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Abstracts of Presentations


Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)
Abstracts of Presentations
August 11, 2011


2011 REUs


Development of the HART Solar Image Simulator
Presentation (PDF)
Mark Benjamin, Princeton University


As the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) becomes fully operational, new data on low-frequency (<300 MHz) radio emissions from the Sun are expected. Low frequency radio rays suffer significant refraction and scattering in the corona, hence the need for simulated images of the sun exhibiting various features (coronal streamers etc.) obtained through ray tracing. The HART framework is intended to be a reliable numerical tool for image interpretation. In this work we describe significant improvements made on HART, which greatly enlarged its usability, speed, and provided new scientific opportunities. A GUI has been created. The computations were parallelized, first on CPU kernels, and eventually using GPU. A coronal streamer model was implemented. The Stokes parameters are computed for each ray. These improvements make HART a useful tool in various fields of solar science.


Antenna and Amplifier Modeling for High-Accuracy Calibration of Radio Data
Presentation (PDF)
Delani Cele, Ithaca College


The Epoch of Reionization is a defining moment in the history of the universe. Information about this transition period is contained in the 21cm line of neutral hydrogen in the intergalactic medium for redshift between 6 and 27 which corresponds to frequencies between 50 and 200 MHz. This summer improvements were made to the calibration of the Experiment to Detect the Global EoR Step (EDGES) which uses a radio antenna and spectrometer to look for the expected 21-cm line signature during reionization in the sky noise spectrum. Work included measurements of a balun’s s- parameters and the antenna impedance. In order to test the new calibration method, measurements were made of the sky brightness temperature from 50 to 100 MHz at West Fork, ME. A temperature spectral index of 2.51 +/- 05 was derived from the data by fitting a power law model to the calibrated sky noise spectrum.


Global Mean Total Electron Content Behavior in Periods of High Geomagnetic Activity
Presentation (PDF)
Aaron Fienberg, Earlham College


The 24-hour global mean Total Electron Content (TEC) varies significantly on periods as short as two to three days. Analyses of ground based GPS receiver measurements, CHAMP satellite GPS receiver measurements, and Jason-1 altimeter measurements yield consistent pictures of highly structured changes in the global mean TEC. In particular, we have focused on three time periods of high geomagnetic activity: October through November, 2003, November, 2004, and May through June, 2005. During these time periods, rapid changes in the global mean TEC appear related to disturbances in the DST index, changes in the solar wind speed, and spikes in the solar wind density. Comparison of CHAMP data (measurements of TEC above approximately 400 kilometers altitude) and ground based data reveals a correlation between the DST index and the proportion of TEC that is below CHAMP. This correlation suggests that DST related global enhancements are most significant above 400 kilometers.


Extreme Ultraviolet Radiation Flux Changes and Electron Density Enhancement During Solar Flares
Presentation (PDF)
Timothy Kelley, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


Solar flares induce sudden changes in X-ray irradiance and EUV flux. The possibility of a correlation between these changes and the daytime global value of total electron content (TEC) is investigated through the use of data from the GPS, SOHO, and GOES satellites. The Millstone Hill Incoherent Scatter Radar (ISR) is used to investigate the altitude stratification of the flare induced TEC enhancement. A study is conducted for the months of October 2002 and September 2005 as they had 329 and 114 flares, respectively. The amount of TEC enhancement due to a solar flare is found to be dependent on solar activity, solar flare strength, and the background TEC. On average, October 2002 had solar flares of less strength and higher solar activity. Flare effects were more evident in September 2005 which had on average, a small background TEC (10-15 TECu) and prominent (~2 TECu) TEC enhancements. In addition, a high and positive correlation between X-ray irradiance and EUV flux was seen during solar flare events. Through the comparison of the different data sets, it is found that the majority of the TEC enhancement is in the E and F regions (100-150 km) which corresponds to the portion of the ionosphere ionized by EUV radiation.


Ionospheric Radar Experiment Scenario Modeling
Poster (PDF)
Natalie Larson, Vanderbilt University


MIT Haystack's Atmospheric Sciences Group has for nearly 50 years operated the Millstone Hill upper atmospheric radar, focused on studies of the near-Earth space environment. The radar is a complex system, which can pose a challenge for experiment design. The aim of this project was to build a graphical user interface to allow a scientist to easily design and model scenarios of experiment flow through the Millstone Hill radar experiment chain. This end was achieved by creating an interface that allows a user to draw a state chart that can be automatically translated into a parameter file. The parameter file can then be converted to Python code for controlling the radar. While the software meets this specific need it has also been designed to be able to represent and translate state charts for use in a variety of future applications. The software supports such functions as moving objects, cutting, pasting, saving and opening files, undoing actions, redoing actions, adding and editing state and transition attributes, and drawing snap-to-fit lines. The software also performs a number of tasks to automatically ensure that a drawing is consistent.


GPU Based Polyphase Filter Banks for VLBI
Presentation (PDF)
Mark McCurry, Clarkson University


This project presents the evaluation of the use of a graphics processor for realtime radio astronomy DSP (Digital Signal Processing) within VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry). A Polyphase Filter Bank (PFB) was implemented in a prototype application to convert external ADC input into channelized frequency streams. This system was tested with a 32 channel pfb, 8 bit samples, and 8 taps/channel. With a prototype system, 512 Mega-samples/second could be easily processed and 890 Mega- samples/second is possible. Instruction throughput is the current limitation, so a modest increase in the graphics card's processing speed will permit the desired speed of 1024 Mega-samples/second. This makes GPUs an interesting candidate for a cost effective upgrade as both software and hardware systems progress.


High Latitude Ion Temperature Responses in the Lower and Upper Thermosphere During Sudden Stratospheric Warming Events
Presentation (PDF)
Catherine Miller, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University


We analyzed ion temperature responses in the lower and upper thermosphere to sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs) that occurred in January 2008 and January 2009. Ion temperatures were obtained with the Sondrestrom Incoherent Scatter Radar (67N, 51W). The SSW of January 2008 was a vortex displacement event, with Sondrestrom ISR probing the ionosphere above a cold cell in the stratosphere during the peak of the warming event. The SSW of January 2009 was a vortex split event, and the radar obtained measurements above the hot cell in the stratosphere. Despite differing local stratospheric conditions, signatures of cooling in the evening hours at 150-300km were found during the peaks of both events. To differentiate ion temperature variations caused by the SSW from variations caused by geomagnetic activity, ion temperatures from geomagnetically quiet dates from several weeks before the events were used as baselines. The Sondrestrom local ionospheric model was used to examine expected ion temperature responses to seasonal variations and geomagnetic activity. The magnitude of cooling observed during both events exceeded the variations predicted by the model. Ion temperatures observed in the evening hours of the January 2008 event at 150-300km were considerably cooler than baseline ion temperatures despite increased geomagnetic activity during the event. During daytime hours of the events, ion temperatures varied slightly from the baselines; some stronger daytime variations were observed, but no strong conclusions could be made due to fluctuations caused by geomagnetic activity.


Parallel Processing and the Madrigal Database
Presentation (PDF)
David Packard, Colorado State University


The Madrigal database is used throughout the atmospheric science community for storing and accessing archival and real time data. The speed of the database can be improved by decreasing the computation time of parameters derived from measured data. Infrastructure for passing the computations to a GPU, to be run in parallel, should decrease this computation time. This infrastructure, written in C, has been added to Madrigal via the use of NVIDIA's CUDA. The infrastructure stores data for computations when they were previously calculated serially, dynamically appends vital record, cycle and type information, then dispatches all computations for a given method to be done at one time on the GPU. After these computations are completed, the data is written back into the Madrigal data structures, making it possible to run any pure c derivation method in parallel. This provides the potential to greatly reduce the computation time of Madrigal derived parameters.


36 GHz Methanol Masers
Presentation (PDF)
Hannah Seyb, Guilford College


Class I methanol masers are usually located in shocked environments near star forming regions. Due to limitations in instrumentation Class I masers are not as well studied as their Class II counterparts. Recent upgrades in the EVLA have allowed for the observation of the 36 GHz methanol transition that results in a bright maser emission. We mapped the 36 GHz masers in 12 star forming regions and then compared them to other Class I transitions, including the 44 GHz transition. In some sources there was complete agreement in the distribution of the masers with the 36 GHz occurring at the same locations as the 44 GHz masers. Other sources displayed no correlation between the two, where the 36 and 44 GHz masers were tracing different conditions. Numerous sources showed an intermediate level of correlation where there was some spatial overlap between these two Class I methanol transitions. In the source G10.6-0.4 the 36 GHz masers were found to be located along the edge of an outflow in areas of high density methanol gas. It will be important to analyze theses results in the context of the thermal molecular environment of the masers in order to verify various models which describe the dependency on temperature, density, and column density of the Class I methanol masers.


Microcontroller Framework for Radar Module Control
Presentation (PDF)
Elias Wilken-Resman, University of Minnesota


A GPS-based timing and synchronization system has been designed at the MIT Haystack Observatory. We have been developing a modular, microcontroller-based framework that can be used to support this and other applications. We have successfully implemented browser-based network configuration and control, as well as USB transfers from host microcontrollers to various devices. The framework is designed for multipurpose use and expansion; many other uses in distributed radar systems are envisioned.




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