AGF-304 Radar Diagnostics of Space Plasma (15 ECTS)

Northern lights over Eiscat

January 11, 2021
May 21, 2021
Spring semester (January–May), annually.
15 ECTS with AGF-804
Letter grade (A through F)
Selected chapters from compendia and lecture notes; ca. 300 pages
8/16 students (AGF-304/804 in total)
Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue.
October 15, 2020


Lisa Baddeley
Lisa Baddeley
Associate professor, Space physics – radar applications

Course requirements:

Enrolment in a relevant master programme in geophysics. General knowledge of basic atmospheric physics and/or electrodynamics. Priority will be given to students with knowledge of ionospheric/space physics or enrolled in a study programme focused towards ionospheric and/or space physics.

Students are recommended to take AGF-304 in parallel with AGF-301 The Upper Polar Atmosphere.

Academic content:

The course will begin with a brief introduction to the ionosphere and a discussion of basic ionospheric HF sounding techniques and radar design. Students will be given an introduction to basic plasma physics discussing both the fluid and kinetic theory approaches before providing a detailed description of how these fundamental theories are applied to the incoherent scattering processes. Lectures will also focus on the mathematical techniques utilized in the signal analysis process (including the statistical assumptions and techniques used). Significant time will also be spent discussing the resulting autocorrelation function and power density spectrum and how this relates to the intrinsic properties of the plasma.

A technical description will be given of the EISCAT Svalbard Radar (ESR) including transmitter, receivers and antenna design. Students will be taught about different radar measurement techniques including simple and coded pulse methodology, pulse decoding processes and lag profile matrixes.

A series of interactive seminars and lectures will be used to familiarise students to the scientific interpretation of incoherent radar data and how to combine it with other datasets such as optical and satellite data. Students will be introduced to the ESR experimental modes and taught how to run the ESR. Working in small groups, they must design their own radar experiment (the data from which will form the basis of part of their project report) which they will be responsible for running during the fieldwork. In addition, they will be given hands-on experience of building a simple radar system and utilizing simple programmes to investigate the basics of signal processing.

Students will be taught how to use the MATLAB data analysis programme GUISDAP (Grand Unified Incoherent Scatter Design and Analysis Package), which is used to process the EISCAT radar measurements. Knowledge of a programming language (e.g. Matlab or Python) is advantageous but not essential for the course as students will be given some basic programming exercises to complete at the start of the course.

Learning outcomes:

Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • have detailed knowledge of radar techniques employed in the field of space plasma and ionospheric physics research, including radar design, incoherent scatter plasma theory, pulse coding techniques, and signal processing
  • understand the methodology by which ionospheric plasma parameters can be derived from an auto-correlation function
  • understand mathematical descriptions of plasma density fluctuations and statistical methods utilized in signal analysis.

Upon completing the course, the students will be able to:

  • operate an incoherent scatter radar as part of a group.
  • utilise the radar data analysis package (GUISDAP) in analysing multiple data sets
  • analyse data and recognise the different analysis techniques used.

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students will be able to:

  • describe orally the underlying physical principles surrounding incoherent scatter theory, pulse coding and signal analysis techniques.
  • identify signatures of different ionospheric processes in incoherent scatter radar data
  • discuss a scientific case study utilizing multiple data with their peers
  • produce a short written report detailing radar analysis techniques.

Learning activities:

The course extends over a full semester and is run in combination with AGF-804. Initially, students attend one week of compulsory Arctic survival and safety training (AS-101).

The main learning activities of the course are:

  • lectures detailing the fundamental physical and mathematical techniques utilized in incoherent scatter radar theory including pulse coding and signal processing
  • interactive seminars focusing on data interpretation
  • data analysis techniques utilizing MATLAB and the GUISDAP analysis programme
  • five days fieldwork at the EISCAT Svalbard Radar where students will be expected to operate the radar using the radar control software
  • produce a written report based upon analysis techniques.

Total lecture hours: 60 hours.
Total seminar and exercises hours: 16 hours.
Total computer lab hours: 16 hours.
Fieldwork at EISCAT Svalbard Radar: 5 days

Compulsory learning activities:

Fieldwork and written report. 
All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.


Percentage of final grade
Oral exam 100%


Application deadline: 15 October 2020


Northern lights over Eiscat

Northern lights (Aurora Borealis) over the EISCAT Svalbard Radar antennaes. Photo: Njål Gulbrandsen/UNIS.

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