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Space Physics &
Quick Facts

8 minutes

is the time it takes for X-ray and extreme ultraviolet rays from the sun to reach Earth and cause blackouts of HF communications and radar

100 km

is the distance between the surface of the Earth and the aurora borealis

5 times

the power output of the world's largest electrical power station is deposited into each hemisphere of Earth during a large auroral storm

Space Physics and Aeronomy

The Space Physics and Aeronomy research group studies the Earth’s geospace environment and the magnetospheres of other planets. Major topics investigated by the group are associated with the response of the magnetosphere, ionosphere and upper atmosphere to solar disturbances that reach the Earth after propagating through interplanetary space. Most significantly we study the aurora borealis, a spectacular natural phenomenon that can be observed from Fairbanks on a regular basis.

Researchers in the group carry out their studies using theory and simulation, sounding rockets, analysis of satellite-based observations, and ground-based observations of magnetic fluctuations, low-frequency sound waves, light from auroral emissions and radio signals reflected from atmospheric irregularities. The group is affiliated with the UAF Physics and Electrical Engineering departments, Poker Flat Research Range, the Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar, SuperDARN and HAARP.

Research Areas

  • Auroral studies
  • Experimental space plasma physics
  • Ionospheric physics and aeronomy
  • Magnetospheric physics
  • Near space dynamics
  • Space weather