Work practice with the UH space physics team

I’m Martta, an 8th grade student from Mainingin koulu located in Espoo. I spent one week in a space physics research group at the University of Helsinki as I was required to complete a work practice program. I am interested in physics and natural sciences in general so completing the program in a research group was a great opportunity.

During the week I had the chance to learn about a lot of different things regarding space physics. For example: On my first day I learned about Finland’s first science satellite, Foresail-1. All of the satellite’s systems and scientific instruments were made in Finland. The main instruments of the satellite are the PATE particle telescope and a plasma brake. It also has a camera and the MATTI magnetometer.   The main point of the satellite is to gather knowledge helping to solve the problems of space debris in near-Earth space. The PATE particle telescope researches the radiation environment of near-Earth space. The plasma brake on other hand is needed when the mission of the satellite is over. With the plasma brake the satellite is able to descend to lower trails and eventually to the atmosphere where it will burn. Thus we’re able to decrease the amount of space debris.

Along with learning about Foresail-1, I also got to interview a few of the researchers about their current research and jobs in general. It was great to hear actual researchers’ opinions about their careers’ ups and downs. Everyone had their own research topics they knew a lot of. I was introduced to new topics such as dune aurora and the radiation belts of Earth.

Regarding the radiation belts of Earth I had the chance to analyze satellite data about the quantity of electrons in the radiation belts. The magnetic field of Earth captures charged particles, hence the radiation belts are formed. When a coronal mass ejection happens, a shock wave is formed in front of it because of the ejection’s fast speed. There is a “sheath”-region in between the shock and the actual ejection. The satellite data showed whether the quantity of the electrons in the sheath-region and the whole ejection increased or decreased.

In addition to aforementioned things I also had the opportunity to attend a few presentations held by professors and associate professors. They were obviously quite hard to understand since I wasn’t familiar with the topics, but it was still an interesting experience.

In conclusion it was a great choice to complete the work practice program in University of Helsinki and it gave me a good glance of what a researcher’s job is like.

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