Heliophysics as Applied to Stellar-Planet Systems

Primary convener: Christina Cohen

Co-convener: Sue Lepri

The field of astronomy centered on the discovery of exoplanets is expanding and maturing at a dramatic pace.  The Kepler space telescope has observed more than 1000 stellar-planet systems which span a large range of planet sizes and orbits.  As the focus moves from simply identifying exoplanets to characterizing which of them reside in the habitable zone of the stellar system, understanding the stellar environments in which the planets inhabit becomes more important.  In that regard much can be inferred from our own, relatively sophisticated understanding of the heliosphere and the impact of solar activity on planets such as Venus, Mars and Earth.  Many of the identified stellar-planet systems involve stars significantly more active than our Sun.  Thus, it is of particular interest to investigate what the existing solar/heliospheric/magnetospheric/ITM models yield under assumptions of increased solar activity, e.g., larger and more frequent flares, faster and more numerous coronal mass ejections, increased magnetic flux emergence and related changes in the solar wind, and higher levels of non-flaring X-ray and UV radiation.  This plenary session will address what aspects of heliophysics can provide guidance for the study and understanding of stellar-planet systems.

Ion/Neutral Coupling Throughout the Heliospheric System

Primary convener: Dana Longcope

Co-convener: Holly Gilbert

Recent discoveries in Solar and Space Physics have revealed many exciting new effects being played by neutral atoms interacting with magnetized plasmas.  Neutrals play significant roles in structuring the outer heliosphere in features like the hydrogen wall and the IBEX ribbon.  The Juno mission has shown the complicated way neutral particles from Jupiter's moons structure its magnetopshere.  The solar chromosphere is a partially ionized plasma.  The role played by neutrals in the heating and structuring the magnetic field has become a focus of recent modeling efforts, motivated in part by observations from IRIS.

 The Earth’s upper atmosphere is a natural laboratory in which we can make observations and test our understanding of the interaction of neutrals and ions in a magnetic field. The advantage of the I/T is that it exhibits effects over all scales and is accessible for direct study of instability mechanisms (e.g. Rayleigh Taylor, Perkins, etc) and waves (e.g. Kelvin Helmholtz, etc)

 Ideas, experiments, frontiers in modeling, observations from the ground and space using new platforms and techniques are particularly encouraged.

Magnetic Reconnection in Space Plasmas

Primary convener: Jim Klimchuk

Co-convener: Dana Longcope  

Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental process in all plasmas which plays a particularly important role in several different space plasmas.  Some models invoke it in solar flares, geomagnetic storms, and coronal heating.  While it has been the subject of extensive study for over 50 years, there have been new development very recently.  Theoretical studies have begun to focus on the role of plasmoids formed through intermittent reconnection.  Observations by new spacecraft including IRIS and MMS have provided new information about how reconnection is occurring in space plasmas.  JUNO and MAVEN have provided observational evidence for reconnection in planetary magnetic fields.   Magnetic reconnection has even been invoked to explain the magnetic field structure of the heliopause recently observed by Voyager.

Space Weather

Primary convener: Sue Lepri

Co-conveners: Christina Cohen 

Space Weather is a clear societal concern which involves every aspect of the Sun-Earth system.  Despite the current sophisticated and vast array of observing instrumentation and models, there remain large gaps in our knowledge.  Space weather predictive capability is primarily limited to ‘nowcasting’ and rough probabilities of event occurrences. Predicting the variation in solar spectral irradiance, the occurrence of coronal mass ejections and flares, the acceleration of energetic particles, and consequences here at Earth and throughout the solar system remains an elusive goal. Much more work needs to be done to understand fundamental aspects of the problem, ranging from the Sun, to the heliosphere, to the magnetosphere, to the ionosphere/thermosphere/mesosphere system. Future progress will come from new/upcoming missions (e.g., ICON, GOLD, Parker Solar Probe and proposed SMEX and MIDEX missions), advances in numerical simulation capabilities, and breakthroughs in physical understanding. New missions are necessary to explore space weather; mission concepts and their associated science are encouraged. This plenary session will address all aspects of space weather.  

Unconscious bias in Space Physics: what is it and what are the solutions?

Primary convener: Alexa Halford

Co-conveners: Nicholeen Viall, Katherine Garcia-Sage, Yaireska Collado-Vega

We invite the entire SPA and SPD to join us at TESS for a plenary session on unconscious bias – also known as ‘implicit bias’. Unconscious bias refers to the attitudes and stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. Unconscious biases are an inherent part of the human brain, and every person has them, including everyone in the SPA and SPD communities. You can test to see your biases at Even in modern society, they often manifest as biases against underrepresented groups in science and engineering. While the individual acts resulting from unconscious bias are less serious than harassment or overt discrimination, their pervasive and endemic nature makes them a significant problem. (For information on harassment see the AGU and AAS ethics and anti-harassment statements Even though it has been demonstrated repeatedly that diversity is important to the growth, vitality, and innovation in sciences, unconscious bias adversely influences proposal and journal reviews, recommendation letters, talk and panel invites, discussions at conferences and workshops, and thereby affects hiring decisions, prestigious award results and funding. This session seeks to identify how unconscious decision-making occurs, and then how we can override it with conscious, unbiased decisions. The session will begin with an expert on the subject who will provide an overview, definitions, impacts, statistics and resources. This will be followed by a panel of members in the SPA and SPD communities who will discuss positive actions our community can take. There will be ample time for open questions from the audience.  The goal is for our community to be a true meritocracy by actively and consciously working together towards eliminating biases wherever we can.