An NJIT Researcher Throws a Global Ham Radio ‘Party’ to Study the Eclipse:

When a solar eclipse plunges the country into darkness Aug. 21, Nathaniel Frissell will be stationed directly along the shadow’s path, leading one of the largest ionospheric experiments in the history of space science from the back porch of a cabin in Gilbertsville, Kentucky. With a 102 ft. wire antenna, he will contact a network of ham radio operators he’s assembled around the world to test the strength and reach of their high frequency signals as one measure of the eclipse’s impact on Earth’s atmosphere. More than a week in advance, nearly 200 operators – from New Jersey, to Tennessee, to Wyoming in the U.S. and at far-flung locales such as Chile, Greece and India – are already signed on to be “citizen-scientists” that day by recording their contacts with one another. Their number grows daily. “Among other phenomena, we’re hoping to use our radio transmissions to identify how much of the ionosphere is impacted by the eclipse and how long the effects last,” explains Frissell, an assistant research professor of physics at NJIT’s Center for Solar Terrestrial Research and a sophisticated practitioner of ham radio who is intent on elevating the technology’s role in space science research. He will share data and analysis from the day at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in December. Frissell has been preparing for this rare event for more than two years. While a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech, he founded the Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI), an organization that connects professional researchers such as space physicists and astronomers with the amateur radio community. By merging their data, the different groups will be able to construct a comprehensive picture of atmospheric effects caused by space weather events ranging from the solar eclipse later this month to more common phenomena, such as solar flares. In 2014, he first demonstrated the use of ham radio data by showing the effects of an X-class solar flare on high frequency communications. On NJIT’s campus, members of Frissell’s team of undergraduate ham radio operators, including Spencer Gunning, Joshua Vega and Joshua Katz, have been constructing a website and developing data analysis tools that will allow them to gather and interpret the observations generated during the eclipse. Hundreds of hams around the world are planning on participating in this event, and they will be generating a large and diverse set of measurements.

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