Physics experiment in Earth’s atmosphere could help improve GPS performance – sciencedaily


The Earth’s atmosphere was used as a “laboratory” to carry out a physics experiment, as part of a research collaboration involving the University of Strathclyde, which could help improve the performance of GPS.

The study presents a new method of remotely monitoring plasma in the ionosphere and controlling wave modes in a way that could help GPS make better calculations in extreme space weather conditions.

The researchers conducted a controlled radar wave experiment by injecting radio waves into the ionosphere at slightly different frequencies.

The returned signal was then recorded and analyzed. The researchers found that plasma waves were excited in the ionosphere and nonlinear waves were mixed, resulting in a wide spectrum of nonlinear frequencies in the returned signal.

Plasma in the ionosphere plays an important role in the reflection and modification of radio waves used for communication and radio navigation systems such as GPS, but the accuracy of these can be affected by “space weather” events. Such as solar storms.

The experiment was performed at the EISCAT facility near Tromsø, Norway, and the research was published in the journal Natural communications.

Dr Bengt Eliasson, Reader at Strathclyde Physics Department, was a research partner and said: “The ionosphere is part of the Earth’s upper atmosphere, between 80 and about 1000 km, where extreme solar ultraviolet radiation and X-ray ionizes atoms and molecules, creating a layer of plasma.

“Other phenomena, such as energetic charged particles and cosmic rays, also have an ionizing effect and may contribute to the density of the ionospheric plasma.

“The discovery of the Earth’s ionosphere came from the first observations of radio waves over a century ago, and the recognition that only a reflective layer made up of electrons and ions could explain the observations. research aimed to explain the different layers of the ionosphere and their variability through factors such as local time, latitude and season.

“Today, the focus of ionospheric research has shifted to understanding the plasma dynamics and physics of ionospheric phenomena, particularly due to the disturbances caused by the sun, known as events. Space weather events These space weather events dynamically increase the total number of ionospheric electrons, GPS systems cannot correctly model this dynamic improvement and errors occur in position calculations.

“The active control of excited wave modes in the ionosphere, described in our article, has the potential to provide new and improved diagnostics of temperature, density, magnetic field and ionic composition, with the potential improve GPS position calculations during times of disturbance. “

The research also involved academics from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, the University of St Andrews, the EISCAT Association in Norway and the University of Lisbon, Portugal.

EISCAT is an international association supported by research organizations in China (CRIRP), Finland (SA), Japan (NIPR and ISEE), Norway (NFR), Sweden (VR) and the United Kingdom (UKRI) .

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Materials provided by University of Strathclyde. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.


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