Rev Leonard Kersley BSc PhD (Edinburgh)

Emeritus Professor

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Department of Physics


After attending Hawick High School, Professor Kersley read Natural Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, obtained his PhD in experimental fluid dynamics going on to become an assistant lecturer there. He came to Aberystwyth in 1965 as a physics lecturer with research interests in radio and atmospheric physics using signals from satellites. The research took him to USA for 12 months as a National Academy of Sciences Senior Research Associate and more recently led to the development of ionospheric radio tomography, a technique in which Aberystwyth has a world lead, employing radio receivers in both Arctic and Antarctic regions to map the polar-cap plasma. Professor Kersley's work has practical applications in radio communications and navigational systems. He has been a vice-chairman of the Beacon Satellite Group of the International Union of Radio Science, editor of its proceedings and is author of more than 160 papers. A glider pilot in his younger days, Professor Kersley now continues an interest in ornithology and greatly values being able to walk to work.

Research interests

Professor Kersley leads the Radio & Space Physics Group on a research programme based on experimental studies using radio transmissions from satellites. The activities encompass both pure science investigations of the geophysics of the ionised atmosphere & applied work on the effects of the atmospheric propagation environment on the radio signals. Early studies included measurements of ionospheric electron content using both Faraday rotation & group delay observations from satellites in geostationary orbit, leading to investigations of atmospheric gravity waves. Interest in the geophysics of the high-latitude ionosphere developed in the 1980's with a series of projects investigating radio-wave scintillation & ionospheric irregularities at sub-auroral, auroral & polar latitudes.

More recent work has been concerned with the development of radio tomographic imaging of the ionosphere, a new technique for the imaging of the spatial distribution of ionospheric electron density. The method is now being applied to studies of the signatures in the ionosphere at high latitudes of the physical processes responsible for interaction between the solar wind & the magnetosphere, using a chain of four receivers for NNSS satellite signals at sites in the Arctic (Ny-lesund, Longyearbyen, Bjrnya & Troms).

Collaborative work involves auroral optical observations, use of incoherent scatter radars (EISCAT & the EISCAT Svalbard radar) & other ground-based & satellite measurements. A parallel project, involving five receiving sites in UK (Unst, Lossiemouth, Hawick, Aberystwyth, Dartmouth), is concerned with the use of tomographic images in the improvement of ionospheric nowcasting & modelling for practical applications to the performance of radio systems. A new investigation has begun into the use of transmissions from GPS satellites for ionospheric measurements & in particular the combination of GPS & NNSS observations to investigate the plasma content of the high protonosphere.