Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Astrophysics and physics of the atmosphere

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
1.02.00  Natural sciences and mathematics  Physics   

Code Science Field
1.03  Natural Sciences  Physical sciences 
Astrophysics, meteorology, climatology, galaxy clusters, dark matter, stars, interstellar medium, galactic archaeology, star clusters, stellar spectroscopy, Sun, prominences, atmospheric large-scale dynamics, climate, data assimilation, numerical weather prediction, precipitation, machine learning.
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Data for the last 5 years (citations for the last 10 years) on June 14, 2024; A3 for period 2018-2022
Data for ARIS tenders ( 04.04.2019 – Programme tender , archive )
Database Linked records Citations Pure citations Average pure citations
WoS  559  34,734  31,902  57.07 
Scopus  576  36,085  33,058  57.39 
Researchers (24)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  53653  Kevin Luke Beeson  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
2.  55257  PhD Maruša Bradač  Physics  Head  2022 - 2024  195 
3.  01486  PhD Andrej Čadež  Physics  Retired researcher  2022 - 2024  231 
4.  06640  Bojan Dintinjana  Physics  Technical associate  2022 - 2023  86 
5.  33858  PhD Dunja Fabjan  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024  119 
6.  58337  Giordano Felicioni  Physics  Junior researcher  2023 - 2024 
7.  54826  Doruntina Hoxha  Physics  Junior researcher  2022 
8.  53649  Samo Ilc  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024 
9.  35839  PhD Sonja Jejčič  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024  66 
10.  36500  PhD Janez Kos  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024  99 
11.  35327  PhD Katarina Kosovelj  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024  18 
12.  56969  Boštjan Melinc  Physics  Junior researcher  2022 - 2024 
13.  14331  Herman Mikuž  Physics  Technical associate  2022 - 2024  422 
14.  58115  Uroš Perkan  Physics  Junior researcher  2023 - 2024 
15.  55931  Manica Perko  Physics  Junior researcher  2022 - 2024  10 
16.  55351  Matic Pikovnik  Physics  Researcher  2023 - 2024 
17.  03162  PhD Jože Rakovec  Physics  Retired researcher  2022 - 2024  520 
18.  57232  Gregor Rihtaršič  Physics  Researcher  2023 - 2024 
19.  23978  PhD Gregor Skok  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024  182 
20.  57279  PhD Anishya Thevalil Hershan  Physics  Researcher  2023 - 2024 
21.  36476  PhD Gregor Traven  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024  57 
22.  51912  PhD Rok Vogrinčič  Physics  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023  24 
23.  39349  PhD Žiga Zaplotnik  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2023  111 
24.  08000  PhD Tomaž Zwitter  Physics  Researcher  2022 - 2024  633 
Organisations (1)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  1554  University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics  Ljubljana  1627007  34,374 
The programme Astrophysics and physics of the atmosphere joins four interconnected work packages, spanning huge domains in time and space, but using similar physics and methodology. The topics are: (1) the first groups of galaxies and dark matter (which uses galaxy clusters as dark matter laboratories, studies them in cosmological simulations, and as cosmic telescopes); (2) formation and groupings in our Galaxy (which studies Milky Way as a typical spiral galaxy and its formation through galactic archeology), (3) groups of stars, including the erupting ones which drive space weather (which includes studies of stellar multiplicity, of peculiar stars, and of stars shedding mass, including our Sun), and (4) weather and future climate on Earth (including machine learning in long-term weather forecast and studies of changes in atmospheric circulation, of initial conditions for numerical weather prediction, and of forecast verification). Wide scope is essential, as a vast majority of students in the country, who want to learn about the universe, weather and climate, study with us; the research programme is also the pivot of informing the general public and decision makers in Slovenia. All four topics are pursued in tight collaboration with the best scientific teams worldwide, and through a prime access to results from the James Webb Space telescope, the Gaia space survey, several Sun observing satellites, and several advanced ground based spectroscopic surveys and facilities, including large computer clusters, while meteorology is building on the results of a recent successfully completed European Research Council (ERC) project.
Significance for science
The programme group is part of some of the most ambitious international scientific collaborations, so we can expect a number of outstanding results published in top scientific journals: 1. James Webb Space Telescope (JWST, a successor of the Hubble Space Telescope) will be launched in October 2021. MB is a member of the JWST guaranteed observing time team and developed a science case for one of the four instruments (NIRISS) on-board JWST. This is allowing us an early access to JWST data ahead of the rest of the astronomy community, thus guaranteeing success of this programme. 2. Gaia, a major mission from the European space agency (ESA), made a breakthrough by measurements of distances, motions and other properties of more than a billion stars. It is expected to operate until at least 2025. We expect to be co-authors of the two public data releases expected by then, while the final publication of results expected by the end of the decade. The 2nd public data release was the most cited space research publication in 2018, the forthcoming ones have a similar potential. 3. We are part of some of the most ambitious ground-based spectroscopic surveys, complementing Gaia: Galah, Gaia-ESO, 4MOST, MSE. Mostly we are contributing in a core role of being responsible for (parts of) the data reduction. Detailed knowledge of data manipulations allows us also to make primary scientific contributions, as we did in the last period by studies of the composition and dynamics of interstellar medium, star clusters, multiple stars and peculiar stars. We also plan to use this knowledge to become full members of the Plato and Athena space missions. 4. MB has a primary access to some of the largest ground-based observing facilities (10-meter Keck telescopes in Hawaii), and DF has established collaborations in large European data processing facilities. Similarly, meteorology colleagues have established collaborations in Europe (e.g. Hamburg and European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts) and USA (National Center for Atmospheric Research), building on a network established during the recently completed ERC grant they led. 5. SJ is a core part of ESA space missions observing the Sun using Solar Orbiter / Metis UV & visual data, PROBA-3/ASPIICS visual & neutral helium data, the IRIS/NASA spectroscopic UV observations, together with ground-based spectroscopic data to study Solar prominences. Such research adds to a better understanding of stellar variability in general, and of space weather, locally. 6. Use of deep learning methods is a hot topic in meteorology, as this type of analysis of large data sets can improve the weather forecasts and allow studies of dynamical processes in the atmosphere. 7. GS is strongly involved in development of new methods for forecast verification. His expertise and wide international connections guarantees top level research results and publications. These collaborations allow us to participate to a larger picture, which ranges from (1) studying the first groups of galaxies in the early universe and the role of dark matter, to (2) formation and grouping in our Galaxy, to (3) better physical understanding of groups of stars, including the erupting ones which drive space weather, and finally (4) to making better predictions of weather and future climate here on Earth. These are some of the most important and hottest questions in astrophysics and meteorology today. Involvement in these cutting edge topics clearly presents an opportunity for PhD students and fosters advancement of astronomy, meteorology and climate science in Slovenia. These activities are contributing also to international cooperation, and to expansion of general knowledge.
Significance for the country
POTENTIAL IMPACT ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: The programme develops methods which are mostly on the cutting edge of new developments and in many cases very useful outside the programme's research focus. The data sets in astrophysics and meteorology/climatology are now: (a) very large (Gaia satellite produces 10^14 data points, and raw satellite data to be assimilated into a weather forecast are of similar size), (b) of diverse quality, sometimes with systematic errors which are not distributed normally, (c) with unpredictable outliers due to measurement failures or unpredicted physical phenomena, and (d) in need of rapid and fully automated decision making. Artificial intelligence methods developed in the last decade are the only path to success. Here we take an interdisciplinary approach, using readily made mathematical methods, but adapting them to allow for much larger speeds and therefore their use on much larger datasets than done before. Results which are openly published therefore make a directly applicable product of advanced software. Space can have a direct impact on the immediate Earth environment. In particular, eruptions on the Sun (which are part of our research focus) affect technology in space and on the Earth, as well as human health and life, telecommunications, and navigation systems. Yet, we still do not fully understand what causes the magnetic storms, how often, when, and where they occur. An associate membership of Slovenia in ESA allowed us to become part of Solar orbiter and PROBA-3 teams, and therefore also of technological advances in space weather. The use of machine learning methods in meteorology, improvement of the quality of the initial conditions for numerical weather prediction, a better understanding of changes of atmospheric circulation, and improvement in forecast verification all have the potential to improve weather forecasts and climate simulations, which can have a long term economic effect. We note that these activities are not isolated: for example we are promoting new methods involving artificial intelligence as part of the curriculum of magister studies at our faculty since 2020. Clearly, our expertise on climatology has a direct and significant impact on current economic development and planning, and we are part of the expert reference groups formulating the response to the climate crisis. POTENTIAL IMACT ON SOCIAL AN CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT This is the reference research programme in the areas of weather forecasting, climatology, astrophysics and cosmology in Slovenia. We are proud to point out that 4 out of 9 researchers are women and that women are leading half of the workpackages. The program has an extraordinary importance for the society, with an obvious relevance in promotion of the country, access to foreign knowledge and involvement in the international division of labour but, in addition, we would like to point to four specific topics: 1. Technological advances. We are part of cutting edge international scientific collaborations. Our contributions to their technical development brings jobs and job opportunities in the field of software development, fibre optics, optical components and instrument development. This has an impact on local research infrastructure, professional connections, and the promotion of Slovenia and its research and industrial potentials. Note that the associated development of human resources (i.e. via students who are capable in use of artificial intelligence on large and statistically skewed datasets) advances society in general. 2. Education. The programme group is responsible for the teaching of astronomy, astrophysics and meteorology at the University of Ljubljana, which is the only such comprehensive program in Slovenia. Group is responsible for 30 different courses at all levels, which are regularly modernised. Students are kept in touch with the development of our broader research fields and are able to train and work on modern instruments. We participate in development of novel courses, like the machine learning course offered since 2020. Therefore, our departments produce graduates who are highly qualified for solving modern problems, are highly sought after for their skills and contribute to the development and prosperity of Slovenia. At the same time they can have a qualified opinion on dangers and problems to the society potentially caused by technological advances. 3. Science outreach. The group is extremely active in informing the general public at all levels. We note that science outreach in Slovenia can make advantage of the relatively small size of the country: so journalists and the general public can have direct access to the researchers, avoiding the usual filter of public relations departments. We believe our programme group provides a model example of such an ongoing effort, with some 20 public lectures, 20 science outreach papers, and 60 interviews to the electronic media per year. All this is done voluntarily, but we note that an often enthusiastic response and numerous attendance of these events keeps us going. 4. Knowledge base for policy makers. Policy makers and the general public need to understand the issues to make informed decisions, with the climate crisis being a prime example. Our initiatives earned us an international award from the European meteorological society, while direct interactions with policy makers, including the president of the republic, give us hope to steer the public opinion towards a solution acceptable for the society and for the planet.
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