Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Professor launches a rocket to investigate the northern lights

11.11.2008
Airplanes that fly over the northern polar region can risk losing radio contact for several hours when the northern lights are at their most active in the skies. In the near future a professor from the University of Oslo will launch a Norwegian rocket to find the explanation for this. The aim is to set up reliable warning routines.

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.

Offshore

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
Further information:
http://www.apollon.uio.no/vis/art/2008_3/artikler/rocket
http://www.uio.no

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht From Hannover around the world and to the Mars: LZH delivers laser for ExoMars 2020
21.11.2017 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

nachricht Taking a spin on plasma space tornadoes with NASA observations
20.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Filling the gap: High-latitude volcanic eruptions also have global impact

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Water world

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>