Friday, January 31, 2014

From the Ice: BARREL Status Update #38

As expected, the winds were high today so there were no launches. SANAE expects a possible launch opportunity tomorrow afternoon. Halley may have an opportunity Sunday.
Happy Chinese New Year!


Thursday, January 30, 2014

From the Ice: BARREL Status Update #37

It was a beautiful and successful day today! Payload 2P was launched by the Halley team at 1125 UT. Payload 2E was then launched by the SANAE team at 1600 UT. Both are looking good so far. Payload 2L has also come back to lower latitudes and is still kicking after 24 days. The winds are supposed to pick up at Halley tomorrow so we don't expect a launch from here until early next week.


From the Ice: What working in Antarctica is really like...

Day after day, the sky has been white here lately. When the rest of your surroundings are also white, it can be a bit dull and dreary. Today, the sun came out finally, and we made the most of it! The clouds rolled in by the time we took the picture but it was quite lovely. With no wind, -7C doesn't feel too bad!


On another note, both Halley and SANAE launched balloons today! This makes 16 launches, not bad. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

From the Ice: BARREL Status update # 36

Hi Folks,

 No launches again today. The surface winds were just a bit too high at both launch sites. The forecast for tomorrow looks very good so we expect to launch in the morning from Halley and possibly in the afternoon from SANAE. Payload 2D was terminated at 0340 UT today. It landed at 72.17S, 12.78W. The sun has become a bit more active with a bunch of M-class flares over the past day and a chance for a bigger flare. The active region we had at the start of the month has come back around to "our" side of the sun, so we hope to see things picking up for the end of our campaign.



Monday, January 27, 2014

From the Ice: BARREL Status Update #35

The SANAE team launched Payload 2D at 1552 UT today. We now have 5 payloads up. Today was a beautiful day at Halley also - the first sun we've seen in a while! Because we just launched yesterday, we decided to wait another day before launching again. This will also give the crew here time to groom our launch pad. We got quite a lot of snow over the last week so setting up for launch yesterday was a little challenging. The snow was nearly up to my knees in places and quite dense. Our "runners" did a great job launching the payload given the conditions.  We expect good conditions again Tuesday and Wednesday so expect to launch on one of those days. Meanwhile, we completed the Payload 2P Comprehensive Performance Test, and it is now flight-ready. We also got Payload 2Q out of storage an onto the bench for testing. 


From the Ice: BARREL Status Update #34

Hi all,
  This is a status report for Sunday. Our internet was down most of the day so I'm writing it Monday morning! We finally had some decent weather at Halley and launched Payload 2O at 1740 UT.  SANAE has a possible launch opportunity today. Geomagnetic activity has picked up a tad and we expect that to continue through today and tomorrow. 


Sunday, January 26, 2014

For the Mission Monitors

Yesterday we had a mid campaign Science Meeting for our mission monitors. They are the BARREL army of undergrads who tirelessly watch over our payloads once they are launched. The rest of us also try to help out but have out hands full either on the ice launching the balloons, up here coordinating with the different satellite and science teams, or trying to get other science done. The mission monitors watch the payload, checking in every 30 minutes and letting us know if anything looks amiss. We really couldn't do the campaign without their help.

We had a talk from David Smith and myself, but then they also got both Brett and Robyn to call in! It really was a telecom from around the world.

Some highlights from the meeting. I made a movie (yes another one... I'll stop playing with iMovie but it's just so much fun and cool and easy!).

Also, Here's a photo of what the Halley station looks like. I don't have a photo of the SANAE station, but perhaps Brett will be able to send me one to post. 

It really was a great time and I hope the mission monitors enjoyed it as much as we did! 

Thanks again to our BARREL army of Mission Monitors! 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

From an E-mail exchange between the BARREL team...

You may have noticed that we haven't launched a balloon in a while. This is because both stations have been experiencing high ground winds. If we were to try to launch, besides the teams getting frost bite, the balloons would likely tear and we wouldn't have a successful launch. Thus it's much better to wait it out and hope for calm days. That said I think both the SANAE and Halley teams are getting a bit of cabin fever...

Last Thursday after trying to launch from both stations we got this e-mail from Robyn

Hi all,SANAE winds are also just not cooperating and have been getting worse. So, both Halley and SANAE are standing down for today. SANAE has a possible opportunity tomorrow. Halley is unlikely to have an opportunity tomorrow. Start doing the low-wind dance for us!
The SANAE team responded with this...

FYI, for those who didn’t know, the low wind dance looks like this.  It mostly just involves jumping up and down a lot.  No music required, in fact, Antarctic Silence is the soundtrack of choice!  Of Montreal’s song "Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games” comes in a close 2nd.

From the Ice: BARREL Status Update #33

Hi all,
  We've still be experiencing 20 knot winds on the ground at Halley and not great conditions at SANAE either. The weather is predicted to improve at Halley through the evening and into tomorrow so we are hoping for a launch opportunity Sunday. We lost contact with Payload 2C this morning at 7:46:33 UTC.  The telemetry throughput for this payload has been lower on average than the others (~85%) so we suspect a modem issue may be responsible. The payload will terminate itself after 38 hours without contact but we will continue to attempt contact until that point. On a more positive note, this is the first hardware problem we've had this year and we have now satisfied our comprehensive success criteria in terms of the number of hours of observations. The attached plot shows a histogram of the total number of hours of observation at various L-values. To date, we have acquired 1380 hours of observations between L=3-7 (based on T89 field model with Kp=2).

Happy Burn's Night!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

From the Ice: BARREL Status Update #32

The surface winds didn't cooperate for a launch today at either Halley or SANAE. SANAE may have an opportunity tomorrow. It looks like the weather will start to improve at Halley over the weekend, and we can't wait! The sky has been white for days which isn't very nice when everything else around is white as well! It's a good time for bad weather, though, as solar and geomagnetic activity have been pretty low. There are now 10 numbered sunspots on the sun, so some possibility that the activity will be increasing soon.

From the Ice: BARREL Status Update #31

Payload 2X was terminated at 0800 UT. It landed on the plateau at 83.11S 67.96 E. Both Halley and SANAE have possible launch opportunities on Thursday.


Monday, January 20, 2014

From the Ice: BARREL Status Update #30

Hi all, 

Sunday (January 19) Payload 2Y was cut down at 1800 UTC after 8 days of flight. The last coordinates were  71.55S 135.11W.  Today, the SANAE team launched payload 2C at 1616 UT in perfect conditions.  We have 5 payloads up in the air and are expecting some possible geomagnetic activity on Jan. 22nd! The weather at Halley is forecast to be pretty bad for the next few days. We might get some real snow! I'll send another update on the weather tomorrow- hoping the forecast is wrong.


P.S. Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

From the Ice: The recovery of payload 2Z

Hi all, 

This morning (19 Jan) I went out and retrieved 2Z with a mountaineering expert, Roger.  The payload was 31km SW of SANAE base, and had been transmitting data as normal ever since it crash landed after it’s untimely return from 38km altitude.  We traveled to the payload via helicopter!  When we arrived at the payload, the chopper lightly touched down about 30meters from the payload.  We were concerned about crevasses, which due to the fresh snowfall in the past week, would have been nearly impossible to see.  I belayed Roger, seen in the photo, who recovered just the payload.  Portions of the balloon and parachute are visible to the right of the payload and buried in snow, but it was too dangerous to recover the parachute or balloon.  As the chopper took off again, Nick could see the GPS location of the payload rise, as he watched the ground station data back at base!  The mission went smoothly and we now have 2Z back in the lab.  The solar panels, even, show no signs of damage, even after a week of poor weather in Antarctica.  2Z is now ready to be tested, returned to the US for refurbishment, and eventually re-launched under another, hopefully more long-lived balloon.

Brett Anderson

Saturday, January 18, 2014

From the Ice: BARREL Status Update #29

Hi all,

Payload 2N was launched at 1248 UT. It reached float altitude but was apparently a leaker and had to be terminated at 0220 UT. The payload landed at  76S 32.68W. Thanks to the folks in CA for keeping an eye on it while we were sleeping! SANAE  had a scheduled power outage on station for some work on the generators  so thanks also to UCSC for taking over the payload monitoring early. Halley had an unscheduled power outage later in the day when one of the generators imploded. Luckily there are four generators on station, so we were not without power for long. No launch planned from Halley Sunday.  SANAE has a possible launch opportunity.


Friday, January 17, 2014

From the Ice: BARREL Status Update #28

Payload 2T was terminated this morning at 0726 UT after a 22 day flight and circumnavigating the globe. It landed at 77.96S, 56.56W.  SANAE also launched Payload 2B at 1924 UT.  The Halley forecast still looks like we might have a launch opportunity Saturday morning. Stay tuned!


Not BARREL but very cool

I was asked the other day why I got into physics and specifically space physics. I always knew I wanted to be a scientist, and physics seemed to open paths to pretty much anything I could ever want to study. However I fell into space physics. I didn't even know that something like that existed until I ended up on a tour at Augsburg for potential applicants. I wasn't even going to go to Augsburg except that I figure skated there and needed to go on a fourth tour so that I could get some fee waivers to apply to the college that "I was going to go to". I thought I had made up my mind that I would attend St. Olaf college.

On the tour I met Mark Engebretson who would eventually become my advisor. He was so excited to share his physics. I walked away more excited than ever to go to college and become a scientist, and that's saying something. It's been 10 years now since I was an undergrad. In my graduating class we had two women. For many years while I was there, there were only three of us in the whole department.

Times have changed though. Augsburg is currently sending 7 (my class had only 7 people in it) young women to a women in physics conference. They are all blogging about their experience and I can't wait to follow them. I know a few are interested in space physics and I hope that we'll be able to work together in the future!

There most definitely is a lack of women in physics. I have to say though that I am very proud of not just Augsburg, but also Dartmouth and BARREL. For the BARREL team at Dartmouth, we are currently mostly women. There's Leslie, Zan, Sappna, Mary, of course Robyn, and myself. That's not counting our undergraduates. Within the Dartmouth department of physics and Astronomy there are four women professors, three of whom are in space physics. This is amazing as many colleges have 1 or no women professors.

Things are changing slowly, and I have hope that they will get better. In the mean time... Go Auggies Go! Have fun at your conference and I can't wait to see what your future in physics holds!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

From the ice: BARREL Status update #27

Hi all, a quick status update today,

SANAE launched Payload 2A today at 1327 UT. It reached float altitude about 2 hours later and so far is looking good.  They may have another opportunity tomorrow. It's been too windy at Halley for a launch but we're expecting Saturday to be better.  


From the Ice: BARREL Status Report #26

Hi all, 

 Not too much new to report today. Geomagnetic activity has quieted down for now. The surface weather is expected to improve at both Halley and SANAE tomorrow. We are hoping to launch from both stations.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Another Preview of Friday Night

Friday night at Montshire Museum BARREL will be presenting at  Montshire unleashed.

This video was of a launch from last year's campaign. Of course a whole launch takes much much longer than a minute and a half, but you can get the idea from this quick little video of what all goes into it.


From the ice: BARREL Status Update #25

Hello all.  

Payload 2I was terminated at 21:28UT today after over 14 days of flight. It landed at latitude: 74.54S, longitude: 51.37E. Thanks to the UCSC MOC for keeping a close eye on the altitude! 

The SANAE team went out to recover payload 2Z today, but the contrast was too poor for the helicopter to land. They will try to go back tomorrow, weather permitting. 

Meanwhile, the SANAE team have Payloads 2A and 2B basically ready to fly. The Halley team has Payloads 2N, 2O, and 2U ready to fly. Both stations expect high surface winds on Wednesday so we do not anticipate a launch. Thursday looks more favorable for both of us.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Some of our collaborators

Any given scientist is not an island to paraphrase John Donne. As I am sure that you can tell through reading our posts we work constantly with other satellite teams, ground teams, and other scientists. Last year (and hopefully this year) we had some great collaborations with REPtile. This year we've got another cube sat FIREBIRD. They launched in December and have been grabbing some great data. They had a very exciting launch!

Movie shot from just outside NASA control center at Vandenberg AFB of our Atlas V roaring into orbit, carrying FIREBIRD and several other CubeSats along with its primary national security payload. The first minute of launch was absolutely blinding and deafening in person - never been allowed this close to a launch of such a large rocket - just beyond the "debris field" distance. Breathtaking!!! The pressure waves literally caused my shirt sleeves to flap, set off all the car alarms, and produced some truly eerie sound effects bouncing off anything that resonated within ear shot (including power lines, buildings, cars, etc.). Three hours later, FIREBIRD was successfully deployed, and an hour later went through its automatic power on sequence. Still getting early contacts with the "twins" and assessing on orbit performance over next few days. Thanks to the entire FIREBIRD team and agency support from NSF and NASA to make this happen. Go FIREBIRD! - Harlan Spence

FIREBIRD, unlike REPTile or the Van Allen Probes, cares what orientation the satellite is when we are having a conjunction with them. Thus, their KML files have two different icons. 

We've already been able to identify what we believe will be some exciting days to study with them. Now we just need to finish grabbing the data from the satellite and find some time to look at the results.   

We also have been working closely with the Van Allen Probes and specifically the EFW team. It has been a blast to work with the entire team, and we have to say see you later to one of them. John Bonnell, the EFW Soc manager, is taking a month leave or so to run a new rocket campaign. GREECE. We're sad to see him leave for a bit, but we know Peter, his replacement, will do an amazing job. Peter is the guy who has made sure that all the burst collection and download commands we want to send to the spacecraft make it all okay. He has put up with our indecision at times and has had amazing patience. You can keep up with John's rocket campaign at their blog.

We wish John great luck and we'll see him when he gets back. Hopefully we'll still have a few balloons up for him. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

From the ice: BARREL Status Update #24

Hi all, 

Good evening from Halley!  Payload 2K was terminated today near McMurdo at 09:30UTC. It landed on the sea ice at 76.49S, 171.49E. Payload 2M was cut down at 09:45UTC, also landing on the sea ice at 76.71S 51.56W. We still have 5 balloons in the air, though some of them are at high magnetic latitude. Payload 2T is still truckin' - it's been up for 16 days and has been back on closed field lines since yesterday. At this point, we've well exceeded our minimum success criteria (8 payloads up for 3 days each) and still have 3 weeks or so left to go!

The SANAE team was not able to go recover 2Z last night because bad weather moved in just as the helicopter was supposed to take off. Hopefully they will be able to get out there tomorrow. We have a possible launch opportunity Tuesday morning from Halley. We expect a launch between 1100-1200 UT.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

From the Ice: BARREL Status update #23

The SANAE team launched Payload 2Z at 1517UT today. Unfortunately, the balloon failed right after reaching float altitude. The ascent rate was normal up until that point, so we are a bit baffled. The good news is that the payload is about 30 km from SANAE, and there is a good chance the SANAE team will be able to recover it by helicopter tomorrow. The next launch opportunity at Halley is likely to be Wednesday. SANAE also expects bad surface conditions for the next couple of days.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

From the Ice: BARREL Status report #22

Hi all

It's been a busy and successful day for us in Antarctica!  The Halley team launched Payload 2M at 1112 UT. The SANAE team launched Payload 2Y at 1932 UT.  Payload 2W was successfully terminated at ~1227 UT. It landed about 240 miles southwest of Dumont D'Urville station, at 68.89S  133.8E. There are currently 7 payloads in the air. Payload 2T has is nearly back at Halley. By tomorrow, I expect it will have circumnavigated the pole!  We don't expect a launch from Halley tomorrow (Sunday) but SANAE is a possibility.


2Y launched from SANAE

It has been a busy day!

2Y has launched from SANAE and is at float altitude! This has been another 2 launch day and hopefully just in time for the HSS from the coronal hole to hit us starting tomorrow.

Congrats to both the Antarctic teams for a successful day!

2W terminated

Payload 2W has been terminated. It has had a great run. It was up at float altitude for ~11 days and saw some amazing events. It saw some solar flares, a SEP event, and other relativistic precipitation.

the SEP event as seen by 2W

Now 2W will hopefully act as a ground based magnetometer. It is very close to AGO P6 and right in line with the rest of the AGO chain of magnetometers.

2W will be fondly remembered and studied. 

Just for fun

We'll be presenting at the Montshire museum next Friday during the Montshire Unleashed event. Here's a little preview. The map shows all of our payloads from Dec 27, the start of the campaign, to Jan 10th.

Launch of 2M

Halley had another successful launch today! 2M is flying high and looking good! The SANAE team is also hoping to launch, well praying to be able to launch...

Friday, January 10, 2014

From the Ice: BARREL Status report #21


SANAE: Launch opportunity today didn't pan out but we're hoping for better surface conditions tomorrow. Payloads 2Z and 2A are taped up and ready to fly.

Halley: Payloads 2M and 2N are taped up and ready to fly. Possible launch opportunity tomorrow morning.

The big CME that was headed our way didn't amount to much but we still have a month to go in this campaign! 


**** addition from Alexa******* Although the big CME didn't pan out we did see some great stuff during the conjunctions with the Van Allen probes. Also some have proposed that the winds from the coronal hole pushed the CME so it was no longer directed Earthward... this could perhaps mean that the coronal hole moving into view Monday or so may have a nice storm in store for us! Here's hoping! 

Also, here's a video of the mission thus far. 

From the Ice: BARREL Status Update #20

Hi all,

Today we got Payload 2N bench-tested at Halley. The weather was pretty unpleasant - snowing and windy - but is expected to improve tomorrow. The SANAE team helped to install a new VLF antenna mast while they waited for the winds to die down. Unfortunately, the winds never came down enough to launch. We're hopeful that we'll have a launch opportunity at one or both stations tomorrow.

Despite the predictions, there wasn't any strong geomagnetic activity today. We did continue to see some precipitation at several balloons, however.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

From the ice: BARREL Status Update #19

Hello from Halley!

Sorry for the lack of status report last night, but he internet was terrible and I couldn't seem to get any emails through. There wasn't much new to report anyway! We weren't able to launch any balloons yesterday or today due to unfavorable surface conditions. Tomorrow looks like a possibility for SANAE and Friday for Halley. Meanwhile, we finished getting payload 2M flight-ready today. SANAE has several waiting on deck and ready to launch.

We still have 6 payloads in the air. Several of them have been seeing precipitation over the last few days and all of them observed the X1 solar flare yesterday as well as the energetic protons that arrived. We saw what looks like a very bright relativistic event last night that coincided with a large dropout in the GOES electron flux.  It's not yet clear if the precipitation was responsible for the dropout but this will be an interesting event to study. A CME is due to arrive tomorrow morning, so we are expecting activity to continue and likely increase.

All for now


Monday, January 6, 2014

From the ice: BARREL Status Update #18

Hi folks,

 Payload 2L was launched from Halley today at 1657 UT. We now have 6 balloons in air! Hopefully we'll see some action tomorrow with the expected arrival of a CME.  We don't expect to launch from Halley again tomorrow. The weather at SANAE is also predicted to be unfavorable. We'll send an email to the ground station folks in the morning if the weather looks like it's improving. In the meantime, we're working on getting our next payloads flight-ready.


Launch of Payload 2L

Great News, Hopefully just in time for the CME which is scheduled to arrive Jan 7th. Payload 2L was launched at 1657 UT on January 6th. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

From the ice: The Rescue of payload 2J

Today we launched the search and rescue operation for Payload 2J which had been sitting tantalisingly close to Halley since it was cut down 2 days ago. The Halley GA, Al Davies, who arrived back last night after a long spell of relief duty at the ship, gallantly agreed to take Mike McCarthy and myself off base to attempt the recovery. Travelling on 3 ski-doos roped together we drove off into the flat light of a snowy and overcast day, heading straight for the GPS location which the payload told us was about 5 miles South West of base.

Within half an hour of hour of setting out we spotted a small black speck in the white expanse which we recognised as the payload box as we drew closer. The magnetometer readings had indicated that the payload had come to rest upside down, this was quickly confirmed as we saw that the box was inverted with the magnetometer boom still firmly attached. The only apparent damage was to the Iridium antenna mounting which had been torn off its posts leaving the antenna dangling by its cable but still pointing at the sky in a gesture of defiance! The flight train and parachute were stretched out on the ground but there was no sign of the balloon itself. However, Al soon found the white rip panel cord and followed it just a few yards to the nearest part of
the balloon which was all but invisible in the whiteness as the clear plastic film was covered in a thin layer of snow. A number of large holes were found in the balloon but it was impossible to determine which, if any, were the cause of the failure and which were due to damage inflicted upon landing. We had to inflict even more damage to persuade the billowing envelope into the small box sled we had brought along to pick up the remains. The fun continued as we joined Robyn back at base and had to resort to cutting the balloon into pieces to get it stuffed into a couple of empty payload boxes in addition to the original cardboard box which the balloon was packed in, and even then it didn't go quietly!

That's probably the end of payload 2J's Antarctic adventure for now but it may well end up back on a flight line in the Northern Hemisphere before too long - watch this space!



Dave M. 

From the ice: BARREL Status Update #17

Hi folks,

  No launches today, but we were able to recover Payload 2J. Michael and Dave went out on skidoos with our mountaineer and brought the payload back in a sled. It's in quite good shape. The only obvious damage was that the mounting bracket for the Iridium antenna ripped off. Amazingly, the Iridium antenna planted itself upright in the snow and had the cable still attached so we could still communicate with it. We're trying to get a picture to you all, but the internet is very slow today.

At Halley, we are getting payload 1L ready, and the SANAE team was finishing up Payload 2Y. Both SANAE and Halley may have launch opportunities on Monday or Tuesday.


From the Ice: BARREL Status Update #16

Despite the prediction of high surface winds, the weather turned out to be beautiful at both Halley and SANAE today. The Halley team launched Payload 2K at 12:29 UT. The SANAE team launched payload 2X at 1907 UT. Both balloon ascents looked great.

Payload 2I continues to see x-ray activity this morning.  Payload 2W also saw some activity around midnight last night.

We were unable to get out to the 2J landing site today because the mountaineer is still on the ship helping with the cargo offloading. We expect him to be back sometime today and should have a chance to go
recover the payload tomorrow morning.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Launch of 2X & some ephemeral BARREL street art

Hot on the heels of the team at Halley, SANAE saw to the launch of payload 2X this afternoon, now aloft and doing fine.

Coincidentally, while on my way into work, typical of the extraordinary little serendipities so common in Santa Cruz, the following U-Haul was sitting in my driveway this morning:

Having some construction paper and a little time to spare, there's no way I couldn't not, not add some small additions to the already wonderful 'Venture Across America #89'

Hopefully the neighbors understand.  

Payload 2K was launched

We had another successful launch from Halley this morning. 2K is up and floating well.

We may have more news this afternoon if the winds at SANAE diminish. They are ready and waiting to launch payload 2X!

Friday, January 3, 2014

From the ice: BARREL Status Update #15

  The Halley team launched Payload 2J at 0953 UT today. Unfortunately, we had to terminate shortly after the launch. The ascent rate looked normal initially, but then started to decrease and the balloon was starting to descend on its own. This indicates that there was a hole or tear in the top part of the balloon. The terminate command was sent at 1019 UT. The payload landed at 1023 UT about 8.5 km from the station. We have been in contact with the payload since it landed and it appears to be stationary. There is a good chance we'll be able to go recover it tomorrow when the station mountaineer returns to base, so he can make sure the area is safe.

Payload 2I continues to see a lot of x-ray activity.  Geomagnetic activity is winding down somewhat but there are still some active regions on the sun that could produce a large flare.

The SANAE team has a possible launch opportunity tomorrow. Payload 2X is ready to go and they have been bench-testing Payload 2Y today. At Halley, we completed the system test of Payload 2K so it is now flight-ready as well. We expect a launch opportunity at Halley on Sunday or Monday.


Check out the story about us on NASA

Hey all,

We have another great article on this year's campaign on the NASA website.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

From the ice: BARREL Status Update #14

Hi all, 

Another windy day here at Halley. But, we did manage to finish the full system test of payload 2J so it's now ready to fly. We also have 2K going through bench testing. The SANAE team finished getting 2X flight ready. They were waiting for the winds to die down for most of the day, but it never happened. They've started bench testing 2Y as well. Tomorrow looks like a possibility for Halley, but the winds are expected to rise again through the day. So, we'll have to see if we get a decent window to launch. On a more positive note, geomagnetic activity has been increasing and we saw an extremely intense precipitation event at payload 2I. Payload 2W saw much weaker precipitation so must have been on the equatorward edge of it. It was restricted to our lowest energy channel (at ring current energies). The relativistic electron flux measured by GOES has been on the rise throughout the day, so I expect we'll start seeing some higher energy precipitation soon.


From Alexa... I just wanted to add that with all these substorms and the Solar Wind conditions continuing, there is a good chance that those in the Northern US and Canada (as well as the rest of the Northern Hemisphere or much farther south in the Souther Hemisphere, say +/- 45 deg latitudes) have a good shot at seeing the northern lights, as long as it's not cloudy like it is here in Vermont. You can check your chances using Just remember that as we get closer to midnight, we move into a region of streched magnetic field which means that the aurora oval starts to expand southward. Substorm injections, and thus where the particles are precipitated which can create the aurora, also tend to happen around midnight and into the dawn sector (midnight - 6 am). 

You can also keep up to date with the current space weather at The chances for seeing the aurora increase when Bz is southward. You can also look at the AE index.  If it looks like something seen on January 2nd between 17 - 19 hrs, then you know that there is a substorm currently happening which can create aurora. It's always best though if you can look at a magnetometer which is close to where you are located. If you see it get higher and then quickly lower, you are likely going to see the aurora. If you are far enough north (or south) you don't have to have a full on geomagnetic storm to see the lights, but for most of us, it helps to have the storm. 

Happy aurora hunting, and to wet the taste buds here's a picture of the aurora I took while at the Cluster workshop this fall. This was during a much weaker geomagnetic event, but I was also quiet far north. If you want to take photos, you need to have the shutter speed set to something like 8 seconds, but to get some of the background images (like a well placed barn or people) into the image, try something around 25 - 30 seconds long. In either case, make sure to bring your tripod!

The Sun was busy last night.

Last night there were a few flares from the Sun, most in positions which are likely geo-effective (are going to hit the Earth). The larges was a M9, almost an X-class. The solar flare have four categories, B, C, M, and X with X being the largest and the most likely to produce longer lasting geomagnetic storms, if they hit the Earth. Space is very spacious, so even if the Sun erupts, there is a small likelihood that that eruption will hit the Earth. To further complicate things, only those eruptions where the magnetic field is pointing southward are likely to produce geomagnetic storms. Even the the eruptions that point northward though can cause problems with communication systems.

Hopefully for our campaign, these larger flares will have produced CME's that we'll see within the next few days.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

From the ice: BARREL Status Update # 13

Hi all, 

Today, both the Halley and SANAE teams had strong surface winds, so we worked on getting our next payloads flight-ready. The winds are still expected to be strong tomorrow but one never knows in Antarctica. If we can't launch tomorrow, Friday looks much more promising. Solar and geomagnetic activity are picking up as well. We've continued to observe somewhat weak but intensifying precipitation at two balloons.  There were also two M-class (an Alexa side note, one was almost an x-class, or in other words a big one instead of a moderate one) flares on the sun today, so we have a chance for some increased activity over the next few days.