R. Bruce McKibben
Cosmic Ray Physics
Joint Appointment Department of Physics
Ph.D., University of Chicago
My principal research involves studies of high energy charged particles in space using instruments on a variety of spacecraft. The particles consist of energetic nuclei and electrons from the galaxy (cosmic rays), and of particles accelerated in the heliosphere by solar flares, shock waves in the solar wind, and by the magnetospheres of Earth and other planets, principally Jupiter. The ultimate objective is to study the structure of the heliosphere and to understand by direct in-situ observation the physics of particle acceleration, propagation, and other processes that are important not only in the heliosphere but in many settings throughout the galaxy.
Over more than 30 years, my research has involved instruments on earth satellites (OGO and IMP series) and deep space probes, including Pioneer 10 and 11, the first spacecraft to reach Jupiter, Saturn, and the outer heliosphere beyond Saturn, and Ulysses, the first spacecraft to explore the high latitude heliosphere over the Sun's poles. For my current work, most of the data comes from the Cosmic and Solar Particle Investigations (COSPIN) instruments on Ulysses. Ulysses is expected to continue returning data until early 2009 when, shortly after completion of a third pass over the Sun's polar regions, declining power will force termination of operations. NASA and ESA web sites provide full descriptions of the Ulysses mission, its instruments, and objectives. The COSPIN web site provides more detailed information about the COSPIN instruments.
For the future I am working with my colleagues to explore new instrument concepts for energetic particle studies and for studies of energetic (few MeV) neutrons that may be produced at the Sun. Our largest current project in this line is development of an energetic heavy ion telescope that has been selected for flight on the GOES-R series of weather and environmental satellites.