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R.T. James McAteer

R.T. James McAteer
Associate Professor

Contact Info
mcateer at
AY 102

Expertise: NASA-SDO, DKIST, DST, NASA-IRIS, Solar Astrophysics, Space Weather Research




Professor McAteer leads the Sunspot Solar Observatory Consortium in operations of the Dunn Solar Telescope in Sunspot, NM.

Professor McAteer’s research covers the entire breadth of solar physics: from his PhD work on the dynamics of the quiet Sun; to studying active region magnetic fields and solar flares; and including the initiation and propagation of coronal mass ejections (CMEs). He uses spectroscopy, imaging, and detailed modeling to analyze data across a vast array of temporal, size and energy scales. His current research interests can be divided into three broad areas:

(1) Fundamental solar physics, including observational evidence for magnetohydrodynamical (MHD) processes including waves and magnetic reconnection. Studies of the chromosphere and corona of the Sun and other stars, and inferring plasma properties. Studies of radio emission from the Sun. Studies of Differential Emission Measures in the corona.

(2) Advancement of solar physics research through the design of high-cadence imaging and high-resolution spectroscopy instruments.  Design of new high performance computing and advanced signal processing techniques in
interpretation of existing and expected data (from both ground- and space-based instrumentation. Reinvent and reinvigorate the Dunn Solar Telescope. Membership of telescope scientific observing committees and oversight committees.

(3) The Sun-Earth connection, including the effects of space weather throughout the solar system, predicting the onset of solar flares, tracking coronal mass ejections, and modelling the solar wind.  This includes studies of the magnetic complexity of active regions and searches for signatures of imminent solar flares, general studies of complexity and turbulence in science, and design of risk management performance measures for space weather predictions.  This also includes studies of the solar cycle, and the effects on the Earth and the viability of life.


At graduate level Professor McAteer leads a Heliophysics course (ASTR670) at NMSU and is involved in the Hale Graduate online course. At undergraduate level, you wlll find Professor McAteer teaching courses on The Planets (ASTR105G) and Revolutionary Ideas in Astrophsyics (ASTR301V ). These courses focus on modern discoveries in our solar system and beyond. They are taught using inquiry-based learning, team-based learning, and extensive use of interactive technology.


  • 2016-present, Director, Sunspot Solar Observatory
  • 2016-present, Associate Professor, NMSU
  • 2013-present, NSF Career Award, NSF
  • 2010-2015, Assistant Professor, NMSU
  • 2008-2010, ERC Marie Curie Fellow, Trinity College Dublin
  • 2006-2008, NASA STEREO Scientist, NASA / GSFC
  • 2004-2006, NASA National Research Council Fellow, NASA / GSFC
  • 2000-2004, PhD, Queen’s University Belfast
  • 1996-2004, Masters in Physics with Astrophysics, Queen’s University Belfast

Current graduate students

  • Gordon MacDonald, on coronal models, solar winds, and coronal mass ejections. This is a collaborative study with scientists at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Kirtland Air Force Base with the
    aim of refining and improving data drivers for the WSA and ADAPT models. This project is funded by a NASA NEESF fellowship and funding from an NSF Career award.
  • Sam Schonfeld on solar radio emission F10.7 line. This is a collaborative study with scientists at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Kirtland Air Force Base with the aim of combining  data from the Very Large Array and the Solar Dynamics Observatory. This project is funded by a AFOSR reseach award and funding from an NSF Career award.
  • Laurel Farris on coronal seismology. This project is funded by an NSF Career award.
  • Sean Seller on solar flare dynamics. This project in in collaboration with Rice University and is funded by a NASA ROSES grant.
  • Sarah Kovac on radiative and conductive losses from the corona.This project in in collaboration with North West Research Association and is funded by a NASA ROSES grant.

Current Postgraduate Researcher

  • Dr Shuo Wang is performing inversion of He I 10830 observations of solar filaments
  • Dr Chunming Zhu is tracking filament eruptions and studying filament-filament interactions.

Recent graduates

  • Dr Greg Taylor, PhD, 2013. “An Adaptive Optics system for Solar Physics”
  • Dr Michael Kirk, PhD, 2012, “Solar Flare Brightenings” Committee

Prior to NMSU.

  • Dr Eoin Carley, PhD, 2012 Radio Shocks and CMES, currently a postdoctoral fellow in Paris
  • Dr Jason Bryne, 2012, CMEs in 3D, currently a a researcher at RAL, England
  • Dr David Long, 2012, Globally Propagating Coronal Bright Fronts, currently a researcher at MSSL, London
  • Dr Paul Higgins, 2012, Active Region Identification and Extraction, currently a researcher at Lockheed Martin, CA
  • Dr Shane Maloney, 2012, Coronal Mass Ejections and the Solar Wind, currently working in industrial research in Dublin
  • Dr Paul Conlon, PhD, 2011, Active Regions Complexity, currently working in modelling financial markets
  • Dr Claire Raftery, PhD, 2011, Solar Flares and CMEs, currently a researcher at Berkeley
  • Dr David Jess, 2008, currently a lecturer at Queen’s Belfast
  • Dr Shaun Bloomfield, 2006, currently a postdoctoral researcher at Trinity College Dublin

Recent Postdoctoral Researchers

  • Dr Greg Taylor, 2013 in studying Rayleigh Taylor instabilities in filaments.
  • Dr. Alexandra Andic, 2012-2012,  worked on studies of quiet Sun dynamics and active region flux emergence
  • Dr. Vigeesh Gangadharan worked on MHD simulations of waves in the lower solar atmosphere

Recent Undergraduate Researcher students

  • Tony Anthichos, Solar Filaments, currently in Masters program at NMSU.
  • Brandon Calabro, Coronal Seismology, currently in graduate school at UT San Antonio
  • Fernando Delgado, Active Region Evolution, currently in graduate school at Montana State University
  • Cedric Ramesh, Chromopsheric Bright Points, currently in graduate school at University of Alabama

Research publications:

A full and up-to-date publication list can be obtained via NASA ADS