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An introduction to space physics coordinate systems


Many of the quantities measured in space physics are vectors (e.g. position, velocity, electric and magnetic fields, electric currents) or tensors (e.g. pressure). They are represented numerically by a set of components whose values depend on the coordinate system used. Thus there is a requirement for the transformation of these quantities between different coordinate systems so that the scientist can put the data in the system which is appropriate to his or her current purpose. (Note that there is no single coordinate system which can serve all purposes.)

These pages provide descriptions of various coordinate systems used in space physics and of the algorithms used to transform quantities between different systems. A list of useful references is also available.

A separate page discusses the effect of leap seconds on space physics coordinate transformations. This may become an important issue in view of current discussions about the future use of leap seconds.

Contact information

Last updated 5 January 2001 by Mike Hapgood (Email: M.Hapgood@rl.ac.uk)


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