Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan

2017 Nelson W. Spencer Lecture - Professor Margaret Kivelson

Date: December 8, 2017
Time: 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Location: Chesebrough Auditorium, 220 Chrysler Center, 2121 Bonisteel Blvd, Ann Arbor


Please join us for a lecture and conversation with Professors Margaret G. Kivelson, and Valerie A. Kivelson.  

Our 2017 Nelson W. Spencer Lecturer will be Professor Margaret Kivelson, of the U-M Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering, and the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, and the Department of Earth and Space Sciences at UCLA.  

Professor Kivelson will present a lecture titled, "Magnetic Structures in the Solar System."

Directly following the lecture, Professor Margaret Kivelson and her daughter, Professor Valerie A. Kivelson, Thomas N. Tentler Collegiate Professor and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of History at U-M LSA, will discuss Prof. Margaret Kivelson's long career in the space sciences. 

Reception to follow. 


Title: "Magnetic Structures in the Solar System"

Abstract: On August 21, 2017, millions of Americans observed a total eclipse of the sun, most of them seeing for the first time the solar corona, the complex filmy structure that surrounds the visible disk. The shape of the corona in regions within a few solar radii above the sun’s surface is imposed by the magnetic field. The magnetic field traps a highly ionized and tenuous gas, the plasma that forms the corona. The charged particles of the plasma, confined to move along lines of magnetic force, scatter sunlight and make visible the configuration of the magnetic field. Elsewhere in the solar system, plasma is confined in large-scale magnetized structures that are never visible but, over decades, have been yielding their secrets to an international armada of scientific spacecraft. Structured plasma and fields expand outward from the sun, forming the solar wind, which flows at supersonic speeds to distances far beyond the orbit of Pluto where it encounters a magnetic boundary called the heliopause. Most planets (and the moon, Ganymede) are embedded in magnetic structures referred to as magnetospheres whose dynamics account for a range of phenomena that includes both the beautiful (the aurora) and the undesirable (spacecraft failures and intermittent large scale power outages). This talk will describe aspects of the vastly different magnetic structures of the solar system and compare them, noting how they vary with the size, rotation rate, and location in the solar system of the central body.


Margaret Kivelson is a Distinguished Professor of Space Physics, Emerita in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences (Chair: 1984-1987) and a Distinguished Research Professor at UCLA where she has served in various capacities since 1967. Concurrently, she is a Research Professor in the University of Michigan Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering (2010-).

Kivelson obtained her A.B. in 1950 and her A.M. and Ph.D. in 1952 and 1957, respectively, from Radcliffe College, Harvard University. She has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship (1973-74), the Radcliffe Graduate Society Medal (1983), the Harvard University 350th Anniversary Alumni Medal (1986), several NASA Group Achievement Awards, the Alfvén medal of the European Geophysical Union (2005), and the Fleming medal of the American Geophysical Union (2005). She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences (Councilor 2007-2010) and the American Philosophical Society and an elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the American Physical Society, the International Academy of Astronautics, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Royal Astronomical Society (Great Britain). In 2017, she was awarded the Kuiper Prize, from the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society. 

She served as an Overseer of Harvard College from 1977 to 1983. For the National Research Council she has been a member of various advisory committees including the Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications, the Space Studies Board, the most recent the Planetary Decadal Survey Steering Committee, and other such committees. She has served on analogous committees for NASA and the National Science Foundation. (e.g., the Advisory Committee to the Division of Atmospheric Sciences, 1982-1985; Chair, 1986-1989; the Advisory Committee on Geosciences, 1993- 1997) and on scientific Visiting Committees at Harvard, the University of Michigan, various campuses of the University of California and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Her research interests are in the areas of solar terrestrial physics and planetary science. Recent research has focused on Earth, Jupiter, Saturn and Jupiter’s Galilean moons. She was the Principal Investigator for the Magnetometer on the Galileo Orbiter that acquired data in Jupiter’s magnetosphere for eight years and a Co-Investigator on the FGM (magnetometer) of the earth-orbiting NASA-ESA Cluster mission. At present she is actively involved as a Co-Investigator on NASA’s Themis mission, as a member of the Cassini magnetometer team, and as a participant in a team proposing for the European JUICE mission to Jupiter.

Professor Kivelson has published more than 340 research papers and is co-editor of a widely used textbook on space physics. In addition to her frequent presentations at university seminars and professional conferences, she has discussed space research with K-12 students and other general audiences. She has been active in efforts to identify the barriers faced by women as students, faculty and practitioners of the physical sciences and to improve the environment in which they function.

Valerie Kivelson teaches at the University of Michigan, where she is Thomas N. Tentler Collegiate Professor and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of History. She specializes in the history of Early Modern Russia, with research interests in the history of cartography, witchcraft, religion, and empire.

Her publications include Russia’s Empires (2016), coauthored with Ronald G. Suny; Desperate Magic: The Moral Economy of Witchcraft in Seventeenth-Century Russia (2013); and Cartographies of Tsardom: The Land and Its Meanings in Seventeenth-Century Russia (2006). She is the editor of Witchcraft Casebook: Magic in Russia, Poland, and Ukraine, 15th-21st Centuries [Russian History/Histoire russe vol. 40, nos. 3-4 (2013)], and co-editor, with Joan Neuberger, of Picturing Russia: Explorations in Visual Culture (2008). She has held fellowships, including from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her books have won a number of prizes.


Nelson W. Spencer became the director of the U-M Space Physics Research Laboratory in 1948 and remained its guiding force until 1960. During his tenure, SPRL established itself as a prominent leader in the exploration of the Earth's upper atmosphere. Dr. Spencer believed in the importance of including science goals in all space flight missions, and was a pioneer in America’s space science program. Each year, a special guest speaker is invited to present a lecture in Dr. Spencer's honor. 

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