Multi-Instrument Study to Investigate the Formation and Growth of Equatorial Irregularities

In this project, we will analyze data to be obtained from a distinctive suite of optical instruments located throughout South America in order to advance our understanding of the generation and development of Equatorial Spread-F (ESF), a plasma instability known for disrupting radio communications and GPS signals near Earth’s magnetic equator. These data include:

  1. the first ever 24-hour thermospheric and mesospheric winds and temperatures observed by the Second-generation Optimized Fabry-Perot Doppler Imager (SOFDI) to be located at Huancayo, Peru in the fall of 2007,
  2. nighttime thermospheric and mesospheric all-sky imagery from the Cornell All-Sky Imager co-located with SOFDI,
  3. nighttime thermospheric winds and temperatures observed by Fabry-Perot interferometry from Arequipa, Peru, and
  4. nighttime thermospheric narrow field-of-view sky imagery from an imager located near La Serena, Chile.

The data from these instruments, along with supporting data from the Jicamarca Radio Observatory and the results of gravity wave modeling efforts, will be analyzed in a synoptic manner. Distinctive quantitative information will be gained on the behavior of the key parameters responsible for the onset and strength of ESF. These results will be invaluable for ground-based validation of the measurements to be obtained by the Communication/Navigation Outage Forecasting System as implemented in part by the Air Force Research Laboratory. This proposed study is unique in that it involves collaborative data sets never before used to simultaneously study a common volume during ESF formation. The measurements of the thermospheric and mesospheric winds will be the first of their kind at low latitudes during the sunset period, which is believed to be the crucial period for ESF development. Such information will advance our understanding of the plasma physics along Earth’s magnetic equator by providing fundamental thermospheric base-state parameters. It will also further the state-of-the-art of ESF prediction providing much improved specifications of the space environment and its impact on space systems.