Detected the elusive space wind moving around the Earth
Famous Greeks

Detected the elusive space wind moving around the Earth

Iannis Dandouras is Research Physicist at CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), at the IRAP laboratory (Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie) in Toulouse, France, and Principal Investigator of the CIS experiment onboard the four Cluster spacecraft of ESA. His research interests include solar wind-magnetosphere coupling, terrestrial magnetosphere dynamics, and in particular the dynamics of the inner magnetosphere.

He was born in Athens, Greece. He obtained his BSc in Physics from the University of Athens, Greece, his DEA (MSc) in Space Physics from the Paul Sabatier University of Toulouse, France, and his Doctorat d’ Etat (PhD) from the same University. Using dual-spacecraft (ISEE-1 and 2) data analysis techniques, and with Professor Henri Rème as thesis advisor, he studied the dynamics of the plasma sheet in the Earth’s magnetotail, a key region for the triggering of magnetospheric substorms. These are events during which a large part of the energy transferred from the solar wind is dissipated in the Earth’s magnetosphere and ionosphere. He has been a Post Doctoral Researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and at the University of Washington, Seattle.

He is part of the team that explained mysterious plasma waves in Van Allen Radiation Belts. Until recently, scientists could not explain how these waves are excited. Now, after nearly a half century, the mystery has been solved by a team of researchers led by Yuri Shprits, a research geophysicist in the UCLA College and Michael Balikhin of the University of Sheffield.

The scientists observed 13 equally spaced lines measured by two European Space Agency Cluster satellites, and found highly structured wave spectrograms that look like a zebra pedestrian crossing. The finding represents a major advance because the high-energy particles can be harmful for satellites and humans in space. The research is reported in the journal Nature Communications.

Dandouras is also the one who detected the elusive space wind, by analyzing data from the European Space Agency’s Cluster spacecraft. This plasmaspheric wind contributes to the loss of material from the plasmasphere, a donut-shaped region extending above the Earth’s atmosphere.

“After long scrutiny of the data, there it was, a slow but steady wind, releasing about 1 kg of plasma every second into the outer magnetosphere: this corresponds to almost 90 tonnes every day. It was definitely one of the nicest surprises I’ve ever had!” said Dandouras. The results of his study were published in Annales Geophysicae, a journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

Iannis Dandouras has been involved in Cluster from the time when the project was under preparation, in the early 90s, working with the PI (principal investigator) of the very successful CIS experiment, Professor Henri Rème. In 2005 Professor Rème offered him the role of PI, and this was an exciting new challenge, since the CIS team is a large international consortium, involving institutes from both sides of the Atlantic and about 60 co-investigators.

Iannis Dandouras’ research interests include also the dynamics of the magnetospheres of the outer planets, and in particular Saturn’s magnetosphere and its interaction with Titan, this moon with a very dense atmosphere, resembling the pre-biotic atmosphere of Earth. He is also involved as co-investigator in the MIMI experiment onboard the Cassini mission to Saturn, in the IMPACT experiment onboard the STEREO two-spacecraft solar study mission, and in the SERENA experiment which is under preparation for the BepiColombo mission to Mercury.

Dr. Dandouras has been President (2008-2011) of the Solar-Terrestrial Sciences Division of the European Geosciences Union (EGU). He has published more than 200 scientific articles in international refereed journals and 40 papers in conference proceedings and special volumes/books, cited 3474 times and has given more than 30 invited talks at international conferences.