High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Programme (HAARP)
A New Research Initiative
News from the US National Science Foundation
A five-year, $9.3 million US National Science Foundation grant will allow the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute to establish a new research observatory dedicated to exploring Earth’s upper atmosphere and Geospace environment. The Sub-auroral Geophysical Observatory for Space Physics and Radio Science will be housed at the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Programme site in Gakona, Alaska. The facility’s 33-acre Ionospheric Research Instrument will be the centrepiece of the new observatory. A second NSF-funded project will add a lidar at the site, which will allow the study of other regions of the upper atmosphere. A lidar sends pulses of laser light to determine the composition, temperature and structure of regions of the upper atmosphere from 90 to 150 km
The High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Programme (HAARP) facility near Gakona comprises a 40-acre grid of towers to research the ionosphere. No new construction is expected under the NSF funding to create the observatory, which will be a station at which researchers can monitor and receive data from instruments. The university hopes to add additional instruments over time at the $290 million Gakona research site. The five-year NSF grant will allow scientists to investigate how the sun affects Earth’s ionosphere and magnetosphere to produce changes in space weather. Their work will help fill gaps in knowledge about the region, which is important because ionospheric disturbances can disrupt communications systems and cause damage and outages to power grids.
The Gakona facility is a prime location for the study of the ionosphere and magnetosphere because of its location in relation to one of Earth’s magnetic field lines that reaches deep into the magnetosphere, the magnetic field that shields the planet from much of the sun’s plasma energy. For over 25 years, UAF, the Air Force, the Navy and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have collaborated on ionospheric research at the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Project site. As Air Force funding for research and development decreased, the scientific community worked to find a solution to preserve this one-of-a-kind national research resource.
(Source: Rod Boyce, April 2021)