Wednesday 16 March 2011

EISCAT Svalbard Radar — Part 1

If you have looked at the EISCAT map, you will see that we have covered the three mainland sites: Tromsø, Kiruna and Sodankylä. But what of the one to the north?

Yes, EISCAT actually runs a fourth station on the Norwegian-administered archipelago of Svalbard. This is the the EISCAT Svalbard Radar (ESR), located near the settlement of Longyearbyen.

Longyearbyen at midday in late January
(Photo: Derek McKay-Bukowski)

The ESR system comprises two dishes. One is a fully-steerable 32m dish, which is similar in design to the mainland system. The other is a 42m fixed dish, which is 'field-aligned'. The 'field' in question is the Earth's magnetic field; which arcs out of the magnetic poles. The direction at which the 42m dish is pointing is precisely the same angle at which the magnetic field leaves the Earth's surface.

The two dishes on Svalbard. The fixed 42m is
on the left and the steerable 32m dish is on
the right (Photo: Tony van Eyken, EISCAT)

The 32m dish was built in 1994 and the first observations were taken in 1996. The 42m dish was added in 1999 with observations starting in 2000. The transmitter output can be routed to either antenna as required.

The 32m dish is fully steerable. Despite the 275 ton weight, it can scan at 80 degrees per minute both in azimuth and in elevation and is capable of acceleration from 0 - 100% in 2 seconds.

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