Heliophysics is a vast field, covering everything from the Sun to the edge of the solar system through the perspective of plasma, neutrals gases, electromagnetic fields and interactions, and the redistribution of energy within the system. A collection of new books just published in AGU’s flagship Geophysical Monograph Series presents a comprehensive overview of scientific developments in this field. We asked the Editors in Chief of the collection a few questions about the 5 volumes.
What motivated you decide to produce a multi-volume collection of books and what is special about it?
This was quite an ambitious project. We wanted to gather the latest scientific observations, models, and theories but with such a broad scope we had to divide it up into different volumes. The books are arranged sequentially. Volume 1, Solar Physics and Solar Wind, presents a comprehensive view of our Sun at the start of a new era in solar and heliospheric physics. Volume 2, Magnetospheres in the Solar System, gives an overview of current knowledge and future research directions in magnetospheric physics. Volume 3, Ionosphere Dynamics and Applications, reviews global ionospheric research from the polar caps to equatorial regions. Volume 4, Upper Atmosphere Dynamics and Energetics, examines the structure and variability of the upper atmosphere. Volume 5, Space Weather Effects and Applications, explores how solar and terrestrial space phenomena affect sophisticated technological systems.
Across the five volumes, 110 chapters set the development of heliophysics research in context by providing detailed, expert reviews and insights into the current, universal, and compelling problems in the field.
The books are gathered under the banner of “Space Physics and Aeronomy Collection,” but this understanding of the space environment is, by necessity, multidisciplinary.
This project was an incredible collective effort from scientists from across disciplines and countries.
We acted as Editors in Chief of the whole collection, working with a team of Editors on each volume, 13 in total. An incredible 288 people contributed to writing chapters and more than 170 people acted as chapter reviewers, coming from 26 different countries. We are indebted to everyone for their efforts in pulling together this collection.
How do the volumes work together and who might find it useful?
While the five volumes are presented sequentially to provide a comprehensive overview of the system, each book is also entirely self-standing and can be read independently of the others. The collection will be especially useful for graduate students and post-docs entering the field, as well as for professionals requiring information on the latest research in their own or other areas of Heliophysics.
What would you pick out as some of the most significant advances in heliophysics research over the past few decades?
Since the early 1990s there has been significant progress in our understanding of how the system’s mass, momentum, energy, and electromagnetic fields interact through different processes and on different scales. We now recognize Coronal Mass Ejections as the main external driver of space weather through their interaction with the magnetosphere and that, at the Earth, the system is also driven from below by waves and tides created in the lower atmosphere. Another exciting development is that Heliophysics, and the access to the system as a natural laboratory, provides insights into other stars’ environments (astrospheres) and the forces that shape the habitability of exoplanets.
What are some of the most exciting new directions in space physics research that you think will engage scientists over the coming years?
The new missions and ground-based observational capabilities have opened new frontiers by enabling us to investigate scale sizes that we previous could not access. Exciting new insights on the genesis and structure of the space environment will come from the enabling of joint kinetic and MHD modeling and the in-situ and remote sensing measurements of the properties of the system. New instrument techniques will enable a deeper understanding of the phenomena. Meanwhile, the use of machine learning techniques, including deep learning, promise to extend our predictive capabilities. Predictive capabilities are vital to enhancing the safety of space exploration and operations for human and robotic explorers.
Our five-volume collection presents the state of the art in Heliophysics research. It sets out what we know about the space environment today, but much is still to be understood so we look forward to seeing what the next generation of scientists discover.
Editor’s Note: It is the policy of AGU Publications to invite the authors or editors of newly published books to write a summary for Eos Editors’ Vox.