Artificial Aurora
This week at the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) about a half dozen scientists are running experiments, including Chris Fallen, Assistant Research Professor with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.

Over the course of four nights, Fallen has been attempting to create and study the artificial aurora.

"The more we understand about the artificial aurora, it helps us understand the natural aurora and vice versa," says Fallen.

Natural aurora occurs because high speed electrons hit the upper atmosphere and collide with gases there. The resulting light appears as aurora to the human eye and camera lens.

Fallen is trying to reproduce that using radio waves from HAARP as the energy source. "We're accelerating the electrons with radio waves through processes that are not fully understood and those electrons are accelerated to high velocities and collide with the gases in the atmosphere and create air-glow in basically the same colors as the natural aurora."

Fallen says part of his scientific objective during this campaign is to clarify the best conditions in the ionosphere to create a relatively bright artificial aurora. The first two nights of the campaign were impacted by space weather. Fallen says it's rather windy from the solar wind and it led to "ionospheric absorption."

"The radio waves from HAARP are being absorbed in lower regions of the atmosphere," says Fallen. "So they're not getting up to the higher regions where these artificial aurora and long distance propagation occur."

Photographers in the area of Gakona might get the chance to photograph the artificial aurora if clear skies prevail.

This is the first HAARP experiment campaign for the Geophysical Institute. Fallen says there are scientists from UAF and across the country on site doing a variety of experiments.