2017-2018 Science Planning Summaries
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2017-2018 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Using gravity waves to probe the solar atmosphere

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Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Vladimir Papitashvili

ASC POC/Implementer:
Samina Ouda / Paul Sullivan / Leah Street

Principal Investigator

Dr. Stuart Jefferies

Georgia State University
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Atlanta, Georgia


Supporting Stations: South Pole Station
Research Locations: South Pole Solar Observatory (SPSO)


Researchers on this project will measure and characterize internal gravity waves omnipresent in the Sun’s atmosphere, identify their role in transporting energy and momentum, and use the properties of those waves to provide a mapping of the structure and dynamics of the Sun’s atmosphere. The data necessary to achieve these goals will come from two high-sensitivity and high-stability Doppler-magnetographs. The first is located at a remote site three to four kilometers from the South Pole; the second is the Helioseismic Magnetic Imager instrument located in outer space. The goal is to image the velocity fields with high spatial resolution at three heights in the solar atmosphere. The image data will allow the project to make the first detailed characterization of the properties of the internal gravity waves and to take a first step toward capitalizing on their potential as a diagnostic tool for probing the solar atmosphere.

Field Season Overview

Participants will reside on station and will work in the B2 Science Lab. There, they will clean and re-align the optics in their instruments, and install new vapor cells in their magneto-optical filters. Once the initial preparation of the instruments is completed, they will move their operations to a bay in the Cryogen Building where thery will mount their instruments on a tracking platform to test and validate them. While the instrument validation is taking place they will reactivate the South Pole Solar Observatory (SPSO) in the Dark Sector. Reactivation of SPSO requires burying the wooden “Smurf” observing building beneath the ice and building a small hill of ice/snow approximately two meters high about 30 meters away from the buried building (to minimize heat plumes from the building interfering with observations). When the site is ready, the tracking platform and instruments will be towed on a sled from station to SPSO and installed on top of the ice hill. Once the experiment is running, it will be monitored from the South Pole Station via the internet.

Deploying Team Members

  • Francesco Berrilli
  • Bernhard Fleck
  • Cindy Giebink
  • Stuart Jefferies (PI)
  • Allister Knox
  • Mija Lovric
  • Neil Murphy (Co-PI)