Night sky watchers along much of Alaska’s road system could catch a colorful speck of light high in the air over the weekend. Although it may look like the aurora, the red or green “airglow” in the ionosphere is a byproduct of a rare four-day set of experiments at the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program – or HAARP – at Jacona.
“Every day, airglow can be seen up to 300 miles from the HAARP facility,” said one researcher. statement From the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
By creating artificial aurora using equipment on Earth, researchers hope to learn more about natural aurorae.
The research campaign was scheduled to take place from Saturday to Tuesday.
HAARP consists of tools designed to study Ionospherea region located approximately 50 to 400 miles above Earth, separating the planet’s habitable surface from space.
High-frequency radio pulses will excite electrons in the ionosphere, artificially simulating the same phenomenon that causes the northern lights naturally from solar energy radiating from the sun.
The experiments are being conducted by UAF and several out-of-state research programs.
“Scientists will investigate the ionospheric mechanisms that cause optical emissions,” the statement read. “They will investigate how satellites use ionospheric plasma waves to detect and avoid collisions.”
One application of the research is developing a new way to track “space junk,” which is the remains of human-made objects such as old launch vehicles or parts of spacecraft trapped in Earth’s orbit, according to Paul Bernhardt, chief scientist at HAARP.
“Traditionally, space debris is monitored using satellite and ground-based sensors that use optics and ranging radars. However, these methods cannot detect many smaller debris. University scientists have proposed a new technique to determine the location of space debris by measuring fields,” Bernhardt said. electrical energy surrounding it during movement.
The HAARP site is located about 200 miles northeast of Anchorage and about 230 miles southeast of Fairbanks, two of the state’s major population centers.
A much smaller version of the experiment was conducted in 2017, in which researchers used ground-based equipment to stimulate an artificial aurora “the size of a thumbnail at arm’s length,” according to one university. Publishing on time.
“The angle of view anyone wants to look for will depend on the person’s distance from HAARP,” the Geophysical Institute said in a statement this week. “Because of the way the human eye works, it may be easier to see airglow when just looking to the side.”
“Clear skies provide the best viewing. If it were visible, it would look like a broad air cloud,” said Jessica Matthews, director of HAARP.
Although the experiments have a tentative schedule, Matthews cautioned that they are subject to ionospheric and geomagnetic conditions, and could be rescheduled or canceled if those conditions are not met.
The work is part of a $9.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to learn more about Earth’s upper atmosphere and space.
HAARP was originally developed by the US military, and has long been the subject of conspiracy theories. After transferring control of the facility to the University of Alaska in 2015, officials there began hosting an annual open house event in hopes of dispelling those perceptions.
“Web maven. Infuriatingly humble beer geek. Bacon fanatic. Typical creator. Music expert.”