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Poker Flat receives grant award for new radar

A SKiYMET system in use at the Rothera Research Station in British Antarctic Territory. Photo courtesy of AxonMet.
Tiffany Thomas

The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute has been awarded $850,476 by the National Science Foundation to establish a new meteor radar system at Poker Flat Research Range.

The All-Sky Interferometric Meteor Radar (SKiYMET) is a meteor detection and wind measurement instrument that continually observes activity in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere regions of the atmosphere.

According to Denise Thorsen, the principal investigator for the grant project, SKiYMET will provide critical measurements to “help us understand the evolving health of the atmosphere and the whole earth system.”

Thorsen characterizes the atmosphere as “the blanket under which the world’s population lives” and where that blanket sits above the Arctic is “especially important since that is where the earth’s magnetic field funnels extraterrestrial energetic particles.”

With its transmitting and receiving antenna system, the new radar will help researchers predict how the atmosphere responds to terrestrial and extraterrestrial inputs. SKiYMET will be joining other Poker Flat instruments, including radar systems, lidars, and imagers, to provide researchers with a state-of-the-art picture of the Arctic polar atmosphere and geospace environment.

SKiYMET is just the latest addition to the instrument cluster at Poker Flat that maintains the rocket range as a primary facility for space weather research.

The award will promote new national and international collaboration among researchers and support the education and training of students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks as well as visiting institutions. The award is continuing, beginning on June 1, 2017 and ending on May 31, 2022.

Denise Thorsen, PhD
Principal Investigator
Geophysical Institute
(907) 474-7052

Rich Collins, PhD
Co-Principal Investigator
Geophysical Institute
(907) 474-7607