Scientific Studies From A Network Of Sustainable, Robotic Observatories Across The Antarctic Ice-Shelf: A New Approach To Polar Research

Project: Research project

Project Details


The near-Earth environment (Geospace) is mostly controlled by the Earth's magnetic field, which provides the Earth with protection from phenomena of electromagnetic nature, such as solar flares, coronal mass ejection, etc.; some of these events could be very dangerous and affect and even damage satellites, their instrumentation, and their communication with ground centers. However, the Earth's magnetic field has some specific regions where it is exposed to all these impacts from outer space. The polar caps are specific areas around the geomagnetic poles where geomagnetic field lines are open and directly interact with the interplanetary magnetic field (that is an extended magnetic field of the Sun). During strong geomagnetic disturbances, the polar caps increase their size - sometimes dramatically. Monitoring the Earth's polar regions, geomagnetic disturbances, currents that flow over these regions, polar cap boundary dynamics, etc., are important issues of space weather studies. Hundreds of magnetometers observe the Northern hemisphere polar cap and auroral zone on a regular basis. However, the Southern hemisphere has many fewer observatories. Having a large network of magnetometers for monitoring the geomagnetic environment is vital for understanding space weather-related events and their impact on environments, since the number of satellites in Geospace continues to grow very fast.

One of the major problems in developing an observational infrastructure in Antarctica is the enormous difficulty for people to reach the region and to stay there. This factor makes any scientific project extremely expensive. Therefore, the development of Automatic Geophysical Observatories (AGO) that can function autonomously with minimal human interaction and maintenance provides a unique opportunity that can solve the problem. The arrangement of instrumentation produces data with a high potential to provide key advances in the field and that are highly demanded by scientific community. The science questions to be addressed in this research effort are: (1) Is the synoptic fluxgate magnetometer determination of the open-closed magnetic field boundary (OCB) valid; (2) What are impacts of solar wind structures on the OCB morphology; (3) How synoptic structures of GPS scintillations are relevant to OCB dynamics, and (4) Could the Iridium's Short Burst Data system be used to transmit fluxgate magnetometer data at a 1-hour time lag. The research is a cost-effective investment that will advance the state of knowledge of the Geospace domain and provide scientific community with vital observations.
Effective start/end date9/15/158/31/20


  • National Science Foundation


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