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HamSCI Members Showcase Amateur Radio-Related Research at AGU Fall Meeting

12/28/2016

Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI) scientists were among those taking part in the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco earlier this month. The December 11-17 gathering, which attracted some 24,000 geoscientists, offered an opportunity for HamSCI scientists to present Amateur Radio-based research, discuss possibilities for upcoming experiments, and network with members of the citizen science and space science communities. Two young university-affiliated radio amateurs — Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, a post-doctoral research associate at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), and Virginia Tech (VT) undergraduate researcher Magda Moses, KM4EGE — offered poster presentations at the AGU meeting. Frissell said he feels the radio amateurs made a good impression.

“As I go to these meetings and tell different people about the HamSCI work, I find people that either want to contribute or that I think would have something important to say,” Frissell told ARRL. “Once I identify these people, I invite them to our HamSCI Google e-mail group, where we can discuss possible experiments or ways to use ham radio for science. We now have almost 60 scientists and ham radio operators in the group.”

Frissell’s poster presentation, “HamSCI: The Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation,” discussed Amateur Radio and HamSCI’s objectives and demonstrated how the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) can serve as a scientific instrument. It also outlined plans for the Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP) next August. (An introductory Solar Eclipse QSO Party article is set to appear in the February 2017 issue of QST; final SEQP rules will be available by Hamvention in May.)

Moses called the Fall AGU Meeting “the most scientifically diverse conference” she’s ever attended, with many sessions and presentation encompassing a variety of disciplines. “This diversity was especially evident in the citizen science sessions and offered a unique opportunity for networking before the eclipse,” she told ARRL. “It was also interesting to see similarities to HamSCI in some aspects of other citizen science projects.”

Moses’s poster presentation, “Characterizing the Ionosphere Using a Commercial Off the Shelf Software Defined Radio System,” described propagation experiments between Blacksburg, Virginia, and Newark, New Jersey, aimed at better understanding the use of HF links for characterizing the ionosphere during the total solar eclipse later this year. Moses first presented ray-trace diagrams through an eclipsed ionosphere, and then used propagation test data to show that 80 meters was most useful for identifying diurnal variations along the southwest Virginia-to-New Jersey signal path.

During a general HamSCI meeting, members talked about rules for the upcoming SEQP, installation of additional RBN receivers, use of data from other networks such as WSPRNet, the design of better measurement techniques, and possibilities for future HamSCI experiments. Plans for Hamvention 2017 include a display table and the program for a 90-minute ARRL-sponsored forum.

During the Solar Eclipse Citizen Science Meeting of Opportunity at the AGU gathering, Frissell and Moses got to meet with NASA Heliophysics Science Division Associate Director Alex Young, as well as Rice University Professor and AGU Fellow Patricia Reiff, W5TAR. Reiff has been incorporating Amateur Radio into her university teaching for many years, with a masters-level course Physics of Ham Radio. HamSCI also spoke with Shing Fung and Chuck Higgins of the Radio JOVE Project, as well as with Elizabeth MacDonald and Burcu Kosar of the Aurorasaurus project.



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