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Jicamarca Radio Observatory

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New Frontiers at the Jicamarca Radio Observatory: The Beginning of Solar Cycle 24  (Cornell University)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

Jicamarca Radio Observatory, funded by the National Science Foundation, is a large, incoherent scatter radar (ISR) facility for studying the Earth’s upper atmosphere. The observatory is the equatorial anchor of the Western Hemisphere chain of ISR observatories extending from Lima, Perú, to Søndre Strømfjord, Greenland. It is part of the Geophysical Institute of Peru (Instituto Geofísico del Perú, or IGP). The Observatory is the premier scientific facility in the world for studying the equatorial ionosphere. It has a 2-MW transmitter and a main antenna with 18,432 dipoles covering an area of nearly 85,000 square meters.

The study of the Earth's ionosphere in general and the equatorial ionosphere in particular leads to improved understanding of phenomena that adversely affect the systems on which our technological society increasingly depends. These effects include the disruption of satellite-based communication and navigation systems like GPS, interference with terrestrial high-frequency communication and over-the-horizon (OTH) radar systems, and the production of artifacts in synthetic aperture (SAR) and other kinds of radar imagery. Meteoroids of the size observed at Jicamarca could also pose a threat to space vehicles and habitats.

Education & Outreach

Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students benefit from research at the observatory through direct participation in advanced research projects as well as through additions to the engineering curriculum. Societal impact comes largely through education and career development in the strategic area of radar remote sensing and also through technological and mathematical contributions to other disciplines in aeronomy, space physics, radio science, and astronomy.

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  • Image from an NSF-funded radar facility.
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