Sunday, January 20, 2008

More on the HAARP project

This appeared on QRP-L today, as some background on the HAARP project. Thanks once again to Paul Harden NA5N for explaining things!

That HAARP - LWA moon bounce thing

For those of you participating in the HAARP moon bounce experiment, or plan to tonight ... thanks. You are participating in "History in the making."

There has been no significant scientific investigations into our ionosphere since the 1960s ... not since most commercial communications moved to the higher frequencies. Sure, we know the effects the sun has on our ionosphere and propagation, but it does not explain all of the phenomenon. For example, last week many of you reported great DX in spite of no sunspots. Why? We simply don't know, because so little in known about our ionosphere.
Radio astronomy was an accidental discovery in the 1930s by Carl Jansky, a telephone engineer trying to determine the source of noise on HF circuits. This was done at 22 MHz. Since then, radio telescopes operate at L-band (1-2 GHz for the hydrogen spectral line) to 40 GHz, and the millimeter radio telescopes above that. There has been very little investigations at frequencies below 1 GHz.

The Long Wavelength Array (LWA) is being designed and built by the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and the Naval Research Lab (NRL) for frequencies from about 5-88 MHz. The prototype array has been built at the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in New Mexico (where I work), giving them some assistance.

The LWA will be built primarily for low frequency radio astronomy, such as plasma physics of our sun and galactic center. However, the 2nd major science goal of LWA is to model our ionosphere, something that simply has not been done from a physics point of view. One of the projects of LWA will be to (hopefully) make 3D real time maps of our ionosphere, where the D, E and F layers are, their heights, and as a hopeful predictor of HF propagation.

This will be done by HAARP regularly bouncing signals off the moon, which will illuminate the ionosphere. This weekends test, plus some unadvertised tests in the past few months, is the first stages in testing the early stages of the LWA prototype array at the VLA, and the science in general.

So far, results have been very encouraging.

The point is ... this is the first time in our lifetimes that a major scientific instrument is being built to study our ionosphere. When the LWA is completed and science begins, there will no doubt be significant changes to our understanding of the ionosphere. There will probably even be a website somewhere where we, as hams, can see real time images of where the D, E, and F layers are, critical frequencies, etc. Though a few years away, this could well change how hams can predict HF propagation and use the bands.

Our involvement (the ham radio community) into this is very important!!!

There are only a few instruments able to "listen" to the HAARP signals bouncing back from the moon. This weekend's experiment is also to see what kind of response they get from the ham community. If sufficient with some good quality reports, we as hams may become very involved in this new science in the years to come. I can tell you first hand, the people involved in this project are very aware of the large pool of hams out there, which could be put to use at this program develops.

So if you monitor the HAARP/LWA tests yesterday or tonight, please report them. Even if unsuccessful. What is important here, in addition to the reports, is for HAARP/LWA to hear from us hams. We need to let them know we are out here and eager to help. After all, we will likely be the largest body of users in a few years of their product. Who else is using HF on an hourly and daily basis besides hams, the military, and a few others.

I will try to get permission to get the plots of this test as recorded by the LWA at the VLA and post them on my work website. They really are neat, as some of you have heard yourself.
More on this later

72, Paul NA5N

PS - The timing on your reports is important. HAARP is manipulating thier beam, bouncing off different areas of the moon, such that different parts of the sky above our heads are being illuminated. So if you don't hear the signals, keep listening, and they will eventually be illuminating the space above your head.

--- end of post ---

73 de Larry W2LJ

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I, in Georgia, and my dad, in Mississippi, both participated in this event and submitted our records. We were also doing real-time chat and submitted those chat logs as well. The logs contained our "chatter" about what we were hearing between our two QTH's and may give additional insight to the HAARP team.