The EISCAT 3D radar system to revolutionize atmospheric research

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The EISCAT 3D radar system to revolutionize atmospheric research

Northern lights are one of the star attractions of Finland’s tourism, but they are also a very interesting phenomenon from the scientific perspective. Their study is expected to bring new insight to questions such as developing new, sustainable sources of energy.

EISCAT (European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association) was founded in 1975. Its present members are China, Finland, Germany, Japan. Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The radars of the original system are located in Kiruna, Sodankylä, Tromsø and Svalbard. The new EISCAT 3D radar system will provide three-dimensional images of northern lights. The 3D radars are being built in Karesuvanto (Finland), Kiruna (Sweden) and Skibotn (Norway). 

The project is coordinated by the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory of the University of Oulu. CSC is actively involved in the project.

– CSC and other Nordic NRENs as well as NORDunet have planned and prepared new network connections for the EISCAT 3D project. The planning phase has concluded, and we are presently negotiating agreements with EISCAT, so that we can start implementing the connections. The goal is to finalize the agreements as soon as possible and to start building the Finnish part of the network in Karesuvanto next year, says development manager Matti Laipio from CSC.

– EISCAT 3D has been involved with the EUDAT and EUDAT 2020 projects as well as the current EOSC HUB project that will go on until early 2021. These projects have tested e.g. publishing datasets via the EUDAT B2Share service. The WP8 of EOSC HUB has developed EISCAT’s data sharing and analysis service, says senior application specialist Ari Lukkarinen from CSC.

– In addition, the NeiC E3DDS project that ended last spring planned data reception, transmission systems and basic computational products. Funet and NORDunet have contributed to planning the data link connections and transmission.

Atmospheric research produces information about solar radiation energy that causes phenomena such as the northern lights, the chemical processes in the atmosphere and interaction between its layers as well as the human impact on space. The EISCAT radars emit powerful radio waves of which gas particles in the ionosphere reflect back a fraction. Based on this, a three-dimensional image of the gases’ movements can be created and information about their temperature, density, chemical composition and the intensity of electric fields be collected.

Unlike traditional mechanical antennae, EISCAT 3D is steered electronically, which allows it to simultaneously monitor a hundred directions and to make more than a thousand measurements per second. Vast amounts of data are created, which makes fast network connections a necessity. Energy consumption is also high.

In addition to CSC and the University of Oulu, Finland is represented in the project by the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The new system is expected to be in use by 2023.

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