Opportunity for a Targeted Campaign to Study Auroral Fine Structure, 15-R9790

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Principal Investigators
Robert G. Michell
Marilia Samara

Inclusive Dates:  02/11/08 – 06/12/08

Background - This project was undertaken primarily to assist in developing larger, external proposals that would allow the investigators to build a viable, externally funded research group. It involved the collection of data and the establishment of needed collaborations. The science objective of this project was two-fold: establish a relationship between a specific type of anomalous radar return and certain auroral fine structures and observe diffuse auroral structures conjugate to in situ satellite measurements.

Approach - The main focus of this effort was to collect enough data to produce competitive proposals for larger, more detailed scientific research projects and involved three aspects: data collection, data analysis and proposal preparation. The data collection consisted of operating multiple auroral imagers from Poker Flat, Alaska, and coordinating with both the radar and satellite operations. This also involved collaborating with researchers at the University of Alaska, who were allowing us to use their equipment and facilities. The analysis included identifying anomalous returns, termed Naturally Enhanced Ion Acoustic Lines (NEIALs) in the radar data, and extracting quantifiable information from the imager data at the respective times. It also involved analysis of the in situ and imager data to identify times of conjugate satellite overpasses.

Accomplishments - Preliminary analysis has yielded several very good examples of NEIALs taken at the maximum possible time-resolution of the radar. The combination of these measurements with high resolution auroral imaging has produced the first such measurements in the form of a unique and valuable data set. These data are still being analyzed to further investigate the connection between NEIALs and auroral fine structure. This project also resulted in two conjugate satellite overpasses (very valuable in auroral physics), which provided insight into the particle distributions causing the diffuse auroral structures visible in the ground-based imagers. What is unique about this research effort is that it has already produced results that have allowed the SwRI investigators to each adopt a unique scientific subject, within auroral physics research, that is highly relevant to current interests of the research community.

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