Scott Bailey is deputy principal investigator of NASA’s AIM mission.
ECE’s Scott Bailey is serving as deputy principal investigator for NASA’s AIM mission, which launches in April. AIM is a two-year mission to study polar mesospheric clouds, which form an icy membrane 50 miles above the ground at the edge of space. The clouds, when viewed from the ground, are seen as very bright clouds reflecting the sun at twilight and are called noctilucent clouds.
The clouds have been seen for more than a century in spring and summer at high latitudes. The mission’s primary goal is to explain why the clouds form and discover what is causing them to appear more frequently and at lower latitudes.
The AIM satellite is 55 inches tall, 43 inches wide and weighs 430 pounds. The satellite carries three instruments: Cloud Imaging and Particle Size (CIPS); Solar Occultation For Ice Experiment (SOFIE), which measures the thermal and chemical environment inside the clouds; and the Cosmic Dust Experiment (CDE), which measures the input of cosmic dust into the atmosphere.
James M. Russell III of Hampton University, a Virginia Tech alumnus, serves as the project’s principal investigator.
At South Pole Station—testing a prototype of an instrument that will help map the electrical current systems that are driven by solar wind and the magnetosphere.
Bob Clauer wants to understand the global electrical current systems that are driven by the solar wind/magnetosphere interaction. He is currently involved in establishing an ionospheric HF radar at Virginia Tech to measure ionospheric plasma convection —measurements that can be used to deduce the electric field of the ionosphere.
He is also developing an autonomous magnetic field measurement platform for use in remote regions of the Antarctic. In December (the Antarctic summer), the system will be redeployed from the South Pole where it has been tested for the past year, onto the Antarctic Plateau. The system will be the start of a magnetometer chain along the 40-degree magnetic meridian that will be magnetically conjugate (reciprocal) to the Greenland west coast chain of magnetometers. Using data from both hemispheres, it will be possible to begin to map the global electrical current systems that are driven by the interaction of solar wind with the magnetosphere.
In 2006, an ECE/physics research team, including Steven Ellingson and Cameron Patterson, began operation of a low-cost, direct-sampling radio telescope in a rural mountainous region of North Carolina. Called the ETA (Eight-meter-wavelength Transient Array), the telescope was designed for unattended operation to monitor the skies for single, dispersed radio pulses associated with prompt emission from gamma ray bursts and exploding primordial black holes. The telescope analyzes signals from 24 dipole antennas using an arrangement of 28 FPGA boards and four PCs interconnected with custom I/O adapter boards. Thanks to additional funding from the physics department, a second, portable instrument is planned near the Tech campus to improve performance using “anticoincidence”—a technique in which simultaneous detections are required at both sites as a means to rule out local radio frequency interference.
ECE researchers are studying high altitude nitric oxide, which is a catalytic destroyer of ozone, in the first-ever effort to measure the chemical in the polar night. Scott Bailey is collaborating with Chris Hall of aerospace and ocean engineering on the $1.4-million NASA project, which will launch in 2010. The instrument will consist of a very large telescope and will view a bright UV star in occultation. Bailey and Hall are working with researchers from the University of Colorado on the project.