Study of Aurora Borealis with the SuperDARN radars

The Department of
Physics & Astronomy
Study of
Aurora Borealis
with the
SuperDARN radars
Abstract: The aurora borealis is a regular
phenomenon in the sky of the Canadian
Arctic. It is caused by energetic electrons
and protons precipitating into the upper
atmosphere from near-Earth space. The
aurora is only one process amongst a
myriad of others occurring when the
solar wind, with an embedded magnetic
field, interacts with the Earth’s magnetic
dipole. Although direct measurements in
space are needed to quantify the physics
of these processes, observations with
numerous ground-based instruments
have been, and will continue to be, an
important source of scientific knowledge
about the aurora and connections
between the Sun and Earth.
Over the last four decades, significant
contributions to aurora studies have
been made by coherent auroral radars
operating at HF and VHF frequencies,
which range from tens to hundreds of
megahertz. One of the most successful
radar experiments is the Super Dual
Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN),
currently involving scientists from
ten nations. The University of
Saskatchewan’s space science group has
been part of the SuperDARN effort since
its beginning in the early 1990s.
In my presentation, I will first tell a
story of how military radars used
for tracking airplanes evolved into
instruments useful for studying the
aurora borealis. I will then review our
current understanding of the processes
occurring in near-Earth space with an
emphasis on plasma circulation in the
ionosphere and beyond, an area where
SuperDARN contributions are most
important. Finally, I will show some
recent results illustrating the advantage
of the SuperDARN radars in monitoring
and quantifying space weather.
Science B 144
4:00 pm
Refreshments provided
Everyone is welcome!
Dr. Alexandre (Sasha) Koustov
Physics & Engineering Physics
University of Saskatchewan
Sasha Koustov graduated from the University
of St-Petersburg, Russia (1977) with a degree
in radio physics. Upon graduation, he was sent
to work at the Polar Geophysical Institute,
Murmansk, over the Arctic Circle, where he
studied the high-latitude ionosphere and
aurora borealis with VHF radars.
In late 1980s, as a young scientist, Dr. Koustov
visited and worked for six months in the UK,
where he met several radar people from
Canada and the US. In 1991, he was invited
to work on radar physics problems at the
University of Saskatchewan and was very lucky
to be able to stay and work in Saskatoon,
first as a soft money scientist and then as a
professor. Through the years, radars have
been the main instrument for Dr. Koustov’s
research, primarily the nvestigation of the
various processes in the ionosphere
signifying electrodynamic connections
between the Sun and the Earth.