Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Incoherent Scatter Radar School: Experiment Night

One of the highlights of the Radar School is the experiment night, which took place yesterday. The participants were divided into groups of 5 to 6 people and had to design a radar experiment to be run using EISCAT.

After the morning lectures providing students with some background on the incoherent scatter theory, pulse coding and experiment configuration, each group was asked to come up with a scientific focus related to the ionosphere (study of a particular region, feature, or process). Based on their topic of interest, they had then to discuss what kind of trade-off they could reach in order to obtain the best possible data. Which altitude and latitude do they want to observe? Is there a preferred magnetic local time for the features they are interested in? What time and range resolution do they need? Is there an optimal pointing direction or scanning pattern in their case?

Once the group agreed on the answers to those questions, they could write a proposal of experiment for either the EISCAT mainland VHF radar or the EISCAT Svalbard Radar (ESR), and request a 2-hour time slot between 17:30 and 01:30 local time. The proposal needed to mention which experiment code should be run, and the desired pointing direction. All those details were submitted to the lecturers, who evaluated them and notified acceptance within 10 minutes, to start with the first experiment less than 30 minutes later (as someone pointed out, this is a once-in-a-lifetime situation!).

Monitoring the polar cap convection with ESR.
Photo: E. Turunen

The experiments were run from the lecture hall of the Polaria building in SGO, by the students themselves, under the supervision of lecturers with experience as EISCAT users. The experiment time slots were intertwined with "radar walks" around Tähtelä, during which the main on-site instruments were briefly presented (and local mosquitoes were properly fed).

During one of the "radar walks" at SGO.
Photo: C. Heinselman

For the rest of the week, participants will retrieve and analyse their data. More on that in the coming days!

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