UH Physics Participates in Polar Aeronomy and Radio Science Summer School

Two-Week Program to Study the Ionosphere Involves Experimental Design and Execution

More than 50 researchers are in Alaska this month for the resumption of a science summer school that culminates with experiments at the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) facility operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.

High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program Facility Near Gakona, Alaska
The High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program facility near Gakona, Alaska. The 33-acre ionospheric research instrument helps researchers study the ionosphere. UAF/GI photo by JR Ancheta.

Attending from University of Houston are physics major Jason Ruszkowski, professor of physics Edgar Bering, and associate professor of physics Andrew Renshaw.

The Polar Aeronomy and Radio Science Summer School (PARS) provides faculty, graduate, and advanced undergraduate students with exposure to the National Science Foundation (NSF) Subauroral Geophysical Observatory for Space Physics and Radio Science and the HAARP research site in Gakona, Alaska.

The program runs Aug. 1-14. Participants spend the first few days in classes and experiment design at the Geophysical Institute, have two full days of recreation in Valdez, and then spend several days at HAARP in Gakona running their experiments.

The PARS campaign has over 30 experiments dealing with such diverse topics as very low frequency radio wave generation, detection of irregularities in Earth's ionosphere, ocean remote sensing, atmospheric remote sensing, and space debris detection. Researchers from 15 institutions are participating.

PARS participants experience the complete scientific process, from background research to experiment design and execution, and finally, to results and analysis.

The summer school was last held more than 10 years ago.

“The return of PARS marks a milestone for HAARP and the geospace communities,” HAARP Director Jessica Matthews said. “With a strong foundation laid during previous PARS events from 2000 to 2012, PARS 2023 is committed to meeting the growing demand for skilled scientists and engineers with knowledge of the special effects that occur in the ionosphere at high latitudes.”

The 2021 NSF grant provides funding for observatory operations, for financial support for travel and time at the facility for scientists, and for education and community outreach. Research is initially expected to include the study of various types of aurora and other occurrences in the ionosphere, which stretches from about 50 miles to 400 miles above the Earth’s surface.

The UAF Geophysical Institute operates HAARP under an agreement with the Air Force. In August 2015, the Air Force transferred the research equipment to UAF under an Education Partnership Agreement.

- News courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute