Video by Jake Withee, Produced by Beth Potier. Original story can be found here.

6 October 2017

From the archives:

Scientists have used sounding rockets for over 70 years to study the near-Earth space environment. This video shows the results of a mission to capture the first images of Earth taken from Space.

14 August 2017

UNH is a major contributor to the Mechanisms of Energetic Mass Ejection – eXplorer (MEME-X) mission that was recently selected by NASA to move onto the next phase of development. MEME-X was selected as one of nine proposals under the Explorers Program to conduct an 11-month mission concept study.


Illustration of the heliophysics system (Photo credit: NASA)

From the NASA press release: "MEME-X will map the universal physical processes of the lower geospace system that control the mass flux through the upper atmosphere to space potentially transforming our understanding of how ions leave Earth’s atmosphere."

The mission Principal Investigator (PI) is Dr. Thomas Moore at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. Dr. Lynn Kistler is the Institutional PI for UNH and Dr. Marc Lessard is the Instrument PI for the EPLAS instrument, the same electron instrument that has been flown on several MIRL sounding rocket experiments, including RENU 2.

22 May 2017

Current collaborator and MIRL alum, Dr. Kristina Lynch was recently featured in a video on space.com discussing the use of sounding rockets for scientific research. From the video:

The smaller and less expensive rockets can be designed in 6 months and a mission can be accomplished in 1-3 years. The trade-off (from launching on a bigger rocket) is you "only get 10 minutes of suborbital flight," according to Dartmouth College physics professor Kristina Lynch.

5 May 2017

A group of lightning researchers at UNH (Dr. Ningyu Liu and students) is working together with MIRL members to help calibrate their instrumentation. MIRL is providing their integrating sphere and monochromator to convert an ultra high-speed Phantom cambera into a 1-D spectrometer. This will allow the lightning group to acquire spectral information about the evolution of lightning bolts.

4 May 2017

Update -- Drummond Biles, former MIRL undergraduate researcher and current UNH Mechanical Engineering PhD student, has WON the 2017 UNH 3 Minute Thesis Competition. Congratulations Drummond!

You can watch a video of Drummond's winning talk below.

21 April 2017

Maria Panacopoulos, Undergraduate researcher at MIRL, recieved first place in Electrical & Computer Engineering - Hardware Design at the Undergraduate Research Conference Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Symposium for a ground based camera system.

Congratulations Maria!!!

3 April 2017

Undergraduate research student Tyler Chapman has received an honorable mention for the 2017 Goldwater Scholarship. This is a highly competitive nationwide competition for one of the most prestigious undergraduate scholarships in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering in America. Congratulations to Tyler for the recognition!

4/21/2017 Update: See the UNH Physics Department website for an article about Tyler's achievement. Again, congratulations Tyler!!!

2 March 2017

ISINGLASS has launched!!! From the NASA Press Release:

"Three NASA rockets carrying instruments into active auroras over Alaska to aid scientists studying the northern lights and the interactions of the solar wind with Earth’s upper atmosphere and ionosphere were launched within a nearly two-hour period March 2, 2017."


[LEFT] A NASA Black Brant IX sounding rocket soars skyward into an aurora over Alaska following a 5:14 a.m. EST, Feb. 22, launch from the Poker Flat Research Range. The rocket carried an Ionospheric Structuring: In Situ and Groundbased Low Altitude StudieS (ISINGLASS-A) instrumented payload examining the structure of an aurora. (Credits: NASA/Terry Zaperach) [RIGHT] ISINGLASS B Launches into the Alaskan sky (Photo Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)

For news about the first ISINGLASS rocket launch on 22 Feb, 2017, see this news article.