Friday, 20 December 2013

Friday Feature: Early Aerial View of KAIRA

Before building the Kilpisjärvi Atmospheric Imaging Receiver Array (KAIRA), the polystyrene frames to house the High-Band Array (HBA) elements, had to be tested for the winter durability. This took place during the winter 2010/2011 at the final KAIRA site, and it is documented on the KAIRA blog beginning with the post "Preparation Work" of 18th October 2010. The entire sequence of blog posts related to the winter test is available under the tag "test tiles".

While experimenting with the Apple Maps application, which recently made it into the release of its latest Mavericks operating system, we found that the excellent aerial imagery of the Kilpisjärvi area clearly shows both test tiles. We do not know when the photo was taken, but the tiles were deployed between mid October 2010 and mid May 2011.

The first photo above shows the general area with the customs station in the south and the KAIRA site north-north-west of it.  The second image shows the KAIRA site with both HBA winter test tiles.

Photos: Apple Inc., Maps app, version 1.0, 2013-12-18.

With these winter images we say good-bye for 2013, and wish all of you a wonderful Christmas time and a very Happy New Year 2014!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Vacancies: Research on Solar Long-term Variability and Effects, Oulu, Finland

Positions for Post-doctoral researchers and PhD students are available at the University of Oulu, Finland, within the Centre of Excellence in "Research on Solar Long-term Variability and Effects" (ReSoLVE) of the Academy of Finland. The first funding period covers the years 2014–2016, with a possibility of extension to 2017–2019.

ReSoLVE studies the long-term (centennial) magnetic evolution of the Sun, which depicts a dramatic increase in the 20th century and a recent rapid decline, and the effects of this variability to the space around the Sun and to the near-Earth environment, focusing on the evolution of solar poloidal magnetic fields and their role in varying the level of electromagnetic disturbances and the flux of energetic particles in near-Earth space. Specific research topics of ReSoLVE include, e.g., the solar wind and heliospheric magnetic field and their interaction with the Earth causing electromagnetic disturbances, energising particles, and ionising the atmosphere. Note that the effects of electromagnetic disturbances and energetic particles in the atmosphere are known to cause natural climate forcing whose overall significance is still unknown. The vibrant atmosphere of challenging front-end research in an international team, as well as the wild beauty of the nature of the Northern Finland, including auroral displays, are guaranteed.

Post-doctoral researcher positions A few post-doctoral researcher positions will be filled in 2014 for the first funding period. Extension may be possible if ReSoLVE is continued. PhD in space physics or a closely related field is required. Research experience within the above themes is appreciated. Successful candidates are expected to focus on research, but need to devote a fraction of time to supervising PhD students, lecturing and/or other education. The salary for Post-doctoral researchers is based on the job demand level 5-6 of the salary system for teaching and research staff in use in Finnish universities.

PhD student positions A number of PhD student positions will be filled in 2014 for the first funding period. MSc degree in space physics or a related field is required by the start of the position. A good command of English is mandatory. Successful candidates will perform PhD studies and related research at the University of Oulu. A description of PhD student admission requirements can be found at The salary for PhD students is based on the job demand level 2-4.

Positions start to be considered and filled immediately.

Applications should be sent by e-mail to Prof. Kalevi Mursula (kalevi.mursula(at), chair of ReSoLVE. The entire application must be merged into a single pdf-file and attached to the e-mail including a subject field text "ReSoLVE Application". The application must include the following parts:

  • Curriculum vitae (max 4 pages). 
  • A brief description (max 2 pages) of research experience (Post-doc) and/or interest (PhD student) and its relation to the research topics of ReSoLVE. 
  • A list of publications, with up to five most relevant publications highlighted (Only Post-doc). 
  • Names and contact information (incl. email and telephone number) of three persons willing to provide professional recommendations upon request. 

Positions will be filled as long as suitable applicants are found. All positions include a 4-month trial period.

Text: Timo Asikainen, Dept of Physics, University of Oulu, Finland.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons (source).

Friday, 22 November 2013

SWARM Launched Successfully!

Here's an excerpt from the ESA website (full article):
ESA’s three-satellite Swarm constellation was lofted into a near-polar orbit by a Russian Rockot launcher this afternoon. For four years, it will monitor Earth’s magnetic field, from the depth of our planet’s core to the heights of its upper atmosphere.
The Swarm satellites will give us unprecedented insights into the complex workings of the magnetic shield that protects our biosphere from charged particles and cosmic radiation. They will perform precise measurements to evaluate its current weakening and understand how it contributes to global change.
The Rockot launcher lifted off from the Plesetsk spaceport in northern Russia at 12:02 GMT (13:02 CET) on 22 November.
Following the link, you can also watch a short video of the launch, or just click on the screen shot below.

Congratulations to the Swarm Team and everyone involved! Well done!

See also: BBC News "Esa's satellite Swarm launch to map Earth's magnetism".

Thursday, 21 November 2013

CINEMA 2 & 3 Launched!

This morning we received the following news:

Dear CINEMA members,
Here I'm sending you a short message that the launch has successfully done.
CINEMA 2 and 3 were deployed after ~900 seconds from the launch.
We will stay until the first contact and might send you cinema all E-mailonce we capture the beacon signal.
Everything is good so far and hope I can e-mail you soon.
Yongmyung Seo.

Congratulations to all CINEMA team members and everyone involved. Great news. More on this in due time.

Update 2013-11-21, 10:45 UTC:

Here's an article on with details about this remarkable launch, which broke a new record on the number of satellites launched at once: Russian Dnepr conducts record breaking 32 satellite haul.  Here are the most relevant quotes related to CINEMA:

Kosmotras launched a Dnepr rocket from Dombarovsky on Thursday, carrying the United Arab Emirates’ DubaiSat-2, thirty one other satellites – including Peru’s first satellite – and one attached payload. The mission set new records for the most payloads carried into orbit by a single rocket and the smallest satellite ever launched, following lift off at 13:10:16 local time (07:10 UTC).
KHUSAT-1 and 2, also designated CINEMA-2 and 3 respectively, are South Korea’s contribution to the international CubeSat for Ion, Neutral, Electron, Magnetic fields, or CINEMA, programme. Developed by Korea’s Kyung Hee University, the satellites carry magnetometers produced by Imperial College London, in the United Kingdom.
The CINEMA programme is led by the University of California, who provided the CINEMA-1 satellite that was launched on an Atlas V rocket last year. NASA’s Ames Research Center is also involved in the programme, and launch services for CINEMA-1 were procured through NASA’s ELaNa CubeSat launch programme.
Three-unit CubeSats with masses of four kilograms (8.8 lb), the two KHUSATs carry two instruments; the Magnetometer from Imperial College (MAGIC) is used to characterise the Earth’s magnetic field in the satellite’s vicinity, while the Suprathermal Electrons, Ions and Neutrals (STEIN) experiment will detect energetic particles around the spacecraft.

Esp. the STEIN experiment is relevant to EISCAT, and joint experiments are planned within EISCAT's Peer-Review Programme.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

EISCAT_3D on Finnish Infrastructure Roadmap

Yesterday evening, 18th November 2013, we got the news that the EISCAT_3D project was accepted to be part of the Finnish National Roadmap for Research Infrastructures.

While this decision does not imply funding, it is a crucial step towards future funding.

Furthermore, this is great news for all partners, because it shows that another country considers EISCAT_3D a worthwhile endeavour to be considered when building the research infrastructures of the future.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Space Weather Camp: Svalbard

The Space Weather Science Camp of a group of Finnish high-school students is coming to a close. The camp took place at a very special time in the Arctic, namely during the Arctic dusk, or the beginning of the polar night: Short days with stunning light and sunset in a spectacular landscape.

Photo: Esa Turunen.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Space Weather Camp: Site Seeing

Walking in the snow. Visibility during the 1 km walk from KHO to ESR was not really perfect, nor was the walk not too hot. A good start of an arctic action day at ESR.
The field trip to Kjell Henriksen Observatory and EISCAT Svalbard Radar during the Longyearbyen Science Camp revealed how actual work in science is done. A vital part of research is getting your data, in this case using the highest quality ground-based instrumentation for Space Weather measurements. As reported previously, Professor Fred Sigernes welcomed the group at KHO with a comprehensive lecture about the the scientific quest for knowledge and understanding Nature's most beautiful light show, the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights. He also had a very special task after introducing all the fancy optical instruments of KHO. Longyearbyen as part of Svalbard archipelago belongs to the realm of a special protected animal: the polar bear. As KHO and ESR are located 10 km from Longyearbyen on gently rolling slopes of a mountain, it is important to follow the all safety regulations. These include a need of a an armed guard when moving in the field anywhere outside of the town centre. While the students arrived to KHO by bus transfer, the 1 km distance between KHO and ESR was left for a snowy walk,  in -15°C temperature and moderate northern mountain wind. Prof. Sigernes followed our group carrying his rifle, securing a safe walk down to the radar.

The student group photo in front of the fixed-pointing ESR 42m antenna.
Lunch at the coffee room of ESR site.
At ESR, after a Norwegian light lunch, consisting of a cheese baguette, bottled water and a fruit, we met the ESR Site Manager Halvard Boholm. He explained what the huge 42 and 32 meter antenna dishes are used for, and showed the technical and operational details of the incoherent scatter radar.

ESR control room.
ESR transmitter hall with the 1.5 megawatt transmitter.
The movable ESR 32 m antenna.
Visiting the control room and the transmitter hall of the 1.5 megawatt radar is an impressing experience, very similar to visiting the underground facilities at large particle accelerators. Returning back to UNIS Dr. Noora Partamies once more went through yesterdays radar data in lecture hall and prepared everyone for the evening exercise: Hunt for aurora using your own camera.

Dr Noora Partamies explaining variations of electron density profiles during the moderate aurora on Tuesday.
Unfortunately the skies did not clear up enough and the evening was mostly cloudy. We saw from instruments on web that faint aurora is visible south of Longyerbyen, but the main photograph of the evening session turned out to be a light painting, where students formed the letters of the word Longyearbyen in the air. They used the illumination from their mobile phone displays. After returning back to hotel, one of the students however persistently went out to check the skies. In the end he managed to get a photograph of a weak auroral arc in the horizon. The phenomenon was named the "Sakari Arc" accordingly.

Text and photos: Esa Turunen.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Space Weather Camp: Visit to Pyramiden at 79°North

M/S Langøysund waiting four the students at 08:30 in Longyearbyen, ready for the trip to Pyramiden.
The morning of the fourth day of the Space Weather Science Camp of a group of Finnish high-school students in Longyearbyen finally gave us the starry skies and clear weather. This, on Svalbard, means at least -15°C temperature and high chill factor with the ever blowing sea winds. The chill factor is particularly significant onboard a ship, such as the M/S Langøysund (photo above). This boat, with a staff of four, one of which is a very competent international guide speaking several languages, took us on a cultural visit to Pyramiden.

Pyramiden, an abandoned ghost town at nearly 79° North.

The main square of Pyramiden, view from the cultural house towards Nordenskiöldbreen.
Established in 1910 by Sweden and sold to the Soviet Union in 1927, Pyramiden is an abandoned settlement at nearly 79° North, once a lively coal mining town of 900 people, including families. While Longyearbyen still in 1970's only was a town of a few male mining workers, Pyramiden had a swimming and sports facility, cultural house with indoor basket ball court, theater and cinema, hospital, farm animals, school and children play grounds.

We got a comprehensive introduction to the history of Svalbard and Pyramiden during the trip. Note that the guide is carrying a rifle for safety. A polar bear was recently reported to be seen here. Luckily we did not see it.
Today Pyramiden is inhabited normally by only two persons, and even they move away for winter. There is a hotel, which offers services during some tourist seasons and tourist visits are organised by boats from Longyerbyen. When the original inhabitants left the town in 1998, they only had 48 hours to collect their personal belongings and the whole town was emptied at once. The houses and rooms were left as they were. Today you can take a museum time trip to a complete small town of the Soviet Union time here. Some houses are even renovated, so that Pyramiden is slowly changing its face from a ghost town to a cultural heritage attraction in the far, far north.

Discussing space physics on the front deck of M/S Langøysund.
The boat trip itself was an extraordinary arctic experience. Lunch was served as barbecue on the front deck, despite of the wind and freezing temperature. Vegetarians got their own iceberg salad plates, hot omelettes, salmon and naturally a taste of grilled whale meat was available, too. As sun painted the morning sky with golden colors in the east, pastel shades were seen allover the rest of the sky, above the sharp and layered mountain peaks, which are characteristic to Svalbard.

Nordenskiöldbreen, a glacier named after the famous Finnish-Swedish arctic explorer, who once was here, too.
The ship brought us near to the glacier Nordenskiöldbreen for the lunch break. As extra surprise for 2 minutes we could admire the fins of a few whales as they swam away from the boat. At Pyramiden we saw typical arctic animals at a very near distance. Two ptarmigans were eating seeds by one street and an arctic fox was searching for food near to the hotel building. They seemed to belong to the current inhabitants of the town letting us to photograph them at 10 m distance.

Text and photos: Esa Turunen.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Space Weather Camp: Visits to KHO and UNIS

Professor Fred Sigernes opened the Wednesday morning at Kjell Henriksen Observatory, having a very complete lecture about aurora research.
The Finnish high-school students of the Space Weather Science Camp, who completed their EISCAT Svalbard Radar experiment on Tuesday, got the chance to visit other science facilities in Longyearbyen. The photo above shows them at the Kjell Henriksen Observatory (KHO), which is an auroral or optical observatory providing domes for optical equipment to observe the skies.

UNIS director Ole-Arve Misund showed us the slightly different student logistics department at UNIS, full gear for ever field trip on Svalbard.
Also the Logistics Unit of UNIS was a point of interest. It may be unusual for a university to have a logistics unit, but it certainly is unusual to have this kind of logistics unit, which is entirely geared towards the arctic environment of short summers, long winters, snow, ice, glaciers, polar bears, etc.

Photos: Esa Turunen.

Space Weather Camp: EISCAT Radar Experiment

EISCAT real-time data on the big screen of the auditorium.
On Tuesday, 22nd October, the Finnish high-school students taking part in the Space Weather Science Camp on Svalbard had the big night of their EISCAT Svalbard Radar experiment. First, the students produced their own space weather forecast for the radar experiment time at 14-16 UTC. And yes! There was to be aurora, everyone concluded. Only moderate activity, but aurora was expected to be visible in the radar beam, somewhat south of Longyearbyen. Thus it was decided to tilt the antenna southward. Some hectic calculations were done, and a suitable antenna elevation was selected by the "PI team", i.e. all the students in the auditorium.

Monitoring the EISCAT Experiment in the UNIS auditorium "Lassegrotta".
The radar experiment itself was run at the EISCAT Svalbard Radar site by the "engineering team", aurora expert Noora and the co-ordinating teacher Risto, while the students were seeing radar data being accumulated on the big screen in the auditorium. As the aurora signatures appeared on the radar plots, all possible space weather data was followed carefully. As a bonus the students could also follow the Tromsø radar and the active heating experiment conducted there at the same time.

Skype connection between the ESR site and UNIS auditorium was in a small iPod. Noora Partamies was updating us on what we see on the data screens.
A continuous Skype connection between the engineering and PI teams was connected to the loudspeakers of the auditorium and made all the discussion on data very lively. The skies were cloudy, so we did not get any visual observation of aurora.

Continuous discussion on data was going on in the auditorium - and no-one slept even in the back row ;-)
Text and photos: Esa Turunen.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Space Weather Camp: Intro to Science and Student Life

Kjartan Olafsson from University of Bergen showing how the auroral corona looks like over Bergen.
The Space Weather Science Camp of Finnish high-school students in Longyearbyen had a day of full action yesterday in the beautiful auditorium "Lassegrotta" of the University Center in Svalbard (UNIS). After hearing lectures about the the EISCAT radars and ionospheric measurement techniques as well as about the coming ESR experiment by the Finnish scientists Esa Turunen and Noora Partamies, who supervise the group, the students were introduced to space physics in Norway by Kjartan Olafsson from University of Bergen.

Here Finnish UNIS students make a sauna sledging party in the traditional annual Longyearbyen downhill event.
Later on, UNIS director Ole-Arve Misund introduced the Finnish students to student life at 78° north.

Text and photos: Esa Turunen.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Space Weather Camp: Student Lectures

Space Weather Camp students on their way to UNIS, fresh snow in Longyearbyen.
The Space Weather Science Camp 2013 continues on Svalbard. On Monday, the Finnish high-school students sat down in the lecture hall at UNIS, University Centre in Svalbard, for their first day during the Space Weather Science Camp 2013 in Longyearbyen. For 3 hours they listened to each other, instead of the teachers. The student groups had prepared as home work four thematic essays for learning the background and the processes leading to Space Weather events.

How do bees orientate using the magnetic field of the Earth?
Today these were presented to the audience, the fellow students. Of course the teachers were there, too, kind of acting as judges as if being in the Idols competition, giving their comments and remarks on the works and presentations. All groups were applauded twice for their extensive preparation. The rare cases where preparation was inadequate, were handled by stylish slides and summaries, or creativeness by the newly established stand-up comics entertainment on physics (quadruple applause).

In their meeting afterwards, the teachers concluded that all groups had done serious work, and would have basic knowledge to handle the real action on Tuesday. Then the program of the Science Camp includes forecasting space weather for the evening and the incoherent scatter experiment using the EISCAT Svalbard Radar. Will the students get aurora in their radar beam? We will see tonight.

Text and photos: Esa Turunen.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Expecting Aurora: Finnish High-School Students Heading to Svalbard

Space Weather Science Camp for High-School students is a new activity in Finland. On Monday, 21st October 2013, seventeen physics students from High-Schools in Oulu, Hämeenlinna, Järvenpää, and Helsinki will arrive in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, for a 5-day Science Camp. The Space Weather theme is not new to these students: they have already constructed their own magnetometers with the help of experts at Finnish Meteorological Institute and Aalto University. They also visited the Metsähovi Radio Telescope and the Finnish Geodetic Institute before the trip to Svalbard. As the highlight of the Svalbard Science Camp, the students will run their own incoherent scatter radar experiment with the EISCAT Svalbard Radar on Tuesday, 22nd October. They will be supervised by 2 scientists travelling with the group, the aurora specialist Dr Noora Partamies from Finnish Meteorological Institute and Director Esa Turunen from Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory. Naturally, experts at UNIS in Longyearbyen will give introductions about arctic research, including a visit to the Kjell Henriksen Observatory.

The active teachers Risto Matveinen, Jarmo Sirviö, Pasi Ketolainen, and Ursula Ahvenisto used to bring their students to CERN for science education. Their activity with CERN is still ongoing and now enhanced by visits to the Nordic Optical Telescope and from 2012 to the EISCAT Scientific Association. The Space Weather Science Camp 2012 included a visit to Andøya Rocket Range in Norway and in Sweden to the EISCAT Headquarters as well as the Esrange Rocket Range. A successful remotely controlled EISCAT experiment was run from the auditorium at IRF in Kiruna, supervised by EISCAT HQ scientists Drs Ingemar Häggström and Anders Tjulin.

This year the students will have a high chance of seeing aurora, depending on weather of course. A solar wind stream is expected to hit Earth on 21st October. We wish the students all the success in their measurements and an unforgettable experience in the high north.

Text and image: Esa Turunen.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

EISCAT Peer-Review Programme: Radar Time Available for Anyone

The EISCAT Scientific Association invites applications for observing time on the EISCAT facilities in 2014, by individual scientists, research groups, and consortia throughout the world on equal, competitive basis. This means that anyone can apply, independent of whether or not the applicant is from an EISCAT associate country.

While evaluations are merit based, in the case of two applications having similar merits in evaluation, preference will be given either to those applicants who are new to the EISCAT facilities, in order to enlarge the EISCAT user community and further more open access to the facilities, or to the applicant showing stronger educational impact in their proposal.

The present call is the first one for 2014. In total, 200 hours of experiment time are open for international, peer-reviewed competition, and are available for the use of any of the current EISCAT facilities. Roughly half of this time will be allocated in the first call.

Please refer to the details of the call at for more information.

The deadline for proposals is 1st November 2013 at 24:00 UTC.

Text: Ingemar Häggströn, EISCAT HQ; photo: Thomas Ulich.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Autumn Colours and EISCAT Site from above

On 16th September 2013, at the peak of the autumn colours in Sodankylä, retired EISCAT staff member Tarmo Laakso took a plane of the Sodankylä Aviation Club and flew several times over Sodankylä in order to capture the splendour of the autumn colours from above. The aerial footage covers the interval from 15:40 to 16:11 local time and was taken at an altitude of 340 m above ground using a wide-angle (170°) GoPro camera. The first photo shows the river Kitinen on the left, and above the roundabout one can see the local Police station. The road leaving the photo to the left on this north-to-south pass would bring you to Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory (SGO).

The second photo is taken from the part of the flight (northward) covering the Tähtelä research site, and the EISCAT receiver antenna is clearly visible. To the right of the antenna is the building of the EISCAT Sodankylä site, and north of the antenna is the former so-called "Ionospheric Station" of SGO. Further north you can see the L-shaped, joint main building of SGO and the Arctic Research Centre of the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

You can watch the 1080p HD video of the flight on-line. The EISCAT antenna comes into the field of view at 02'50".

Thanks to Tarmo Laakso and Sodankylä Aviation Club for producing and sharing this footage!

Click on the photos for a somewhat larger version, but do watch the film in HD!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Bistatic VHF Success!

The following was reported today on the KAIRA blog of the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory by Juha Vierinen. We congratulate Juha, Ilkka, Niklas and Derek McKay-Bukowski to this fantastic achievement. Well done!

KAIRA Plasma Parameter Fit (KAIRA blog, 2013-09-16)

Ilkka Virtanen and Niklas Siipola have been analysing some of the KAIRA data that was recorded during the previous Finnish EISCAT campaign. The following plots show bi-static incoherent scatter plasma parameter profile plots obtained using KAIRA. The results are in good agreement with the Tromsø measurements, and also show for the first time that a simultaneous bi-static plasma parameter profile can be obtained using a phased array incoherent scatter radar receiver. This is still work in progress, but this is yet another step in the direction of KAIRA performing routine incoherent scatter plasma parameter measurements.

The PI of the experiment was Anita Aikio and the purpose of the experiment was 1) to obtain the first tri-static EISCAT VHF measurements, and 2) to leverage the multi beam capability of KAIRA to obtain a profile of wind velocity vectors (due to the lack of a third station, only two components of the velocity vector can be obtained).
Plasma parameters obtained using KAIRA.

Plasma parameters obtained using EISCAT VHF.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Visit the Sodankylä EISCAT Site!

Tomorrow, Saturday, 14th September 2013, the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory invites everyone to visit its Tähtelä site in Sodankylä in order to see its facilities. This Open Doors' Day is part of the events leading up to next week's celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the observatory, which was established in September 1913. More information about all celebrations is available here.

The Sodankylä EISCAT site is a well-known landmark in the region, which can be seen from many elevations in the vicinity, like the Luosto ski centre. Naturally the EISCAT site will be part of the day's activities and there's the chance to visit the site tomorrow.

Additionally, there will be several themed lectures during the day. One of them, at 11.30 a.m. will be dedicated to EISCAT and EISCAT_3D. All lectures will be held in the main lecture hall of the Polaria main building, Tähteläntie 62.


Photo: Brian McClave, Site-Eye Ltd., UK.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Workshop: Qingdao Special Issue to be Published in December

Today we received good news about the Special Issue of the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics (JASTP) about the EISCAT International Workshop held in Qingdao, PR China, from 5th to 9th September 2011. The Special Issue will appear in December 2013, i.e. in the present calendar year still. A few manuscripts will not make it in time, and they will be published in regular issues of JASTP in 2014, if accepted.

Following a voting among participants of the recent EISCAT International Symposium at Lancaster, U.K., from 12th to 16th August 2013, the EISCAT Science Oversight Committee (SOC) has approved the motion that there will not be another Special Issue for the Symposium. However, persons publishing work presented at the Symposium are encouraged to refer to the paper having been presented at the Symposium in the paper's acknowledgements.

Photo of Qingdao beach sunset by Thomas Ulich; text via Mike Kosch.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

ISR School: Student Presentations

The most recent ISR School was held at MIT Haystack Observatory 29th July to 2nd August 2013, thus almost a month ago, but there's still something we didn't relay to our followers yet: the Student Presentations.

The format of the incoherent scatter radar schools on both sides of the Atlantic has converged pretty much to a schedule, where lectures are held in the morning, and group work is done in the afternoons, and possibly evenings and nights. On the first two days, students are introduced to the basics of ionospheric physics, the basics of incoherent scatter, and to the capabilities of the radars. Thereafter the groups have to write a brief experiment proposal and send it to one of the instructors, who will give feedback. In the evening of Day 2, the proposed experiments are run. For this school, the AMISR system at Poker Flat, Alaska (aka PFISR) was used. The rest of the week's group work is then dedicated to studying the data from these experiments.

The grand finale of the school is the day of the student presentations. Every group presents their results, and it's the rule that every member of every group has to present a part of the common work. Invariably the teams present very interesting results, which is owed to their enthusiasm and fresh point of view. Often the teams also inject some humour into their presentations: the photo shows a comparison of Hard Target vs Soft Target, which is an essential concept in the radar world. All in all the presentation day is a lot of fun for everyone involved.

During the past school, we put a camera into the audience, and created the short time-lapse movie above. Photos were taking at 5-second intervals, played back at 25 fps. Enjoy.

If you are interested in taking part in the Incoherent Scatter Radar School organised by our US colleagues, or indeed in the EISCAT Radar School: The next school will be the jointly organised US/EISCAT Radar School at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, 21st - 26th July 2014.

Photos/movie: Thomas Ulich; click on the photo for a link to the movie.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Symposium: Conference Give-Aways

The 2013 EISCAT International Symposium was just held at Lancaster University, UK. When scientists gather (and most likely this will hold true for other professions), their conferences are usually made up of certain recurring building blocks. These often include an excursion or some sort of sight-seeing, a conference dinner, and a conference gift. We reported already on the excursions to Ingleton Waterfalls and to the Lake District (courtesy KAIRA blog), and we wrote about the conference dinner. So let's have a look at the gifts.

In the past, when for every conference a sometimes large programme and abstract book was printed, it was customary to issue a dedicated conference bag. With the advent of laptop computers, and thus everyone carrying a large bag anyway, these conference bags were all too often simply discarded. Nowadays programme and abstracts are published on-line, and maybe one gets a memory stick. Thus there's room for new ideas on conference give-aways.

The photos above show what the organisers came up with for the EISCAT Symposium: a semi-automagic umbrella with EISCAT logo, and rock sweets with "EISCAT 2013" written on them and delivered in a tin with a photograph of the EISCAT site at Ramfjordmoen, near Tromsø, Norway. The umbrella opens upon pressing the button, and one has to use the button to close it, too. Just the pushing together is done by hand whereby the mechanism is recharged. The sweets are sweet and taste of mint.

Thanks again to all organisers for a great meeting in Lancaster!

Photos: Thomas Ulich.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

First Northern Lights of the Season

On Thursday, 22nd August 2013, the all-sky camera of the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory was deployed after spending the bright arctic summer in storage at the observatory. It wasn't yet focussed accurately, and it hasn't been calibrated yet (which needs to be done every year), but it was lucky enough to capture stunning Northern Lights during the short first night of operation.

Images from the camera are available on-line in real time.

Watch the short time-lapse film we made from the first night of operation. This colour film was made by overlaying the black and white images taken through the filter wheel at 557.7nm (green), 630.0nm (red), and 427.9nm (blue). The camera captures green images every 20 seconds, and blue and red images every minute. Playing the images back at 6 frames per second results in a time-lapse film where one second of film equals 2 minutes in real time.

Photos: All-Sky Camera, Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory; colour and film: Thomas Ulich.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Noctilucent Clouds and Northern Lights

A couple of days ago, we were made aware of a fantastic movie taken in the area of Caithness, northern Scotland, by amateur astronomer Maciej Winiayczyk. He spoke to the BBC about his experience. Watch this amazing film here.

By the way, if you are in the UK, the AuroraWatch UK service will be of use for you to hunt for the aurora in your area. This service is provided by our colleagues at Lancaster University, which also hosted the recent EISCAT International Symposium.

Thanks to Asti for the link to the BBC article!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Symposium: Participants

The 2013 EISCAT International Symposium in Lancaster, UK, ended on Friday, 16th August 2013. Before everyone disappeared, there was time for the obligatory group photo. There were just over 50 participants, 47 of which you can see here (someone always manages to hide). You can find the photo also on the Symposium's web page, but here it is for you to see. Please click on it for a higher resolution version.

By the way, you might wonder when and where the next Symposium will be held. This has not been decided yet, except that there will, of course, be a Symposium in 2015, but location and time will be decided at a later date.

Photo: Steve Marple, Lancaster University.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Symposium: Excursion to Lake District

As detailed previously, the during the EISCAT Symposium in Lancaster, UK, the participants went had the choice between two excursions, one to the Ingleton Waterfalls, and the other to the Lake District. KAIRA Blogger Derek McKay-Bukowski wrote about the Lake District excursion on the KAIRA blog, and because it is much better to relay the news first-hand, we will not cover the matter here. Please refer to the following two items for some more photos:


Photo: Derek McKay-Bukowski.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Symposium: Banquet

On Thursday evening, the participants of the EISCAT International Symposium were treated to a banquet at Lancaster Town Hall at Dalton Square (previously). The town hall was opened in 1909, and features the impressive Ashton Hall, which is a public function and ball room. Three flutists entertained us during the evening.

The main feature of the room is its organ. At the beginning of the evening, the "Lancaster Suite for Organ" was played for us on the instrument. The piece was commissioned by the Ashton Hall Organ Restoration Project.

After the dinner there were a few speeches, during which two participants received awards. One award went out to the person who required the "vuvuzela treatment" twice for talking overtime, and the other award went out to the person who received a phone call from the author whose work he was presenting – at the time of the talk. The photo above shows EISCAT Director Craig Heinselman thanking the organisers for a fantastic EISCAT Symposium.

Photos: Thomas Ulich. Click photos to enlarge.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Symposium: Excursion to Ingleton Waterfalls

On Wednesday afternoon, the participants of the EISCAT International Symposium had the chance to go on two different excursions into the surrounding countryside. One of the options was a hike to the Ingleton Waterfalls, which have been popular with tourists since Victorian times: the path opened in 1885.

The waterfalls are set in a stunning landscape of grassy hills partitioned by stone walls and gardened by sheep. The dry stone walls were expertly built using rocks found in the fields they enclose.

Also on the way back down, we walked along another stream with several waterfalls cascading their way towards Ingleton. Ingleton and the walk are located across the border in North Yorkshire, while Lancaster is in Lancashire.

Our walk took about 2 hours and a half, after which we were shuttled to the near-by town of Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancashire. If you have visited Scandinavia, like most EISCAT users, you might recognise the word "Kirkby" to come from the Norse term for church village. Since everyone needed a drink after the hike, and it also had begun to rain, we sought refuge in the local pub the Orange Tree.

On the way from the pub to the coach, we visited St Mary's Church, which dates back to the 12th century.

Finally we passed by what John Ruskin described as "one of the loveliest views in England," which was also painted by JMW Turner. Here we have to make due with a simple photograph taken on a rainy day, but you get the idea.

Photos: Thomas Ulich. Click photos to enlarge.