2002-2003 Science Planning Summary

Aeronomy & Astrophysics

Dr. Vladimir Papitashvili
Program Manager


NSF/OPP 98-18086
Station: South Pole Station
RPSC POC: Paul Sullivan
Research Site(s): Aurora Lab in Skylab Building

Antarctic Auroral Imaging
Dr. Steven Mende
University of California, Berkeley
Space Sciences Laboratory

Deploying Team Members: No Deployment
Research Objectives: Auroras occur when particles from the magnetosphere -- the magnetic field surrounding the earth -- precipitate into the atmosphere. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is uniquely situated to observe aurora using optical methods because the darkness of polar winter permits continuous monitoring. By observing the dynamics and the morphology of the aurora, scientists get a reliable glimpse into the dynamics of the magnetosphere.

This project will deploy an intensified optical, all-sky imager (operating in two parallel wavelength channels, 4,278 and 6,300 Angstroms) to record digital and video images of auroras. These wavelength bands enable discrimination between more- and less-energetic electron auroras and other precipitation. The South Pole Station observations of the polar cap and cleft regions entail measuring auroral-precipitation patterns and then interpreting the results in terms of the coordinated observations of magnetic radio-wave absorption images as well as high-frequency coherent-scatter radar measurements.

Researchers expect this work to provide insight into the sources and energization mechanisms of auroral particles in the magnetosphere, as well as other forms of energy inputs into the high-latitude atmosphere.

Field Season Overview:
No project team members will deploy to Antarctica this season. The support contractor's science technicians will maintain and operate the equipment.