SuperDARN officially opened

SuperDARN officially opened

Top image: The new SuperDARN radar facility at Breinosa outside Longyearbyen. Photo: Xiangcai Chen/UNIS.

Norway’s first SuperDARN radar was officially opened today. From now on data from the radar, which signals reach well over the North Pole, will be available to the rest of the world.

19 October 2016
Text: Eva Therese Jenssen

Today UNIS opened the first ever SuperDARN radar in Norway. The radar facility is co-located with the Kjell Henriksen Observatory and the EISCAT Svalbard radar on the mountain Breinosa just outside Longyearbyen.

SuperDARN stands for Super Dual Auroral Radar Network. The Svalbard radar is one of more than 30 low-power HF radars that look into Earth’s upper atmosphere beginning at mid-latitudes and extending into the Polar regions.

The radar structure consists of two rows of masts which are between 50 and 60 feet (15–18 meters) high. The facility was built last summer and the radar has been in operation since last autumn, but today the Svalbard SuperDARN was officially opened.

Overview of all SuperDARN radars in the world.

The figure shows the current fields-of-view of all the SuperDARN radars in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres (grey ‘triangles’.) The field of view of the new Norwegian radar is shown in red. The flags indicate the country of the research group responsible for that radar. (Image: Virginia Tech).

“Looks” across the North Pole
–The radar observes the motion of charged particles (plasma) in the ionosphere between 200 and 300 kilometers above us, providing us with information on the Earth’s space environment, explains UNIS professor Dag Lorentzen, who leads the SuperDARN project together with associate professor Lisa Baddeley.

Lisa Baddeley, Frank Nilsen and Dag Lorentzen at the SuperDARN radar.

Associate professor Lisa Baddeley, department leader Frank Nilsen and professor Dag Lorentzen at the SuperDARN site. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS.

The radar’s signals reach 3,000 kilometers from Longyearbyen, well over the North Pole.

The radar will investigate the speed and direction of the particles moving at an altitude of about 200–300 kilometers. The direction and speed of the flow is determined by the interaction of the Solar magnetic field with the Earth’s magnetic field.

Svalbard Superdarn radar image October 2016

The radar scans across the upper atmosphere (ionosphere) once every minute. It shows the velocity of the upper atmosphere at ~200km altitude. The velocity is colour coded to the scale at the top left hand corner (up to 1000 meters per second). Positive (blue / green) velocities = flow towards the radar. Negative (orange / red) velocities = flow away from the radar.

The information provides insight into space weather hazards including radiation exposure for high-altitude travelers and disruptions to communication networks, navigation systems (GPS), and electrical power grids.

–The radar is in continuous operation with real-time observations fed back to UNIS, which from today on will be fed into the central database at Virginia Tech for the international research community, says Baddeley. The real-time data will also available on the web soon.

The Svalbard SuperDARN project started five years ago, when ConocoPhillips provided UNIS funding through its Northern Areas Research Program. The Lundin oil company also gave financial support for the NOK 10 million radar facility, which was opened officially today.

A link to the SuperDARN information page can be found here.

UNIS physics research group.

Happy UNIS atmosphere physicists after the opening ceremony. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS.

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