School of Chemistry & Physics

Dr Judy Stephenson

SuperDARN Researcher and Data Analyst

Dr Judy Stephenson has more than 20 years research experience in space physics research and in lecturing and supervising of postgraduate students. In particular, she has spent the majority of her time working within the SANAE SuperDARN experiment which is part of an international network of high frequency radars that is a powerful tool for monitoring and researching space weather.

Research interests

  • Space Physics
  • Space Weather
  • Magnetospheric Physics
  • Ionospheric Physics

Research profiles

Research overview

Space weather is a topic that embraces all physical process that control the transfer of energy from the Sun and its solar wind into the Earth’s magnetosphere (space surrounding the Earth governed by the Earth’s intrinsic magnetic field) and the transport of energy and plasma through the magnetosphere-ionosphere system where it can have profound effects on our modern infrastructure. The beauty of the aurora (formed by energetic particles from the Sun being funnelled and accelerated into the atmosphere by the Earth’s magnetic field) belies its dangers to our modern technologically dependent world. Research into space weather helps their Group to mitigate these risks by providing the knowledge to make realistic preparations. In particular, Judy is data manager and researcher of the SANAE HF radar which is part of the international network of similar radars known as SuperDARN ( SuperDARN radars provide a “window into space” and have coverage of a significant portion of high and mid-latitudes of the globe. This network has won awards from NASA and RAS for its contribution to space weather.

Current projects

Travelling Ionospheric Disturbances (TIDs). TIDs are oscillatory disturbances in the electron concentration of the ionosphere and may have their causes from the neutral atmosphere below e.g. gravity waves or from within the ionosphere itself e.g. strong currents caused by increased solar activity. TIDs play an important role in energy exchange (and thus global circulation patterns) between the ionosphere and the neutral atmosphere. Ultra Low Frequency (ULF) pulsations. These pulsations (in the frequency range 1-30 mHz) are prevalent in space plasmas and are of more than one type. They are important transporters of energy and can also be used as a diagnostic tool to indirectly determine other plasma parameters of interest.

Associations/ Affiliations

South African National Space Agency


  • SuperDARN radar network


Aurora Australis over the SANAE IV base, Antarctica

An engineer performing maintenance on an antenna of the SANAE HF radar(part of SuperDARN network)