Dr. John Swoboda of MIT Haystack Observatory’s Millstone Hill Geospace Facility (MHGF) has been awarded a grant from the Office of Naval Research (ONR)’s Young Investigator Program (YIP). His project is entitled “Enabling Volumetric Ionospheric Imaging Using Vector Sensor Ionosondes” and begins in April 2022.
Dr. Swoboda has been with Haystack’s geospace science group since 2017, having earlier obtained his PhD in Electrical Engineering from Boston University through support from Haystack’s National Science Foundation (NSF)–funded Millstone Hill Geospace Facility. His expertise is in the development of atmospheric sensor technology and techniques.
The 2022 YIP grant was awarded for the development of a new type of high-frequency (HF) ionospheric radar, known as an ionosonde. The ionosphere is that portion of Earth’s atmosphere containing charged particles. Ionosondes are widely used by the science community to observe the ionosphere, typically through sending signals from the ground upwards and looking for changes in the returned signal as it reflects back toward the ground.
The project will provide advances over earlier traditional ionosondes by applying vector sensor antenna technology, creating a volumetric, or volume-based, measurement of ionospheric electron density and ionospheric motions. (Advanced vector sensor technology is also the subject of ongoing collaborations between Haystack and programs at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, including the upcoming AERO-VISTA twin CubeSat mission funded by NASA Heliophysics.)
Haystack geospace group lead and associate director Dr. Phil Erickson said, “Vector sensor antennas provide a large increase in the information we can obtain on the ionosphere, through processing the ionosonde’s reflected signal. Dr. Swoboda’s use of this new technology will expand this important remote sensing technique beyond traditional, one-dimensional electron density profile measurements into a richer set of 3-dimensional data. Our geospace research group is excited about this new sensor, and will combine it with our other measurements to better understand the ionosphere and its critical role in space weather effects on the activities of modern society.”
Dr. Swoboda expressed gratitude toward the entire Haystack team: “This would not be possible without the type of collaborative environment we have here at Haystack. I look forward to working with the rest of my colleagues to make this idea into a functioning sensor that will help improve the understanding of ionospheric physics.”
Updates on Dr. Swoboda’s YIP project are forthcoming.