Grant: Amateur Radio as a Tool for Studying Equatorial Plasma Bubbles

Date: April 2024
Amount: $30,954

This grant supports a post-doctoral position at the University of Scranton for Dr. Kornyanat “Kukkai” Hozumi. Dr. Hozumi is working on developing new techniques for using amateur radio data to study trans-equatorial propagation and plasma bubbles.

Plasma in the ionosphere affects the passing electromagnetic waves. When signals from a satellite pass through the ionosphere, they slow down, delaying the arrival of radio waves on Earth. The ionosphere has regular temporal fluctuations, including diurnal and seasonal changes, and an approximately 11-year cycle associated with solar activity. In the current solar cycle, a minimum period of solar activity was observed around December 2019, and it is expected to peak around 2025. We are currently approaching a year of high solar activity, and as a result, Equatorial Plasma Bubbles (EPBs) that occur in the ionosphere are expected to become more active.

EPB is a low-latitude ionospheric phenomenon, the plasma density of which is extremely low compared to its surroundings. There are also various irregularity scales inside the EPB. It occurs around the equator of the earth’s magnetic field, which is called the magnetic equator, grows toward mid-latitudes, and propagates eastward after sunset. When its growth rate is fast, and other conditions (e.g., magnetic storm) are met, EPB originated in low latitudes and could reach the mid-latitudes in a few hours. EPB is one of the major causes of ionospheric turbulence that degrades the passing-through satellite signals, causes a large positioning error, and causes lock loss due to scintillation. It leads to an inability to perform stable reception of radio waves. Studying EPB toward the goal of forecasting EPB occurrence is indispensable for making society safer and more secure.

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