Space@VT Seminar: "Multipoint Views of Inner Magnetospheric Processes at High and Low Altitude"
Speaker: Dr. Phil Erickson / MIT Haystack Observatory
Time: Wednesday, November 13, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Place: Room 1032 at Space@VT (1901 Innovation Drive)

Synopsis: In later 2012 the latest NASA mission to the Magnetosphere was launched as the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP). Since re-named as the Van Allen Probes, this twin-satellite experiment aims to answer fundamental questions regarding the precipitation of energetic particles from Earth’s radiation belts during geomagnetic storms. Many of the fundamental processes effectively mirror at lower altitudes in the ionosphere owing to the mapping effect of Earth’s geomagnetic field lines. Ground-based radar can observe the impacts in the ionosphere. Dr. Erickson will speak on recent work comparing measurements from the Van Allen Probes and other satellites with ground-based radar observations, including the powerful incoherent scatter radar located at Millstone Hill Observatory, just outside of Boston, Massachusetts.

ECE Departmental Seminar: "Geospace Research at MIT Haystack Observatory"
Speaker: Dr. Anthea Coster / MIT Haystack Observatory
Time: Wednesday, November 13, 2:00 – 3:00 PM
Place: Whittemore, Room 457

Synopsis: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology operates the Haystack Observatory, a complex of powerful radars and other instruments for studies of Earth’s space environment and upper atmosphere. Dr. Coster will give an overview of the site and of the research that it supports. She will describe particular research highlights related to stratospheric warming, geomagnetic variations, polar research, and a new project called Mahli.

VT Amateur Radio Association: "High Power Radio: Megawatt Class Radar for Geospace Science”
Speaker: Dr. Phil Erickson / MIT Haystack Observatory
Time: Wednesday, November 13, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Place: Squires, Room 219

Synopsis: The coupled near-Earth space system is a complex and dynamic region where both large and small scale physics governs our planet's reaction to space weather disturbances from our nearest star, the Sun. Much of this fascinating environment is invisible to optical techniques, but is revealed at radio frequencies in the centimeter wavelength range. Observing in radio usefully allows study of the terrestrial geospace system from the ground.

For more than 5 decades, it has been practical to scatter UHF radio waves off the free electron gas in the upper atmosphere, modified by the presence of charged ions, in a process known as Thomson or incoherent scatter. This most powerful of ground based techniques allows the natural plasma made each day by our sun's extreme ultraviolet radiation to be probed at appropriate space and time scales. However, the radar target provided by the ionospheric plasma is an extremely weak and variable one, requiring megawatt class transmitters, sensitive receivers, and large aperture antennas. Maintaining these subsystems and interfacing legacy transmitters to modern receiver hardware is a constant and unique challenge.

I will describe the general design and operation of radars capable of detecting incoherent scatter along with the use of these radars to derive the complete physical state of the thermal ionospheric plasma. Along the way, I will describe the basics of how plasma scatter occurs at tens of centimeter wavelengths. I'll also provide specific examples of radio and radar techniques used on a routine basis at the mid-latitude Millstone Hill ionospheric radar system, operated at MIT Haystack Observatory since 1960 as an upper atmospheric facility for the space science community. Some of these techniques will be familiar to the 70 cm radio amateur community. Finally, I will briefly describe some significant scientific results arising from these uniquely productive observations.

CEED Seminar: "Lise Meitner and the Discovery of Fission"
Speaker: Dr. Anthea Coster / MIT Haystack Observatory
Time: Thursday, November 14, 6:30 PM
Place: Lee Hall, 2nd Floor Lounge

Synopsis: Lise Meitner was one of the pioneers of nuclear physics and co-discoverer, with Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann, of nuclear fission. Albert Einstein once called her, “the most significant woman scientist of the 20th century. Yet, by the 1970’s, her name was nearly forgotten. With the publication of the book by Ruth Lewin Sime,, “ Lise Meitner, A life in physics,” to some extent her name has resurfaced. I became familiar with Lise Meitner and her story when in 1972, Dr. Sime started writing my father for details about Lise Meitner’s escape from Germany. This is because, in 1938, my grandfather, Dirk Coster, was the person who got her out of Germany. Her escape from Germany reads like a spy novel, except that it was all true.

This talk will be a combination of facts, excerpts from the film, “"Path to Nuclear Fission: The Story of Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn, (a film by Rosemarie Reed), and personal stories heard from my father, aunts, and uncles. Lise Meitner’s early years, her role in the discovery of nuclear fission, her escape from Germany, and the consequences that followed will be covered.

Anthea J. Coster is a principal research scientist at the MIT’s Haystack Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts. Her research interests include physics of the ionosphere, magnetosphere, and thermosphere; space weather and geomagnetic storm time effects; coupling between the lower and upper atmosphere; GPS positioning and measurement accuracy; radio wave propagation effects; and meteor detection and analysis. She is a co-principal investigator on the NSF supported Millstone Hill Geospace facility award and a principal investigator/co-principal investigator on numerous projects involving the use of GPS to probe the atmosphere, including investigations of the plasmaspheric boundary layer, stratospheric warming, and the ionosphere over the Antarctic. Dr. Coster and her co-workers developed the first real-time ionospheric monitoring system based on GPS in 1991. She has been involved with measuring atmospheric disturbances over short baselines (GPS networks smaller than 100 km) for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, and has coordinated meteor research using the ALTAIR dual-frequency radar for NASA. Dr. Coster is the current secretary of the Satellite Division of the Institute of Navigation and the former chair of USNC/URSI commission G. She is currently involved with educational outreach programs that involve scientists in Africa, and teaching in incoherent scatter radar summer schools. She received her Ph.D. in space physics and astronomy from Rice University, and her graduate research involved ionospheric modification experiments at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Dr. Coster previously served on the NRC’s U.S. National Committee for the International Union of Radio Science.

Dr. Philip J. Erickson is a Principal Research Scientist at MIT Haystack Observatory's Atmospheric Sciences Group with more than 25 years of research in basic and applied space weather, atmospheric physics, signal processing, and radio physics research. He is the lead principal investigator for the high power large aperture Millstone Hill ionospheric radar system, a National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored Geospace Facility which uses the powerful technique of Thomson or incoherent scatter to provide ionospheric and neutral atmospheric diagnostics across the entire eastern continental United States. Dr. Erickson also helps lead MIT Haystack's extensive education and public outreach effort with general public and K-12 programs as well as new media approaches. He is the author or co-author of more than 35 refereed scientific journal articles, serves on committees for the International Radio Science Union (URSI), and conducts NSF and NASA sponsored research. Dr. Erickson holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and a PhD in space plasma physics from Cornell University.