SMILE satellite observations as a window into the Earth's past

Short Description

In this project, we will set up the numerical and theoretical tools necessary to process the data obtained by the joint ESA-CAS mission SMILE: the Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer, which is scheduled for launch in 2023, and perform preliminary modeling of X-ray emission spectra as observed by the SMILE satellite.

The University of Vienna is heavily involved with this mission, and we will have a direct access to the data, therefore, this preparation work is a necessity, as it will allow the university team to immediately model and interpret the data after the launch of the satellite in 2023.

The SMILE satellite will give us important knowledge about the interaction of the Earth magnetosphere with the solar wind, which can be extrapolated to the conditions of the early Earth. SMILE will provide soft X-ray imaging of the Earth's magnetopause and magnetospheric cusps with simultaneous UV imaging of the Northern aurora.

The satellite will also carry in-situ instrumentation to monitor solar wind and magnetosheath plasma conditions simultaneously with X-ray observations. At Earth, the X-ray emission is primarily generated by charge exchange of heavily charged solar wind ions with atmospheric neutrals. Therefore, this mechanism is an ideal tracer of the solar wind - magnetosphere interaction and solar wind plasma properties.

Our current understanding of the role of the magnetosphere in atmospheric escape and evolution is significantly hampered by an absence of magnetosphere observations as a whole, which will be changed after the launch of SMILE. X-ray observations of Earth magnetosphere and cusps will help us to develop a complete understanding of how the Sun controls Earth's plasma environment and drives geostorms.

In this project, we will tailor already existing sophisticated numerical tools such as the freely available BATS-R-US code to the conditions of storms observed by SMILE. This code can model the response of the magnetosphere to compression by coronal mass ejections, and calculate magnetospheric currents, and plasma parameters.

We will also use the Kompot code, developed at the University of Vienna, to study the escape of various atmospheric species at storm conditions. Finally, we will use an existing Direct Simulation Monte Carlo code co-developed at the University of Vienna to simulate observable soft X-ray spectra. All this preparatory work will allow us to process and interpret the data immediately after the satellite is launched is 2023.

Besides that, our results will be valuable for studies of the early Earth, because the extreme conditions of geostorms of today can be used as a proxy for a quiet conditions of the young Sun, which has been more active in the past.

Project Partners


University of Vienna

Contact Address

University of Vienna
Universitätsring 1
A-1010 Vienna