Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rays

Well this is an interesting find: The Stanford VLF Group, which is the “Very Low Frequency Magnetospheric and Ionospheric Research” organization. This is the intro blurb on the home page of their site:
We investigate the earth's electrical environment, its upper atmosphere, lightning discharges, radiation belts, and the ionized regions of the earth's upper atmosphere known as the ionosphere and magnetosphere. Much of our work involves the use of very low frequency (VLF) electromagnetic waves which are generated by lightning discharges, by man-made transmitters and by the energetic radiation belt electrons. We investigate the generation of these waves and the manner in which they propagate in and scattered from various regions of the upper atmosphere. We use VLF waves as diagnostic tools to investigate physical processes in the vicinity of the Earth's low and high altitude plasma environment. Under the direction of Professor Umran Inan, the VLF group carries out extensive observational programs at multiple sites across the continental United States, in Antarctica, in Canada, and on satellites. In addition, extensive theoretical modeling and interpretation work is carried out, on quantitative modeling of high-altitude optical emissions known as sprites, blue jets, and elves, on modeling the propagation and scattering of electromagnetic waves in the earth-ionosphere waveguide, and on other related electromagnetic wave and plasma physics problems.
Among the VLF’s research topics we have:

    Like the DARPA (Defense Advanced research Projects Agency)  site, it’s scary fun to explore, if “fun” is an appropriate adjective to use in this case.

    Related to this is what the NASA site has to report about "gamma ray flashes" in our atmosphere. Firefly Mission to Study Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes These terrestrial Gamma ray flashes -- TGFs -- are a mystery; why do they exist in our atmosphere, is there a connection with lightning (which causes which, if any) and so on. Gamma rays were thought to exist in deep space, but in the 1990s, scientists discovered these rays exist in our atmosphere as well. NASA plans on sending a "football sized" satellite called Firefly to study these mysterious rays in 2010 or 2011. 

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