Imperial College London


Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Physics

Chair in Space Physics



+44 (0)20 7594 7660s.schwartz Website




Mr David Owen +44 (0)20 7594 7770




6M58Huxley BuildingSouth Kensington Campus





Research Highlights:

Refutation of the wide-spread belief that cosmic rays trapped by self-excited turbulence within a supernova remnant cooled irreversibly as the remnant expands.

Examination of internal energy redistribution within the solar wind, and related aspects of solar wind microphysics.

Combined theoretical, observational and simulational attack on the origin of energetic ion beams upstream of the Earth's bow shock, and subsequently on the internal structure and particle dynamics of such shocks.

Important large survey, with accompanying theoretical analysis, of the detailed electron dynamics and inferred potential structure at collisionless shocks.

Unique studies identifying slow mode shocks in the deep geomagnetic tail, providing best direct evidence to date of fast (Petschek) magnetic reconnection, a process invoked in a variety of plasma environments, from terrestrial laboratory experiments through solar flares to exotic astrophysical sites.

Comprehensive studies on the properties and energy transport efficiency of general magneto-acoustic-gravity modes in the solar atmosphere (a subject whose roots lie in the pioneering work by Ferraro and Plumpton decades ago at QM).

Discovery of a new class of explosive events, now termed Hot Flow Anomalies, and correct initial interpretation as the interaction of an interplanetary current sheet with the Earth's bow shock. Elucidation of the essential theoretical ideas, further case studies and statistics followed.

A coherent theoretical/observational approach to "quasi-parallel" collisionless shocks. Major results include:

  • The fundamental role played by two/three dimensional structures we have termed SLAMS.
  • The natural manner in which such shocks accelerate particles out of the thermal population, thereby providing the necessary intermediate "seed" population required by cosmic ray Fermi acceleration theories.
  • Comprehensive study of mirror modes as found in the Earth's magnetosheath, including kinetic observational signatures and theoretical analysis of both electron and ion response.



Space Missions:

 Major role in the ESA CLUSTER space mission, including UK Project Scientist for the UK's Co-ordinated Data Handling Facility, Co-Investigator for the PEACE electron instrumentation (and more recently CIS ion instrument and FGM magnetometer), and central participation in ESA's Cluster Science Data System activities.

Lead of Cross-Scale mission proposal to the European Space Agency, which proceeded through to a full assessment study.