Articles | Volume 26, issue 5
28 May 2008
 | 28 May 2008

Observations of artificial and natural optical emissions at the HAARP facility

T. Pedersen, R. Esposito, E. Kendall, D. Sentman, M. Kosch, E. Mishin, and R. Marshall

Abstract. Extensive optical observations have been carried out at the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) ionospheric heating facility since it began operations in 1999. A number of modern optical diagnostic instruments are hosted at remote sites as well as the main transmitter facility, which has recently been expanded from the initial 960 kW prototype configuration to its full 3.6 MW design capability. Upgrades to optical diagnostics have allowed a number of interesting new observations to be made at the 960 kW power level since 2004. Systematic beam-swinging experiments generating quantifiable levels of optical emission at various regions in the sky for the first time clearly show that emission intensity is very sensitive to distance from the magnetic zenith, and drops off rapidly at about 15° zenith angle in directions other than magnetic south. High temporal resolution measurements of emissions in the 557.7 nm green line at start-up and in short transmitter pulses demonstrate that localized irregularities are preferentially excited in the initial seconds of heating, with evolution into a more homogenous spot occurring over a period of about 1 min. High-quality emission altitude profiles at both 630.0 and 557.7 nm have recently been isolated from side-looking data, spanning an altitude extent of over 200 km, which has allowed determination of the effective lifetime of O (1D) over an unprecedented altitude range. An innovative automated remote imager network utilizing low-cost mirror optics has been designed and deployed to make such measurements routinely. Observations of natural optical emissions at the site have revealed the common presence of highly structured but faint co-rotating subauroral precipitation that acts to suppress excitation of artificial F region optical emissions in areas of active precipitation. The observed spatial modulation of artificial optical emissions by structured precipitation is consistent with localized absorption of HF waves in the ionospheric D layer enhanced by the energetic particle precipitation.