Current Projects

The Rapid Imaging Planetary Spectrograph RIPS

RIPS is a new instrument constructed in collaboration with Jeffrey Baumgardner (Instrument Lead), Carl Schmidt (Science Lead), and Luke Moore at the Center for Space Physics. The instrument was designed around the concept of lucky imaging–using high cadence video rate EMCCD imaging to freeze out atmospheric seeing by luck, when the atmospheric turblence happens to be still just for an instant. However, RIPS functions as a “lucky spectrograph,” by recording a spectral channel on the EMCCD detector concurrent with the imaging channel. RIPS uses an echelle grating to give high-dispersion 1.25 km/s/pixel and R~97,000 spectra, but uses internal sorting filters to isolate single orders that contain emissions of interest. It further employs an optional pre-filter of ~45A bandpass to reject off-band light before it ever enters the instrument.

Obtaining a good signal to noise spectrum at a high resolving power requires both a very bright target object and a high throughput optical path. However, true lucky imaging has a limit due to the characteristic size scales of atmospheric turbulence. This is typically half a meter or less in the visible wavelengths, making “lucky” techniques mostly a small telescope trick favored by the best amateur astronomers. However, there are lots of caveats and things like wind and tracking errors still afford some benefits for high cadence imaging techniques. Tim Staley’s PhD thesis makes a nice read for those interested. Mercury is right in the sweet spot for lucky imaging techniques: the wind and seeing are generally awful and it’s really really bright. It’s a prime candidate for lucky spectroscopy, and as far as we know RIPS is the first application of this niche technique.

For more information on the RIPS instrument, please view the research websites of Dr. Carl Scmidt and Dr. Luke Moore.


The CuPID (Cusp Plasma Imaging Detector) Cubesat Observatory is designed to test competing models of solar wind-magnetosphere coupling. The 6U spacecraft is roughly the size of a toaster oven and will carry a wide field-of-view soft X-ray telescope, the first of its kind to be placed into orbit. In orbit the spacecraft will measure soft X-rays emitted from the process of charge-exchange when plasma from the solar wind collides with neutral atoms in the Earth’s distant atmosphere. The spatial and temporal patterns of X-ray images will be used to address scientific questions. The project is a collaboration between Boston University, Drexel University, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Johns Hopkins University, Merrimack College, Adcole Maryland Aerospace, Aerospace Corporation, and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. The mission is supported by NASA and is scheduled to launch in 2019.

For more information on the CuPID project please contact the group.  More information on small satellites at Boston University is available on the BUSAT site.


ANDESITE is a Space-Based Wireless Sensor Network (SB-WSN) that addresses the limit of individual satellites’ ability to spatially and temporally resolve the information on various space phenomena. As a first mission, this small network of miniature CubeSats will attempt to resolve current densities at varying spatial resolutions in the near-Earth magnetosphere using measurements from Anisotropic Resistance Magnetometers. The data obtained from this mission will help map the current sheets of Region 1 and Region 2 Birkeland currents. It will also provide solid new constraints for models of auroral particle acceleration, wave-particle interactions, ionospheric destabilization and other kinetic processes operating in the low-beta plasma of near-Earth magnetosphere.

For more information on the ANDESITE project please visit their website.

Research Personnel

Senior Research Scientist Carl Schmidt

Observation, instrumentation and modelling: Jovian satellites, Mercury and comets.

Carl is a planetary scientist specializing in tenuous atmospheres, also known as exospheres, and their interactions with the surrounding space environment.
He is currently a research scientist at the Boston University Center for Space Physics. Prior, he was a post-doc at CNRS/LATMOS, where he maintains a joint appointment, and a post-doc at University of Virginia.

View Dr. Carl Schmidt’s Website for current work at CSP, research findings, and publications.

Professor Brian Walsh (ME)

Space Plasmas, magnetic reconnection, X-ray imaging, cubesats, spacecraft instrumentation, and space technology

Our group conducts research in experimental space physics and space technology. The underlying goal of the group is to understand the transfer of mass, momentum, and energy from the sun into the Earth’s space environment. We’re particularly interested in coupling of energy through the Earth’s magnetic boundary or the magnetopause.

The research is conducted primarily through space-based sensors, some on large NASA and ESA missions, and some on small satellites developed in-house at BU. Our group is involved in building different sensors including tools for soft x-ray imaging as well as other compact and low resource devices. In addition to sensors, we develop small satellites and small spacecraft technologies, enabling advanced measurements in new areas of space.

Check out some of the work done by Professor Walsh’s Research Group here.