Birdlings Flat - Physics and Astronomy - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Birdlings flat radars

At Birdlings Flat we have four different types of radar systems. Loosely described, these are a meteor radar system, a mesospheric radar system, an ionization radar and a tropospheric wind profiler.

The first of these radar systems AMOR uses a 26.2 MHz radar to measure the orientation and decay of meteor trails, which are due to small pieces of dust entering the earths atmosphere at high speed and vapourising around 90 km altitude. The observations provide information about the source of the dust grains (e.g. whether they be from inside or outside the solar system) and also about atmospheric winds and diffusion processes in the atmosphere around 90 km.

bf-meteor.gifAMOR is currently the focus of two external grants - one from the Marsden Fund and another from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC). These grants enable us to study the true spatial density of meteoroid dust. This is important for inclusion in a computer model which will allow the risks to spacecraft from high speed meteoroid dust to be quantified for any region of space through which they pass. It is also important as the solar system meteoroid dust cloud forms the background against which recently discovered extra-Solar System meteoroids lie.

A post-doctoral fellow, David Galligan, works full time reducing and analysing the data from AMOR. Prof. Jack Baggaley leads the group effort.

The 2.4 MHz (MF) mesospheric radar measures the winds over a wider height range, from about 100 km down to about 60 km on occasions. This radar provides information on prevailing winds, thermal tides in the atmosphere, and on both the small and large scale wave structures which are important for understanding the climate of this region.

The third radar shares the 2.4 MHz transmitter and uses different receivers to measure the degree of ionization in the atmosphere. Amongst other things, the measurements of ionization at these heights are used to help us understand the movement of atmospheric constituents like Nitric Oxide, as the ionization acts indirectly as a tracer of that molecule. The 42.5 MHz (VHF) wind profiler radar, also known as a tropospheric-stratospheric radar, is still under construction. This radar will be used for measuring winds in the height range 2-12 km. Such measurements will have great utility for understanding the structure of frontal systems as well as a great variety of other meteorological phenomena. The 42.5 MHz (VHF) wind profiler radar, also known as a CUSTAR, is still under construction. Adrian McDonald is the lecturer in charge of this radar system.

Graeme Plank, our group technician, oversees the day to day running of Birdlings Flat and leads the construction-side of new and upgraded experiments, such as the ST radar. Grahame Fraser and Bob Bennett, both recently appointed senior fellows by the university, maintain an active interest and participation in the running and upgrade of the Birdlings Flat facilities and the outcome of experiments run there. This page is maintained by David Galligan

  • Department of Physics and Astronomy
    University of Canterbury,
    Private Bag 4800,
    Christchurch 8140,
    New Zealand.
    Phone: +64 3 364 2523
    Fax: +64 3 364 2469
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