Monday, November 20, 2023

A professor in the University of Iowa Department of Physics and Astronomy has received a grant from NASA to study how shocks in space energize particles.

Gregory Howes received the NASA Heliophysics Supporting Research grant to support supercomputer simulations and analysis of spacecraft data to better understand how particles in space are accelerated to high energy. For example, the Earth’s bow shocks—shockwaves created when the supersonic solar wind interacts with the planet’s magnetic field—slow the solar wind, heating the solar wind plasma and accelerating particles to high energies. Those particles can damage critical communication and navigation satellites and can be hazardous to astronauts.

“This exciting award will support the University of Iowa’s leading role in understanding the physics of space ever since the days of Professor James Van Allen, who built the first scientific instrument to orbit the Earth,” Howes says.

The three-year grant award exceeds $775,000.