Physics Department & Journal Club to answer: “Why are we still studying the aurora?”

November 11, 2011

 

Physics Department & Journal Club to answer:  “Why are we still studying the aurora?”

 

 

Who: Don Hampton, Optical Science Manager Poker Flat Research Range

 

 

Where: GI Auditorium, Elvey Building

 

 

When: Today, Friday, Nov. 11 at 3:45 p.m.

 

 

Abstract: “Why are we still studying the aurora?"

 

 

You may (or may not) be surprised how often and from whom I have heard this question (to be revealed at the talk). There are really two questions lurking in the title. The first is basically – why do we spend money studying the aurora, period? The second is basically – after more than 50 years of constant study, don’t we know all we need to know about the aurora? In tough economic times we should expect plenty of scrutiny as to why research funding should be spent on items that may not appear to directly apply to current public concerns. Thus, I will try to answer the questions by first describing why, other than being marvelous to look at, the aurora is important – namely that it is a plasma process, and why we should care about plasmas. I will also highlight a few of the many important  discoveries over the last 50-plus years, new results from the last few years, and what we might expect to uncover in the near future. My goal is to have (unlike last time) a ready answer for the next time someone asks, “Why are we still studying the aurora?”