Space Plasma Physics

Postgraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

Objective: The course describes single particle plasma physics, collisions and electrical conductivity, kinetic theory in plasma physics, magnetohydrodynamics, flows and boundaries, and plasma waves. The course conveys the different levels of developing a dynamical theory for space plasma: Single particle motion, kinetic theory and magnetohydrodynamics.


Content: The course describes the single particle theory (dynamical description of charged particle in electric and magnetic fields), different particle populations in the magnetosphere/ionosphere, adiabatic invariants, formation of the ring current, ionospheric current systems, and the physics of particle precipitation resulting in aurora. Furthermore, the course gives a theoretical foundation of space plasma physics with emphasis on kinetic theory (based on statistical mechanics) and derivation of magnetohydrodynamics (fluid description). The course also describes mechanical and electromagnetic forces and derivation of a variety of supported plasma waves.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course the student should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:



The student has advanced knowledge about

  • motion of charged particles in the magnetosphere and ionosphere.
  • trapped particles and their motions
  • collective motion of charged particles
  • derivation of governing equations in plasma physics (kinetic and fluid description)
  • Maxwell's equations and propagation of different types of waves



The student can

  • describe the dynamics of a multi-particle system on different levels (single particle motion, statistical, and fluid description) and when/where these are applicable.
  • apply the fundamental laws of physics to describe the relationship between mechanical and electromagnetic stresses
  • apply the conservation laws and Maxwell¿s equations to describe dynamical processes like plasma wave propagation


General competence

The student can:

  • describe dynamical effects in space plasma, and under which conditions these can be regarded as static.
  • describe large-scale dynamics of the magnetosphere and ionosphere
  • describe the propagation of electromagnetic and mechanical stress in space plasma.
  • present relevant theories, problems and solutions in the context of fundamental physical laws.