2002-2003 Science Planning Summary

Aeronomy & Astrophysics

Dr. Vladimir Papitashvili
Program Manager


NSF/OPP 98-16129
Station: McMurdo and South Pole Stations
RPSC POC: Jesse Alcorta
Research Site(s): McMurdo Station, USCG Icebreaker, South Pole Station

Solar and heliospheric studies with antarctic cosmic ray observations
Dr. John Bieber
University of Delaware
Bartol Research Institute

Deploying Team Members: Roger Pyle . Leonard M Shulman
Research Objectives: Cosmic rays -- atomic nuclei and electrons from outer space traveling near the speed of light -- continuously bombard the earth. When they collide with nuclei of molecules in the upper atmosphere, they create a cascade of secondary particles that shower the earth. Neutron monitors deployed in Antarctica provide a vital three-dimensional perspective on this shower of particles.

These data are used to advance our understanding of a variety of fundamental plasma processes occurring on the sun and in interplanetary space. Neutron monitor records, which begin in 1960 at McMurdo and in 1964 at South Pole, play a crucial role in efforts to understand the nature and causes of cosmic-ray and solar-terrestrial variations occurring over the 11-year sunspot cycle, the 22-year Hale cycle, and even longer time scales. At the other extreme, new methods of studying high time resolution (10-second) cosmic ray data will be used to determine the three-dimensional structure of turbulence in space and to understand the mechanism by which energetic charged particles scatter in this turbulence.

This project continues the year-round observations of cosmic rays with energies upwards of one billion electron volts at McMurdo and South Pole stations.

Field Season Overview:
Two team members will visit the McMurdo CosRay Facilities for calibration, routine maintenance and training on the neutron monitors. They will perform routine maintenance of their instruments aboard the US Coast Guard Icebreaker when it arrives at McMurdo Station.

The same team members will visit the South Pole Skylab building in January for routine maintenance, calibration, installation of upgrades to the system, and finalizing the training of the winter science technician.

At both locations, the science technicians will maintain the neutron monitors throughout the austral-winter. The technicians will collect daily data, perform system checks, monitor and repair the system if necessary, and transmit data to the principal investigator.