Dr. Jonathan Nichols is a Reader at the University of Leicester. Nichols graduated from the University of Leicester in 1997 with a first class MPhys degree in Physics with Space Science and Technology, and went on to obtain a PhD from the University of Leicester in 2004 under the supervision of Prof. S. H. W. Cowley, on the topic of Magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling currents in Jupiter’s middle magnetosphere. From 2004-2006 he held a post-doctoral research associate (PDRA) position at the University of Leicester before leaving for Boston University, Massachusetts, where he held a PDRA post until 2008, working on a large Hubble Space Telescope program of observations of Jupiter’s and Saturn’s ultraviolet (UV) auroras. After returning to a PDRA post at the University of Leicester in 2008 he was awarded a 5-year Science and Technology Facilities Council Advanced Fellowship in 2011, and Nichols continues to work with Hubble Space Telescope data, having been awarded time to observe Jupiter, Saturn, Ganymede, and exoplanet WASP-12b. Nichols was appointed to a lectureship in 2013 and a readership in 2016.
His research interests initially focused on the magnetospheric dynamics and auroras (‘northern lights’) of Jupiter and Saturn, but have since widened to include Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, exoplanets and brown dwarfs. He studies the behavior of the magnetic fields of these objects, and how this relates to their auroral emissions and, in the case of exoplanets and brown dwarfs, their detectability. He uses a combination of theoretical modeling, remote sensing and in situ data analysis (where available!), for example employing data obtained by the Cassini orbiter around Saturn, and images and spectra obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). To date, he has led 6 HST programs as Principal Investigator (PI), observing Saturn’s UV auroras, Ganymede’s UV auroras and atmosphere, and the extreme ‘hot Jupiter’ exoplanet WASP-12b.
Return with us to the evening of July 4, 2016 and the exciting arrival at Jupiter of the Juno orbiter. You’ll hear the moment of successful orbital insertion. Several of the mission’s key contributors reveal how Juno accomplished this feat, along with what they hope the spacecraft will tell us about the giant planet.