Research

The Remote Sensing and Space Sciences (RSSS) group conducts many different research activities in order to study the Earth's upper atmosphere. These range from instrument development to leading experimental campaigns to analyzing the results of such campaigns. Our research is funded through a variety of agencies including the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Naval Research Laboratory, Office of Naval Research, and the Office of Air Force Sponsored Research. Below are short descriptions of ongoing RSSS projects. If you are interested in becoming involved in any of these projects, we suggest contacting the Principle Investigator listed with each project.

CEDAR Collaborative Research: Development and Application of a Multi-site Observing Network to Study Mid-Latitude Thermospheric Dynamics
Prof. Makela

Funding from National Science Foundation

The North American Thermosphere-Ionosphere Observing Network (NATION) is a five-site Fabry-Perot interferometer (FPI) network in the central eastern United States. Using the wind and temperature data from this coordinated network, combined with comparisons to global physics-based models, we are studying the coupled geospace system, specifically the important role that thermospheric winds play in the dynamics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. Thermospheric winds advect compositional changes and temperature variations, as well as regulate the amount of Joule heating that occurs. In addition, they push ions up and down nonvertical geomagnetic field-lines, causing significant variability in the electron density of the ionosphere. We are investigating how energy is transferred from the polar region to the midlatitudes by traveling atmospheric disturbances (TADs). We are also studying the mid-latitude thermospheric response to geomagnetic storms. Both statistical studies and event analyses will be carried out to improve the community’s understanding of how mid-latitude winds and temperatures behave over different seasons and geomagnetic conditions. This project is a collaboration with Clemson University (Prof. John Meriwether), University of Michigan (Prof. Aaron Ridley), Eastern Kentucky University (Prof. Marco Ciocca), Psigah Astronomical Research Institute (Dr. Michael Castellez), and Virginia Tech (Prof. Gregory Earle).

Collaborative Research Cubesat: Lower Atmosphere/Ionosphere Coupling Experiment
Prof. Swenson

Funding from National Science Foundation

Collaborative Research: A Consortium of Resonance and Rayleigh Lidars
Prof. Swenson

Funding from National Science Foundation

Collaborative Research: Dynamics in the Mesophere and Lower Thermosphere over the Andes Lidar Observatory
Prof. Franke / Prof. Swenson

Funding from National Science Foundation

Collaborative Research: Jicamarca Radar Studies of Gravity Waves from D Region to Lower F Region
Prof. Kudeki

Funding from National Science Foundation

Collaborative Research: Lidar Investigation of Middle and Upper Atmosphere Temperature, Composition, Chemistry and Dynamics at McMurdo, Antarctica
Prof. Gardner

Funding from National Science Foundation

Collaborative Research: Observations and Analysis of Wave-Induced Constituent Transport in the Mesopause Region Above Cerro Pachon, Chile and Teable Mountain CO
Prof. Gardner / Prof. Swenson

Funding from National Science Foundation

Ionospheric CONnection Explorer (ICON)
Prof. Makela / Prof. Kamalabadi / Prof. Swenson

Funding from NASA

Led by University of California, Berkeley (Dr. Thomas Immel), ICON is NASA's next Heliophysics Explorer satellite mission. ICON will explore the boundary between Earth and space – the ionosphere – to understand the physical connection between our world and the immediate space environment around us. This region, where ionized plasma and neutral gas collide and react exhibits dramatic variability that affects space-based technological systems like GPS. The ionosphere has long been known to respond to “space weather” drivers from the sun, but recent NASA missions have surprised us in showing this variability often occurs in concert with weather on our planet. ICON will compare the impacts of these two drivers as they exert change on the space environment that surrounds us. Illinois is responsible for deriving several of the data products central to the scientific success of the mission.

Observation and Modeling of Tsunami-Generated Gravity Waves in the Earth's Atmosphere
Prof. Makela

Funding from Office of Naval Research

In this project, we are investigating the upward coupling of atmospheric gravity waves generated by ocean tsunamis. In collaborations with colleagues at Northwest Research Associates (Dr. Sharon Vadas) and ASTRA, LLC (Dr. Geoff Crowley), we will deploy an expanded ground-based observation network using strategically placed optical imaging systems together with a TIDDBIT HF Doppler ionospheric sounder to obtain new information about the ionospheric waves associated with tsunamis. In addition, we will leverage and augment a published and validated gravity wave ray trace model to perform studies of the propagation of tsunami-generated gravity waves through the atmosphere and into the thermosphere/ionosphere system. We will exercise this model using conditions representative of historical tsunami events and use the resultant model simulations to develop and test different observing scenarios and detection algorithms. The successful completion of this project will lay the groundwork for an expanded tsunami monitoring/warning system, possibly including a satellite observing system that could provide warnings of tsunamis in real time. The proposed work will also enhance our understanding of upward coupling caused by all gravity wave sources in the lower atmosphere (not just tsunamis) and how this coupling can generate ionospheric irregularities that affect navigation, communications and surveillance systems used by the Navy and other branches of DoD.

Slitless Solar Spectroscopy: A Parametric Inversion Approach
Prof. Kamalabadi

Funding from NASA

Vertical Winds: Possible Forcing and Influence on the Upper Atmosphere
Prof. Makela

Funding from NASA

Accurate description of the vertical winds in the thermosphere is significant to understand how the upper atmosphere responds to the geomagnetic storms. However the dynamic influence of the vertical wind on the thermosphere has not been investigated in any detail, yet it remains fundamental to correctly interpreting and specifying the ionosphere and thermosphere. The overall goal of this project is to improve the description of the dynamics in the upper atmosphere associated with the vertical wind and advance our understanding of the coupling between ionosphere and thermosphere. We will investigate the vertical wind due to different forcings at both high and low latitudes and its influence on the ionosphere and thermosphere. This project is led by Prof. Yue Deng at the University of Texas at Arlington.