Thursday, 30 June 2011

Technical Advisory Committee of the EISCAT_3D project

Our series on EISCAT_3D project internals continues with the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). The "Description of Work" specifies the tasks and composition of the TAC.

The Technical Advisory Committee is the monitoring body for the technical execution of the EISCAT_3D Preparatory Phase. It consists of a Technical Co-ordinator, appointed by the Co-ordinator, up to four members from the consortium members involved in technical development within EISCAT_3D and at least two external members. Apart from the Technical Co-ordinator, the Executive Board appoints the TAC members. The Technical Co-ordinator shall chair all TAC meetings, unless decided otherwise for a specific meeting. There will be ordinary meetings at least every six months, and extra meetings when necessary."

The members of the TAC are
  • Frank Lind, MIT Haystack Observatory; Technical Co-ordinator and Chairman of TAC
  • Tom Grydeland, Northern Research Institute (NORUT), Tromsø, Norway
  • Werner Singer, Leibniz-Institute for Atmospheric Physics (IAP), Kühlungsborn, Germany
  • Jan-Geralt bij de Vaate, Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON), Dwingeloo, The Netherlands
The TAC receives and reviews reports every six months from each Work Package leader describing the technical progress of his/her Work Package and the plans for the next six-month period. It reviews and assesses the levels of existing and planned technical co-ordination between the various Work Packages of the project as well as the levels of existing and planned technical co-ordination between the various project partners, including their sub-contractors and affiliated entities. It also provides regular feedback to each Work Package leader, assessing the progress of each Work Package, the interactions between the Work Packages and the project participants, and makes recommendations for future actions. Another task of the TAC is to produce six-monthly reports to the Co-ordinator and Executive Board on the technical status of the project, including the assessment of overall performance and recommendations for actions over the next six-month period.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Polarisation of the Auroral Red Line

It is Tuesday, which means we are looking at some recent EISCAT-related science today. If you want to see your research, current or older-but-still current results on these pages in order to raise awareness, then please write to us with a short text and one good image or graph, and we will include your work here!

Today we are looking at a paper that's just come out in Annales Geophysicae, which is entitled "Polarisation in the auroral red line during coordinated EISCAT Svalbard Radar/optical experiments" (see full reference below). The auroral red line is very prominently visible in the photograph shown here.

Since controversial measurements published in 1959, "the polarisation of the thermospheric atomic oxygen red line at 630 nm has been ignored for almost fifty years until it has been recently re-investigated [...]. The red line emission at 630 nm is due to the transition between the O1D and O3P states with a corresponding energy threshold of 1.96 eV. In this study, the emission has been observed by a dedicated photo-polarimeter placed in the Svalbard archipelago" during five campaigns thus far. "[...] Polar observations are very difficult due to harsh weather conditions and instrumental problems, hence only few measurements have been possible." These experiments were supported by the EISCAT Svalbard Radar (ESR). The paper introduced here reports about the observations and puts them into the context of recent theoretical work on this penomenon.

Original article: Barthélémy, M., J. Lilensten, F. Pitout, C. Simon Wedlund, R. Thissen, D. Lorentzen, F. Sigernes, J. Moen, G. Gronoff, I. McCrea, H. Rothkael, H. Ménager, and A. Aruliah, Polarisation in the auroral red line during coordinated EISCAT Svalbard Radar/optical experiments, Ann. Geophys., 29, 1101–1112, 2011 (link).

Photo: Very strong auroral emissions at 630 nm, pseudo-colour image by Thomas Ulich, intensity images from the all-sky camera of Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory (SGO).

Monday, 27 June 2011

Did you miss the Midnight Solar Eclipse?

A few weeks ago, we reported about a very special partial solar eclipse of the midnight sun, which occurred in the night of 1st/2nd June 2011. This was possible because of the northern hemisphere summer and its long polar day during which the sun does not set at all for many weeks. Of course our Friday picture feature of that week showed a couple of photos of the eclipse. Also the KAIRA blog featured photos of the eclipse, taken from a hilltop not far from Sodankylä.

Just recently, however, we were made aware of a phantastic time lapse film of this eclipse, taken in Norway, by Eivind Kolstad. Enjoy!

Photo above from of the time lapse film by Eivind Kolstad. All rights are with the artists, please contact him for details.

Friday, 24 June 2011


It's Friday, it's picture time, but it's also a special Friday. This weekend, in Finland and Scandinavia people are celebrating Midsummer! Midsummer is the weekend after the summer solstice on 21st June, and for many people here it means the beginning of the summer holidays. Summer holidays are long in the Nordic Countries, often up to four weeks after Midsummer. Schools here break for up to 10 weeks from early June! And of course, the sun completely fails to set at all in Lapland.

The photo above, which illustrates the midnight sun, is relevant also in another way: for many, summer means to be on or by the water — using boats or spend time in cottages at the shores of lakes and the sea.

Happy Midsummer, and have a nice weekend!

Photo: Thomas Ulich.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

EISCAT_3D in International Innovation Environment Magazine

The EISCAT_3D Preparatory Phase project is featured in the June 2011 issue of the International Innovation Environment Magazine. In the article, the Director of EISCAT, Dr Esa Turunen and Dr Jonny Johansson of EISLAB of Luleå University, Sweden, describe the project and its impact on near-Earth environmental science.

As you know, EISCAT_3D is on the ESFRI Roadmap 2008 for large-scale environmental research infrastructures for the next 20-30 years.

You can download the article in full-resolution print quality or in low-resolution screen quality.

If you prefer to purchase the complete magazine, please contact the publisher.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Is the Sun acting up?

Last week, during the annual meeting of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, scientists discussed "What's down with the Sun?" and will there be a "major drop in solar activity"?

A missing jet stream, fading spots, and slower activity near the poles say that our Sun is heading for a rest period even as it is acting up for the first time in years, according to scientists at the National Solar Observatory (NSO) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

As the current sunspot cycle, Cycle 24, begins to ramp up toward maximum, independent studies of the solar interior, visible surface, and the corona indicate that the next 11-year solar sunspot cycle, Cycle 25, will be greatly reduced or may not happen at all.

"This is highly unusual and unexpected," Dr Frank Hill, associate director of the NSO’s Solar Synoptic Network, said of the results. "But the fact that three completely different views of the Sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation."

Spot numbers and other solar activity rise and fall about every 11 years, which is half of the Sun’s 22-year magnetic interval since the Sun’s magnetic poles reverse with each cycle. An immediate question is whether this slowdown presages a second Maunder Minimum, a 70-year period with virtually no sunspots during 1645—1715.

For more information, please refer to the full press release.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Vacancy: Geomagnetic Hazard Specialist

The British Geological Survey (BGS), part of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), is the UK's premier geo-science strategic mapping and research organisation. BGS are offering a 3 year post doctoral research position based at our office in Edinburgh, working within the NERC Research Associate Training Programme.

During the appointment, the successful candidate will support BGS research, together with European scientific colleagues, within the EU-funded 'European Risk from Geomagnetically Induced Currents' (EURISGIC) space weather hazard project. This major new project will investigate how space weather impacts the European-wide electrical power network. EURISGIC provides an outstanding opportunity to undertake cutting edge scientific research and apply it to a 'real-world' problem. She or he will also undertake more general research leading to improved scientific understanding of geomagnetic and space weather hazard and you will apply the results of that research to improve products and services, provided by BGS to the electrical power industry, to the academic community and for others.

The image shows the estimated Geomagnetically Induced Currents (GIC) flow in the UK at 252 major transformers on 30th October 2003 at 21:24 h. Red/blue denotes current flowing to/from the Earth; the spot size is proportional to the current.

For more information, please consult the vacancies page of BGS, or download this announcement as PDF.

Closing date for receipt of application forms is 31 July 2011.

Image: British Geological Survey/Lancaster University/Katie Turnbull.

Friday, 17 June 2011

EISCAT and StreetView

Friday picture time! We just learnt that the EISCAT site at Ramfjord, near Tromsø, Norway, is the first EISCAT site to be visible in Google's StreetView. The photo above gives you an impression, which many of us never experienced: the view of the EISCAT site from the main road in summer! Most of us travel to Tromsø for measurements during autumn, winter or spring, when it is dark most of the time and when there's snow on the ground. But Tromsø is actually a very beautiful place in summer, when the Arctic is covered in a lush green.

In the photo above (click on it for a bigger version) you can see the large VHF radar, which is the white, rectangular structure in the middle. To the right from the VHF, you can just make out the top of the UHF radar dish. Finally, the structure on the left, which looks like a forest of vertical masts, is the ionospheric Heater.

Have a nice weekend everyone!

Photo: Google StreetView.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Read EISCAT_3D Blog on Mobile Devices

Great news: there are now templates in place for optimised viewing of the blog on mobile devices! Great stuff, and right on time for the holiday and conference travel season!

The new look will be offered by default when surfing into with a mobile device. However, if you prefer the full-blown web site, you can scroll down and click on "View web version".

Thanks to the developers at Blogger, which hosts the EISCAT_3D blog, for making this possible! Please refer to their announcement of the feature for more information.


PS: Remember that you can get updates also on Facebook at and on Twitter at

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Movable Antarctic Incoherent Scatter Radar Workshop, Istanbul

While EISCAT_3D is a challenging incoherent scatter radar project, which will construct a fully volumetric (read three-dimensional) radar in the north of Scandinavia and Finland, our colleagues in the USA are attempting a challenge of a different kind.

A few years ago it was noticed that all the world's incoherent scatter radars are in the northern hemisphere, and we do not have any means to measure in the southern hemisphere. The high or even mid latitudes in the southern hemisphere are covered by oceans, where islands are few and far between. Reaching the high southern latitudes means entering Antarctica, a continent which, even today, is almost as hard to reach as space. Yet there are permanently staffed stations across the continent.

The US geospace sciences community has proposed a Movable Antarctic Incoherent Scatter Radar (MAISR) to be considered by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The first MAISR is currently targeted for the US Antarctic station McMurdo to address polar cap ionospheric research, and MAISR's feasibility study is underway.

McMurdo is an interesting location, because it is roughly magnetically conjugate to Resolute Bay, where there are two incoherent scatter radars (RISR-N and RISR-C).

In August 2008, the first "International Antarctic Incoherent Scatter Radar Workshop" was hosted in conjunction with the XXIX URSI General Assembly in Chicago, and the report "The Antarctic Incoherent Scatter Radar Facility – Transformational Solar-Terrestrial Research in the High South" was published shortly thereafter.

The overarching goal of the MAISR Workshop is to inspire international scientific communities to consider be partners in the MAISR construction and exploitation, especially looking for the future sites where MAISR could be moved after initial operation.

The second "International Antarctic Incoherent Scatter Radar Workshop" will be held in conjunction with the XXX URSI General Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey, 13th to 14th August 2011. Topics of the workshop will be:
  • Construction of a road map of the relevant science topics
  • Creation of a timeline for location/re-location of the MAISR systems and a science plan compliant with:
    • Most urgent science topics to address.
    • Natural variation like solar cycles.
    • National and international science and infrastructure plans, both in Antarctica and the conjugate high north.
The meeting will last all day Saturday, 13th August and end after lunch Sunday, 14th August 2011. The workshop will be a combination of invited and contributed talks. A more detailed agenda and information about the venue and deadlines will follow shortly.

For more information refer to this year's workshop page or contact Anja Strømme (anja [dot] stromme [at] sri [dot] com).

Edited: links to workshop page added, 2011-06-21.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

PhD thesis: Dynamics of Polar Cap Boundary and Nightside Auroral Oval

Timo Pitkänen of the Department of Physics, University of Oulu, Finland, has defended his Ph.D. thesis entitled "Dynamics of the polar cap boundary and the auroral oval in the nightside ionosphere" on Friday, 10th June 2011. The opponent was Dr Stephan Buchert of the Swedish Institute for Space Physics in Uppsala. Our sincere congratulations to Timo for his achievement!

The photo shows Timo Pitkänen during the defence ceremony explaining the magnetosphere in 3D using a balloon.


The high-latitude polar ionosphere is characterized by two regions, the polar cap and the auroral oval. In the polar cap, the geomagnetic field lines are open and connect to the solar wind, whereas the field lines in the auroral oval are closed and map to the plasma sheet and the plasma sheet boundary layer in the magnetosphere. The two substantially different magnetic and plasma domains are separated by a separatrix, the polar cap boundary (PCB), which is an ionospheric projection of the open-closed field line boundary (OCB) in the magnetosphere.

In this thesis, a new method to determine the location of the PCB in the nightside ionosphere based on electron temperature measurements by EISCAT incoherent scatter radars is introduced. Comparisons with other PCB proxies like poleward boundary of the auroral emissions, poleward edge of the auroral electrojets and poleward boundary of energetic particle precipitation show general agreement. By applying the method to several events together with other supporting ground-based and space-borne observations, dynamic processes and phenomena in the vicinity of the PCB and inside the auroral oval are studied.

The main results include the following. During substorm expansion, the PCB moves poleward in a burstlike manner with individual bursts separated by 2–10 min, indicating impulsive reconnection in the magnetotail. In one event, a possible signature of the high-altitude counterpart of the Earthward flowing field-aligned current of the Hall current system at the magnetotail reconnection site is observed. Investigation of the relation between the auroral activity and the local reconnection rate estimated from the EISCAT measurements reveals direct association between individual auroral poleward boundary intensifications (PBIs) and intensifications in the ionospheric reconnection electric field within the same magnetic local time (MLT) sector. The result confirms earlier suggestions of positive correlation between PBIs and enhanced flux closure in the magnetotail. In another event, quiet-time bursty bulk flows (BBFs) and their ionospheric signatures are studied. The BBFs are found to be consistent with the so called "bubble" model with Earthward fast flows inside the region of depleted plasma density (bubble). The tailward return flows show an interesting asymmetry in plasma density. Whereas the duskside return flows show signatures of a depleted wake, consistent with a recent suggestion, no similar feature is seen for the dawnside return flows, but rather increase in density. The BBFs are associated with auroral streamers in the conjugate ionosphere, consistently with previous findings. The related ionospheric plasma flow patterns are interpreted as ionospheric counterpart of the BBF flows, excluding the dawnside return flows which could not be identified in the ionosphere. The BBFs and streamers are found to appear during an enhanced reconnection electric field in the magnetotail.


Pitkänen, Timo, Dynamics of the polar cap boundary and the auroral oval in the nightside ionosphere, Report Series in Physical Sciences, Report No. 67, Dept of Physics, University of Oulu, Finland, 2011 (pdf).

Photo: Carl-Fredrik Enell.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Solar and Space Weather Workshop in Aberystwyth

The Fifth LOFAR Solar and Space Weather KSP Workshop will be hosted by Aberystwyth University and held in Aberystwyth, Wales, UK, during 28-30 June 2011.

The workshop commences at 09:30h on 28th June and finishes at 12:30h on 30th June. It will focus on the progress of Solar and Space Weather KSP LOFAR; commissioning work, results to date, future commissioning work and how it is to be achieved. It is anticipated that some demonstration and/or tutorial sessions will be possible on how we use LOFAR to make solar and interplanetary scintillation observations, and data analysis progress at this time.

Please register your intention to attend by e-mailing Drs. Mario Bisi (Mario [dot] Bisi [at] aber [dot] ac [dot] uk) and Richard Fallows (raf [at] aber [dot] ac [dot] uk) no later than Wednesday, 15th June 2011 at 23:59h.

This workshop will focus on the commissioning work for this KSP and not on the science; the science has been well-discussed at previous workshops and we assume it is now well-known to most KSP members. Please indicate in your E-Mail if you wish to give a talk and include title, author list, and a brief abstract, but please note the following requests:
  • The science should be limited to a brief summary of the techniques and preferably no more than one slide of results.
  • The main part of the talk should focus on:
    • How you wish to use LOFAR to achieve your science aims.
    • The data product(s) you require or will develop through the use of LOFAR for Solar and Space Weather work.
    • Thoughts on how these may be created/implemented if they are not standards which have been determined already.
The Workshop web pages can be found at These pages include information on travel and accommodation (under "Workshop Information").

Registration deadline extended to 15th June 2011.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Noctilucent Cloud Season has started!

It's Friday, and time for an interesting picture. This time the photo is of Noctilucent Clouds, which appear in the mesopause region. The polar summer mesopause is the coldest part of the Earth's atmosphere with temperatures around 130 K at about 88 km altitude. Here, ice particles are formed, which then sediment downwards and grow in the process. By the time they reach about 85 km altitude, they have grown to sizes of around 20 nm and clouds of such particles can be seen by naked eye in suitable conditions.

While the noctilucent clouds, or NLC as they are commonly known, appear only in polar regions, they can be observed there only in the very beginning and end of the polar day. However, south of the Arctic Circle, the clouds are visible at night, when they are illuminated from below by the setting sun, and this sunlight is reflected back to the observer.

These clouds are very thin, and almost always they exhibit a lot of structure, looking almost like the surface of the sea with waves running across. Indeed, these structures are caused by so-called gravity waves, which are created in the lower atmosphere and which then travel upwards into the upper atmosphere. Gravity waves are actively studied, because they are a key player of the energy transfer across atmospheric layers.

The photo above was taken on 27th June 2008 at N 56°21.7', E 13°28.5', i.e. Fagerhult, Skåne, Southern Sweden.

The formation of NLC is related to that of PMSE, which we discussed last week.

Photo: Thomas Ulich.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Another Eclipse, Please!

Last week we reported about the spectacular partial eclipse of the midnight sun and also we published some photos. It was a great event, so can we have another eclipse, please?

No problem. Next week, on 15th June 2011, there will be a total eclipse of the moon. This lunar eclipse will be visible in a large part of the world, with the only exception of North America and the northern polar regions. In fact, it won't be visible in the area of the EISCAT radars at all.

However, this eclipse will be special in its own right: it will be exceptionally long in duration, lasting a full 100 minutes! According to Fred Espenak's "Five Millennium Catalog of Lunar Eclipses," the longest lunar eclipse between 2000 BC and 3000 AD was only marginally longer at 106.6 minutes, and it happened on 31st May 318. According to a recent article, it will be the second-longest eclipse in this century.

The total lunar eclipse will last from 19:23 UTC to 21:03 UTC. Please refer to this page for the times of penumbral and partial phases of the eclipse. Click on the map provided there to get a larger map shown where and when the eclipse is visible.

Credit: the image above is taken from the Wikipedia article Lunar Eclipse.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Ingrid Mann Appointed as EISCAT_3D Project Manager

Dr Ingrid Mann has been selected for the position of the EISCAT_3D Project Manager. She will start in this function on 1st August, 2011 at the EISCAT Headquarters in Kiruna, Sweden, where she will move after her current employment at the Belgium Institute of Space Aeronomy.

Ingrid Mann started her physics education first in experimental atomic physics, but completed her Ph.D. in Space Physics in 1990. Thereafter she has carried out extended research on interstellar, cometary and interplanetary dust, concentrating on meteors in the Earth's atmosphere, entry of dust into the solar corona and dust-gas interactions in the vicinity of comets while participating the Rosetta mission. She has previous employments and visiting professorships in a number of countries and long experience in forming research groups, fund raising and chairing international research teams. She has over 100 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals and books.

We welcome Dr Ingrid Mann to the EISCAT_3D team!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

HiWIND Balloon Campaign Under Way in Kiruna

Today in our Science Tuesday series were are very up-to-date: a balloon launch and associated EISCAT incoherent scatter radar experiments are to be conducted in a few days' time.

In the first application round of the EISCAT Peer-Review Programme experiments, 30 hours of  observation time on the UHF radar in Tromsø was given to the project "Daytime Ionosphere Thermosphere Interaction Study with EISCAT and HiWIND Balloon observations", by Qian Wu and collaborators from High Altitude Observatory, NCAR, Boulder, USA.

HiWIND experiment is a balloon-borne Fabry-Perot interferometer which will measure the thermospheric winds by monitoring the neutral wind induced Doppler shift in the airglow emission of atomic oxygen at 630 nm. This spectral line originates mostly from the thermosphere.

The HiWIND balloon payload has now been under assembly at Esrange Rocket Range in Kiruna, Sweden and the launch is scheduled for coming Friday, 10th June 2011. The picture shows Qian Wu and the HiWIND payload under assembly in the new balloon facility building at Esrange on 26th May, 2011.

Photo: Esa Turunen.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Centre of Excellence in Inverse Problems

Congratulations to Lassi Päivärinta (University of Helsinki) and Markku Lehtinen (Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory/University of Oulu) and their team for the approval today of the Centre of Excellence in Inverse Problems Research, which has had a tremendously successful first term 2006-2011, and which will now continue until 2017. An important part of this Centre of Excellence is the modelling and mathematically accurate description of incoherent scatter and other radar experiments, which is essential for the development of EISCAT_3D.

Today, 6th June 2011, the Board of the Academy of Finland has selected new Centres of Excellence (CoE) in Research for 2012‒2017. A total of 15 units, involving research teams from eleven universities or research institutes, were selected to the new Centre of Excellence Programme. The new CoEs will be conducting research in a wide spectrum of research fields, ranging from the interaction between cells and intercellular substance, molecular systems immunology and physiology and Russia’s modernisation to the history of the structures of Finnish society.

The Academy has reserved a total of EUR 45 million for the first three years of the six-year programme term. Funding negotiations with the selected units will start in autumn 2011.

The CoE call attracted a total of 135 letters of intent, of which the Academy’s Board selected 36 to submit full applications. These applications were reviewed by international expert panels. The panels also interviewed unit representatives at meetings organised by the Academy.

In their review, the panels paid special attention to the scientific quality and innovativeness of the research plan. Centres of Excellence in Research are at the cutting edge of research in their respective fields. Half of the selected units are new CoEs and half involve research teams from previous CoE Programmes.

The Academy of Finland is the most important funding agency for research in Finland. See their press release on Centres of Excellence.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Eclipse of the Midnight Sun

In the night from 1st to 2nd June, a rare partial solar eclipse of the midnight sun occurred in Northern Europe. It was visible somewhat north of the Arctic Circle, and all across the Arctic region into Northern Canada and Alaska. The Polar Day has by now begun almost everywhere in the Arctic with the summer solstice fast approaching. At this time, the sun does not set at all, which makes it possible to see a solar eclipse at midnight.

Partially eclipsed sun to the north of Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory. The sun is just setting behind the trees. The photo was taken looking north along the river Kitinen, and the reflection of the sun in the water is just visible.

Sunset at the time of the eclipse. The waters of Kitinen were almost perfectly calm. 
Photos: Thomas Ulich.

On the KAIRA blog there are Juha Vierinen's photos of the eclipse.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Partial Solar Eclipse

Today, 1st June 2011, between 20:43 UTC and 22:23 UTC (depending on location) a partial solar eclipse will occur. The eclipse will be visible from the area where the EISCAT radars are located, i.e. Northern Fenno-Scandinavia and Svalbard, but also across the entire polar cap into northern Canada and Greenland.

The time window given above is for Tromsø, Norway. The eclipse will reach its maximum at 21:33 UTC with about 58% of the sun hidden behind the moon.

This solar eclipse, even though it won't be a total eclipse, is very special, because it will be observable in Northern Europe at around midnight! The region north of the Arctic Circle has by now entered the Polar Day, i.e. the sun does not set at all at most locations. Therefore a solar eclipse can well occur at "nighttime," where "night" is only defined by our concept of time-of-day.

For more information on the eclipse, please refer to NASA's Eclipse Web Site and a comprehensive piece on NASA's Science News "A Rare Eclipse of the Midnight Sun."

If you happen to live outside the Arctic, you might want to follow the event live via web cast.

Credit: the image above is taken from the Wikipedia article Solar Eclipse.

PS: If you are out watching and taking photos, you're welcome to send them to us for inclusion in the EISCAT_3D blog. Please mail thu [at] sgo [dot] fi. Thanks.