Professor Steve Milan

Professor of Heliospheric Physics

School/Department: Physics & Astronomy, School of

Telephone: +44 (0)751 564 2151



I studied Physics with Astrophysics at the University of Leicester, graduating in 1990 before undertaking a PhD in the Ionospheric Physics Group which later became the Radio and Space Plasma Physics Group and is now the Planetary Science Group. I became a Lecturer at Leicester in 2001, Reader in 2007, and Professor in 2011. I was a Visiting Research Fellow at the National Institute for Polar Research in Tokyo in 2000. SInce 2013 I have been Visiting Adjunct Professor at the Birkeland Centre for Space Sciences, University of Bergen, Norway.

From 2013 I was the PI for ground-based support of ESA’s Cluster mission for which I was awarded an ESA award for 'outstanding contributions to the Cluster mission' in 2005. I was awarded the European Geophysical Society's Young Scientist's Publication award in 2001 and the RAS Chapman Medal in 2013.

I have been an Associate Editor of Geophysical Research Letters and the Journal of Geophysical Research and am currently a Topical Editor for Annales Geophysicae. I was lead proposer for the Ravens and Janus mission concepts to the ESA’s M3, M4, and M5 calls and the leader of the ESA science definition team for KuaFu-B from 2011-2012.


My research interests centre on solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere-atmosphere coupling, that is the mechanisms by which energy is coupled from the solar wind into the near-Earth environment, the resulting behaviour of the magnetosphere/ionosphere system, and the impact on the environment and technological systems. The expanding/contracting polar cap paradigm is used as an underpinning framework for understanding magnetospheric dynamics: terrestrial magnetic flux is connected and subsequently disconnected from the interplanetary medium by magnetic reconnection at the dayside magnetopause and in the magnetotail respectively in a process that is depressingly akin to balancing the incomings and outgoings of a bank account.

My main observational tools are the SuperDARN radar network, space-based auroral imagery, and the AMPERE technique that exploits magnetometer measurements from the 60+ satellites of the Iridium telecommunications constellation.


Selected publications (> 300 in total)

Milan SE, SM Imber, AL Fleetham, and J Gjerloev, Solar cycle and solar wind control of the occurrence of large dB/dt events, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 128, e2022JA030953, doi: 10.1029/2022JA030953, 2023.

Milan SE, MK Mooney, GE Bower, MGGT Taylor, LJ Paxton, I Dandouras, AN Fazakerley, CM Carr, BJ Anderson, and SK Vines, The association of cusp-aligned arcs with plasma in the magnetotail implies a closed magnetosphere, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 128, e2023JA031419, doi: 10.1029/2023JA031419, 2023.

Milan SE, JA Carter, GE Bower, BJ Anderson, and LJ Paxton, Lobe reconnection and cusp-aligned arcs, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 127, e2021JA030089, doi: 10.1029/2021JA030089, 2022.

Milan SE, JA Carter, H Sangha, GE Bower, and BJ Anderson, Magnetospheric flux through-put in the Dungey cycle: identification of convection state during 2010, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 126, e2020JA028437, 2021.

Milan SE, LBN Clausen, JC Coxon, JA Carter, M-T Walach, K Laundal, N Ostgaard, P Tenfjord, J Reistad, K Snekvik, H Korth, and BJ Anderson, Overview of solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere-atmosphere coupling and the generation of magnetospheric currents, Space Sci. Rev., 206, doi: 10.1007/s11214-017-0333-0, 2017.

Fear RC, SE Milan, and R Maggiolo, Direct observation of closed magnetic flux trapped in the high latitude magnetosphere, Science, 346(6216):1506-10, doi: 10.1126/science.1257377, 2014.

Milan SE, JS Gosling, and B Hubert, Relationship between interplanetary parameters and the magnetopause reconnection rate quantified from observations of the expanding polar cap, J. Geophys. Res., 117, A03226, doi: 10.1029/2011JA017082, 2012.

Milan SE, G Provan, and B Hubert, Magnetic flux transport in the Dungey cycle: A survey of dayside and nightside reconnection rates, J. Geophys. Res., 112, A01209, doi: 10.1029/2006JA011642, 2007.

Milan SE, B Hubert, and A Grocott, Formation and motion of a transpolar arc in response to dayside and nightside reconnection, J. Geophys. Res., 110, A01212, doi: 10.1029/2004JA010835, 2005.

Milan SE, M Lester, SWH Cowley, K Oksavik, M Brittnacher, RA Greenwald, G Sofko, and J-P Villain, Variations in polar cap area during two substorm cycles, Ann. Geophys., 21, 1121-1140, 2003.

Milan SE, M Lester, SWH Cowley, and M Brittnacher, Dayside convection and auroral morphology during an interval of northward interplanetary magnetic field, Ann. Geophys., 18, 436-444, 2000.

Milan SE, M Lester, SWH Cowley, and M Brittnacher, The convection and auroral response to a southward turning of the IMF: POLAR UVI, CUTLASS, and IMAGE signatures of transient magnetic flux transfer at the magnetopause, J. Geophys. Res., 105, 15741-15756, 2000.

Milan SE, TK Yeoman, M Lester, EC Thomas, and TB Jones, Initial backscatter occurrence statistics from the CUTLASS HF radars, Ann. Geophys., 15, 703-718, 1997.


I supervise PhD students on the electrodynamics of the coupled Sun-Earth system and space weather. Specific topics include solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling, substorms and geomagnetic storms, the formation of the auroras, and electrical current systems in space.



Intermediate Modern Physics: Evolution of mechanics- from Newton to Quantum Field Theory PA2600B


Quantum Mechanics PA3210 (units 2 and 3)

3rd year Pair Projects; past projects have included 'Substorms: How What Why When?', 'AMPERE's Law: field-aligned currents in Earth's magnetosphere', 'Good vibrations'


Space Plasmas and Planetary Atmospheres PA4603

4th year Research Projects; past projects have included 'Auroral face-space' 'The fearful asymmetry of the Tyger's stripes' and 'Zombie Apocalypse!'

4th year Literature Review Projects; past projects have included 'Size Matters!' 'Sundials and Foucault's Pendulum' and 'The Fourth State of Matter' 

Press and media

Solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling; formation of the auroras; geomagnetic storms.
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