Research Topic

Bringing together observations and numerical simulations of collisionless solar system plasmas

About this Research Topic

Space sciences include the study of the Earth’s surroundings, a natural plasma laboratory. They involve the investigation of solar-terrestrial dynamics and phenomena which are crucial for the understanding of space weather. Solar eruptions, interplanetary shocks and solar wind structures interact with the Earth’s magnetic field causing restructuring and energy release at the Earth’s magnetosphere, leading to precipitation of energetic particles, which can potentially impact satellite health, navigation systems and even power grids. New discoveries related to space weather throughout the decades have resulted mostly from innovative and groundbreaking spacecraft missions, capable of making remote and in-situ measurements of collisionless space plasmas and energetic charged particles. A comprehensive list of significant spacecraft is too long to include here, but some noteworthy examples include the Van Allen probes, Cluster, THEMIS/ARTEMIS, MMS, SOHO, WIND, ACE, STEREO, Parker Solar Probe, Solar Orbiter, Venus Express, BepiColombo, MESSENGER, Mars Express, Mars Odyssey, Mars Science Laboratory, MAVEN, Juno, Cassini, Rosetta, and even the Voyager probes. Future missions to look forward to include, for example, STORM, SMILE, PUNCH, TRACERS, MUSE, and many others including nanosatellites. Numerical simulations on the other hand have facilitated better understanding of spatial plasma dynamics related to these phenomena and even attempts at forecasting or nowcasting the events.  


A wide range of numerical simulations have been developed to simulate plasma processes. Some are fully kinetic and built from first principles, some involve hybrid formalisms, others tend towards more phenomenological approaches or a combination of models. Yet others work by using semianalytical approximations and test-particle studies or solve the Fokker-Planck equation. Many have the option of creating synthetic spacecraft measurements in arbitrary locations in space, contrary to the limited coverage provided by actual spacecraft.  

These simulations continue to develop by integrating more advanced phenomena into their solvers and by implementing additional particle species, or by improving their resolution, system scaling, and dimensionality. A crucial step in applying both spacecraft measurements and simulation data to furthering our understanding of space plasmas is the validation of said measurements and data against each other and analytical predictions. This includes but is not limited to measurements of electric and magnetic fields, ion and electron pitch-angle and energy-time spectrograms, white-light evaluation of coronal bright fronts, polarization measurements, and constellation spacecraft methods for post-processing. 


In this Research Topic, we invite publications discussing, for example:

  1. Calibration and post-processing of spacecraft measurements 
  2. Numerical advancements in simulations and comparison with spacecraft capabilities 
  3. Case studies of comparing spacecraft measurements and simulation results 
  4. Successful space weather forecasting events 
  5. Novel techniques for performing event modelling 
  6. Opinion pieces on past, current or future scope of spacecraft missions or simulation development 




Keywords: space, plasma, spacecraft, measurements, numerical simulations, solar eruptions


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Space sciences include the study of the Earth’s surroundings, a natural plasma laboratory. They involve the investigation of solar-terrestrial dynamics and phenomena which are crucial for the understanding of space weather. Solar eruptions, interplanetary shocks and solar wind structures interact with the Earth’s magnetic field causing restructuring and energy release at the Earth’s magnetosphere, leading to precipitation of energetic particles, which can potentially impact satellite health, navigation systems and even power grids. New discoveries related to space weather throughout the decades have resulted mostly from innovative and groundbreaking spacecraft missions, capable of making remote and in-situ measurements of collisionless space plasmas and energetic charged particles. A comprehensive list of significant spacecraft is too long to include here, but some noteworthy examples include the Van Allen probes, Cluster, THEMIS/ARTEMIS, MMS, SOHO, WIND, ACE, STEREO, Parker Solar Probe, Solar Orbiter, Venus Express, BepiColombo, MESSENGER, Mars Express, Mars Odyssey, Mars Science Laboratory, MAVEN, Juno, Cassini, Rosetta, and even the Voyager probes. Future missions to look forward to include, for example, STORM, SMILE, PUNCH, TRACERS, MUSE, and many others including nanosatellites. Numerical simulations on the other hand have facilitated better understanding of spatial plasma dynamics related to these phenomena and even attempts at forecasting or nowcasting the events.  


A wide range of numerical simulations have been developed to simulate plasma processes. Some are fully kinetic and built from first principles, some involve hybrid formalisms, others tend towards more phenomenological approaches or a combination of models. Yet others work by using semianalytical approximations and test-particle studies or solve the Fokker-Planck equation. Many have the option of creating synthetic spacecraft measurements in arbitrary locations in space, contrary to the limited coverage provided by actual spacecraft.  

These simulations continue to develop by integrating more advanced phenomena into their solvers and by implementing additional particle species, or by improving their resolution, system scaling, and dimensionality. A crucial step in applying both spacecraft measurements and simulation data to furthering our understanding of space plasmas is the validation of said measurements and data against each other and analytical predictions. This includes but is not limited to measurements of electric and magnetic fields, ion and electron pitch-angle and energy-time spectrograms, white-light evaluation of coronal bright fronts, polarization measurements, and constellation spacecraft methods for post-processing. 


In this Research Topic, we invite publications discussing, for example:

  1. Calibration and post-processing of spacecraft measurements 
  2. Numerical advancements in simulations and comparison with spacecraft capabilities 
  3. Case studies of comparing spacecraft measurements and simulation results 
  4. Successful space weather forecasting events 
  5. Novel techniques for performing event modelling 
  6. Opinion pieces on past, current or future scope of spacecraft missions or simulation development 




Keywords: space, plasma, spacecraft, measurements, numerical simulations, solar eruptions


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

10 September 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

10 September 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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