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761649S Auroral physics, 6 ECTS cr 
Code 761649S  Validity 01.01.1950 -
Name Auroral physics  Abbreviation AURORAL PHYSICS 
Scope6 ECTS cr   
TypeAdvanced Studies Discipline3251 Physics 
  Grading1 - 5, pass, fail 
Unit Field of Physics 

ECTS Credits 

6 credits

Language of instruction 



Not lectured every year

Learning outcomes 

After the course, the student can describe the physical processes in the upper atmosphere as well as in the magnetosphere that lead to formation of aurora. The student is also able to solve mathematically problems associated with the processes. After the course, the student will able to communicate of the latest findings in auroral research.


The flow of charged particles from the Sun, known as the solar wind, expands outwards to the surrounding space. Close to the Earth the solar wind interacts with the magnetosphere, feeding energy and particles there. Processes taking place in the magnetosphere lead to the acceleration and precipitation of electrons and protons in the upper atmosphere of the Earth, known as the ionosphere. When the charged particles enter the atmosphere, they excite the ambient atoms and molecules, which emit light when returning to the ground state, thus creating aurora (northern lights). In this course, we study the formation of aurora as an ionospheric process as well as from the viewpoint of solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling.
Contents in brief: Neutral atmosphere, ionization and excitation of atoms and molecules by auroral particles. Optical emissions in aurora. Auroral morphology. Magnetosphere-Ionosphere coupling, ionospheric and magnetospheric currents. Acceleration of auroral particles and electrodynamics of aurora. Magnetohydrodynamic waves, especially Alfvén waves. Solar wind energy penetration to the magnetosphere and magnetospheric substorms.

Mode of delivery 

Face-to-face teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods 

Lectures 36 h, exercises 12 h, self-study 112 h

Target group 

This course is useful especially for students who study space physics. Also for the other students of the University of Oulu.

Prerequisites and co-requisites 

Recommended courses: 766355A Basics of space physics and 761658S Ionospheric physics

Recommended optional programme components 

No alternative course units or course units that should be completed simultaneously

Recommended or required reading 

A. Aikio: Auroral Physics, available on the web-page of the course. Additional reading: M.H. Rees: Physics and chemistry of the upper atmosphere (Cambridge, 1989), G. Paschmann, S. Haaland and R. Treumann (Eds.): Auroral Plasma Physics (Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003), Baumjohann and Treumann: Basic Space Plasma Physics (Imperial College Press, 1997).

Course material availability can be checked here.

Assessment methods and criteria 

One written examination

Read more about assessment criteria at the University of Oulu webpage.


Numerical grading scale 0 – 5, where 0 = fail

Person responsible 

Anita Aikio

Working life cooperation 

No work placement period

Other information


Current and future instruction
No instruction in WebOodi

Future examinations
No examinations in WebOodi