©Planeterrella The polar light simulator
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Pre-engineer school grade

The "supervised personal initiative work" or TIPE is part of the entrance examination to the French engineer schools. The goal is to discover the scientific process by working a personal investigation. Students are encouraged to contact the researchers, to visit them. Each year, students choose the aurora, or related topics (space weather ...). At this level of education, it becomes possible to make terrellas (the Planeterrellas are still out of range) without the ongoing intervention of a teacher

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TIPE 2012 Lycée Descartes in Tours: Boris Leroux

For security reasons, Boris could not have a high voltage generator. Cleverly, he used a Wimshurts machine. He used Brass sphere for "terrella" and for the cathode. His experimental protocol is in the document.

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TIPE 2013 Lycée Fabert Metz Quentin Persent

Quentin did not simply mount a Terrella, he also attacked the numerical modeling which led to concepts as complex as the magnetic mirror. A resolution of equations much too complicated for any mathematical software, and a good approach to scientific research.

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TIPE 2012 Lycée Bergson Anger Baptist Hueber

May 29, 2012, after several email exchanges, Baptiste wrote me: "I am writing to inform you of the success of my experience and I enclose a photo of the installation and results Thanks to your advices, I could determine the cause of early failures: the pressure in the vacuum bell because the bell is rarely used in high school and his condition is not checked often; after several adjustments, the pressure was low enough to get a conclusive result . I first placed a spherical magnet and a wire and then I replaced the wire with a polystyrene sphere surrounded by aluminum. " This was the result of an excellent experimental work.
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Baptiste then attacked modeling on the theme of the year "invariance and similarities." Using a solver, he represented the Earth and its field lines regardless of the solar wind to see the path of a particle when it reaches the Earth, and the shape of the trajectory.

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TIPE 2011: Alexandre Andrieux

Alexandre embarked on an ambitious project to model the magnetosphere of Jupiter. In March 2011, I received a series of emails from him. Here is an excerpt:
"I started to be interested to the MDH, I have written to Mr. Vasyliunas who wrote a book entitled" Physics of Magnetospheric Variability ’(2010). I discovered the Parker equation, the’ plasma momentum equation ’(which seems to be derived from the Navier-Stokes fluid mechanics) linking about all the dimensions involved in the plasma fields.
 I try to use it to get results in a simple cases: steady state field density independent of time ... Finally, I try to solve differential equations with a software to display the various fields, scalar or vector. "

Contacting the authors of books is a great approach. He took us to three researchers, Philippe Zarka in Meudon, Marianne Faurobert in Nice, and me to help Alexandre and answer his numerous questions. He also sent me a copy of an email to Marianne Faurobert:
"The most surprising and interesting result I got so far, I have attached an image, recalls me one of my goals: modeling the ejection of matter from Jupiter’s satellite Io flux tube which connects to the planet and the famous plasma torus.
In space where two bodies create magnetic fields (two simplified, in fact magnetospheres), with one more intense than the other, I run a particle from one pole of the smaller body field 10 times and I see three behaviors over time:
 The particle performs back and forth between the two bodies while deporting towards the equator (which corresponds to the increase of the angle theta in a spherical coordinate system), then after arrival at the equator , the particle starts revolving around the central body, while performing other back and forth between the pole of the latter, but low amplitude.
 Once the particle has looped a full circle, depending on where it occurs, it can start to go back or between the two bodies (below or above), between the poles of the small body on the opposite side of the central body (like half Van Allen belt): the particle adopted these types of chaotic behavior several times.
 However thinking of that, this kinetic behavior of an isolated particle is probably not observable, and the MHD study is probably more relevant, if only because of the fact that within the magnetosphere Jupiter, the plasma moves faster than Io: impossible, therefore, to observe such oscillations of charged particles, even if the tracks are pretty nice :) "
That’s why I got interested in magnetohydrodynamics now, especially as the fluid mechanics is the object of my physics class right now! "

After his prep school, he joined one of the most renowned engineers schools (Centrale Lyon) and went for an internship in Australia.

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TIPE 2014: Sylvain Maruejols

Sylvain was a student in the college in prep math in the Champollion high school in Grenoble. He prepared his TIPE on the polar lights, and contacted me immediately. He came to see the Planeterrella in my laboratory and with the help of his Professor Mr. Marsal, built his own Terrella. He met a lot of problems, that he resolved with skill: air leakage, greases and glue tests, building plastic spheres glued to the aluminum or out of zinc … One of his plastic balls broke in two parts due to the pressure drop: he then drilled a hole to let out the air.

But everything finished well: he managed to reproduce stunning auroral ovals and finally, got a grade of 18.5 / 20!
His report is here (as always: Never copy and paste, it’s called plagiarism. You will see that Sylvain was very much inspired by this site. So quite ethically, he always cites his sources. This did not stop him having an excellent rating, quite the contrary).

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Institut de Planétologie et d'Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG)