Professor Jøran Moen at the Institute of Physics plans to fire a rocket from New Aalesund on the Svalbard archipelago some time between the end of November and beginning of December in order to solve some fundamental physics problems in the atmosphere. One of the problems is why airplanes in the polar region lose radio contact for a relatively long space of time.
Because of the curvature of Earth, the airplanes flying the polar routes have to use high-frequency radio communication. The radio signals are sent via the ionosphere, which lies between 80 and 500 kilometres above the landscape. This consists of a layer of gas with electronic particles that reflect the signals back to Earth. When the northern lights are active, they create so much turbulence in the electronic clouds that the radio signals are cut off. In addition it is not unusual for solar storms to cause inaccuracies of up to100 metres on the GPS.
Professor Moen is planning to use the registrations from the rocket to gain a better understanding of the connection between the northern lights and the disturbances to navigation systems and radio signals.
“This knowledge is essential for developing warning systems that can deal with these problems,” Jøran Moen explains.
First in the world
The rocket is nine metres long and will be fired at a suitable time between 28 November and 7 December. The flying time is calculated to last only ten minutes. The rocket will cut through the northern lights at an altitude of 350 km, and then plunge into the Barents Sea.
The rocket is equipped to measure the electric fields and waves of the northern lights, particles of low and high energy in these lights, and fine structures in the electronic clouds. Until now it has only been possible to examine the dissolution of electronic structures of a few hundred metres of a northern light. The rocket instruments from the University of Oslo can concentrate on structures down to a few metres.
“If we succeed in flying through the northern lights, we will set a world record in measurements of highly dissolved electronic precipitation in these lights.”
The rocket has a predetermined course. Before Professor Moen can push the button, he has to forecast when the northern lights will cover the rocket track. To hit the target he is depending on the assistance of experts on northern lights in New Aalesund and Longyearbyen to interpret the data from the Eiscat radar in Svalbard. He will also be helped by signals from a radar system in the vicinity of Helsinki, Finland. This can record echoes from high-frequency radio signals over Svalbard. The intensity of the echo signals will determine the extent of the northern lights activity.
Jøran Moen will also interpret the data from a NASA satellite that measures solar winds on their way from the Sun to Earth. These data can give the operators an extra hour to consider pending northern lights activity.
“We are planning to fire the rocket when the northern lights are stabilising over the course for the rocket. But the dynamics of the northern lights are so spontaneous that we can’t guarantee one hundred per cent that the rocket will target the northern lights accurately.”
In order to secure an optimal time for launching the rocket, the airspace over the North Atlantic between Iceland, Greenland, Norway and Svalbard will be closed for four hours every day for one and a half weeks.
The rocket is filled with advanced instruments. In its basement at the Institute of Physics, the University of Oslo has developed a new instrument for measuring the fine structures of electronic clouds. The European space organisation ESA is interested in using this instrument in satellites for forecasting space weather.
“The importance of better forecasts of space weather will increase with the escalating offshore activities in the Barents Sea. Offshore is dependent on stable radio and satellite connections and precise navigation,” Professor Moen explains.
Jøran Moen | alfa
Shape matters when light meets atom
05.12.2016 | Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore
Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering