Photo of Dr. Roman Gomez in his lab

Physics & Astronomy Lecture Series: Measuring Far Away While Close to Home

Anne Matthews News

Coos Bay, OR – As part of Southwestern Oregon Community College’s 2019-20 Physics and Astronomy Lecture Series we welcome Dr. Roman Gomez, Senior Research Scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, for our first virtual lecture in the series. On June 3, 2020 beginning at 7pm, Dr. Gomez will present Measuring Far Away While Close to Home where he will discuss measurement of ions in the interstellar medium. These measurements are taken with orbiting plasma instruments aboard the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, a Solar Terrestrial Probes mission comprising of four identically instrumented spacecraft that studies the Earth’s magnetosphere. The lecture will be streamed online via Livestream at

Dr. Gomez explains his work: 

“Measuring the composition and dynamics of the interstellar medium is a challenging endeavor. In the past, measurements were limited to what could be collected from observations made in the radio and ultraviolet (UV) portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The Sun has a velocity of 20 kilometers per second relative to the local interstellar medium or space around it. Because of this, a neutral interstellar wind enters the solar system continually. Neutral particles with trajectories near the Sun are gravitationally focused on the side of the sun opposite the Solar Apex. 

The radiation environment of the Sun (UV, protons, and electrons) can interact with these neutral particles and ionize them. Once a year the Earth encounters this gravitational focusing cone. Plasma instruments mounted to spacecraft in Earth orbit are able to observe these particles. Their dynamics and ionization states make them easily distinguishable from heliospheric ions, so identifying them is the easy part. The hard part is trying to figure out what they are telling us about what is going on…out there.”

For further information about the lecture series or about physics and engineering degrees at Southwestern, please contact Dr. Aaron Coyner, Associate Professor of Physics at (541) 294-5992 or by email at [email protected].