The Space and Atmospheric Sciences program at the Arecibo Observatory uses the world's most sensitive incoherent scatter radar to study the Earth's ionosphere from negative ions and meteoric dust in the D-region (60-80 km altitude), molecular and metallic ions in the E-region (90-150 km), and light ions and electrons in the F-region and above. We also use optical instruments such as airglow imagers, photometers, spectrometers, and Fabry-Perot interferometers to study the neutral composition and dynamics of these same regions. Lidars probe the mesosphere and thermosphere from 80-105 km for metal atom chemistry, dynamics, and temperatures. These measurements teach us about plasma physics, Space Weather, meteor ablation, ion-neutral chemistry, waves, turbulence and other phenomena at the edge of space.
Recent REU projects include studies and analysis of basic ionospheric parameters, development of new analysis techniques using wavelet analysis, investigations of the effects of geomagnetic storms, the nature of neutral metal layers in the thermosphere, development and implementation of new airglow and lidar observational and calibration methods, and studies of the global effects of sudden warmings of the stratosphere over the winter pole. Students enjoy the camaraderie of REU students in radio and planetary astronomy, engineering and computing and participate in a group project in one of the three major research fields at Arecibo.
Engineering / Computer Science
In the past, REU students had the to opportunity design, implement and/or test instrumentation systems. These are just few examples: Up-Down-Converter for 12m Antenna - Implementation and Testing, 2012; Doppler Correction FPGA Module for Radar, 2012; 10GbE High Speed Data Capture, 2011; Web Interface for Compressors Monitoring System, 2011; High Dynamic Range 430MHz Low Noise Amplifier, 2011-2012.
Also, recently one of our computer science students designed a web-based monitoring tool to facilitate the visualization of the site’s generators in real time, as well as to provide historic records of the generator’s operations, mainly their diesel consumption. The tool allows the user to filter the data according to time range. The filtered data then generates a series of charts, the critical ones presenting the daily diesel consumption in a month per generator and the diesel consumption by every charging group or equipment according to time.
The tasks assigned to the student are generally part of actual projects at the Observatory, but sometimes are new ideas, or part of proposals with Universities.