Experiment Design to Assess Ionospheric Perturbations During the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

TitleExperiment Design to Assess Ionospheric Perturbations During the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsMoses, M, Earle, G, Frissell, N, Kaeppler, S
Conference NameFall AGU - Poster Presentation
Date Published12/2015
PublisherAmerican Geophysical Union
Conference LocationSan Francisco, CA

On August 21, 2017, there will be a total solar eclipse over the United States traveling from Oregon to South Carolina. Solar eclipses offer a way to study the dependence of the ionospheric density and morphology on incident solar radiation. There are significant differences between the conditions during a solar eclipse and the conditions normally experienced at sunset and sunrise, including the east-west motion of the eclipse terminator, the speed of the transition, and the continued visibility of the corona throughout the eclipse interval. Taken together, these factors imply that unique ionospheric responses may be witnessed during eclipses. These include changes in the ionospheric electric fields, changes in the Total Electron Content (TEC) along paths through the eclipsed region, and variations in the density and altitude of the F2 peak. Several studies over the past century investigated these effects; however, some of the results from these studies are contradictory. These contradictions and the studies’ limited spatial resolution leave many fundamental questions unanswered. The advent of several mid-latitude Global Positioning System (GPS) and radar networks in the past few decades, such as the Continuously Operating Reference Station (CORS) system and the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) radar system, have enabled ionospheric observations with hitherto unprecedented spatial resolution. Also, the establishment of several nationwide amateur radio reporting systems, such as the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) that monitors radio wave propagation on the high frequency (HF) bands, offers the potential for evaluating changes in ionospheric conditions with unprecedented spatial resolution. We propose to study the effects of the total solar eclipse on the ionosphere using a combination of GPS receivers, the SuperDARN radar system, HF band amateur radio, and plasma modeling. The overall objectives of this study are to characterize the changes in F-region plasma morphology during the eclipse over a larger spatial domain than any previous eclipse experiment. In addition, the amateur radio component of our study offers a unique opportunity to further engage the amateur radio community nationwide in a scientific study.