Fran Bagenal was born and grew up in England and studied Physics and Geophysics at the University of Lancaster. In 1976 she moved to the US for graduate study at MIT. Her 1981 PhD thesis involved analysis of data from the Voyager Plasma Science experiment in Jupiter’s giant magnetosphere. She spent 1982-1987 as a post-doctoral researcher in space physics at Imperial College, London. Voyager flybys of Uranus and Neptune brought her back to the US and she joined the faculty at the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1989. She was professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences until 2015 when she chose to focus on NASA’s New Horizons and Juno missions. She has been on the science teams of the Voyager mission and the Galileo mission to Jupiter. She edited Jupiter: Planet, Satellites and Magnetosphere (Cambridge University Press, 2004). She’s on the plasma teams of the first two New Frontiers missions: the New Horizons mission that flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015 and Juno that went into orbit over the poles of Jupiter in 2016.

Research Interests

Fran Bagenal studies the environs of planets dominated by their magnetic fields " magnetospheres " systems that are dynamic, involve a wide range of physical phenomena, and each new space mission seems to bring surprises. She studies magnetospheres by combining data analysis and theoretical models. Jupiter is a planet of superlatives: the most massive planet in the solar system, rotates the fastest, has the strongest magnetic field, and has the most massive satellite system. The Galilean moons are four very different worlds: crater-covered Callisto, the mini-magnetosphere of Ganymede, the cracked, icy world of Europa and volcanic Io. The strong magnetic field of Jupiter traps a torus of ionized gases stripped from the volcanic atmosphere of the moon Io. Aurora are excited when accelerated particles bombard Jupiter's atmosphere. At Saturn, the Cassini mission discovery of water jetting out of cracks on the surface of the small moon Enceladus and a persistent puzzle about the planet's spin rate have shown the magnetosphere of Saturn to be different from both Earth and Jupiter. Gases from Saturn's moon Enceladus surround the planet but remain largely neutral. The irregular magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune were fleetingly explored by Voyager and beg further exploration.

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Primary Section

Section 16: Geophysics

Secondary Section

Section 13: Physics