Friday 30 November 2012

The road goes ever on and on...

Just a nice photograph to finish the week. As I was recently driving along the stretch of road towards Karesuvanto, the sun peeked through the clouds for just long enough to stop and take this photograph. But there is not much sun left up here these days...

The midday sun in late Autumn. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)
Have a nice weekend!

Thursday 29 November 2012

Cable joins

Inside the mausoleum, we found that there had been considerable snow build-up. This may be a contributing factor to the failed join (and that was precisely what it turned out to be). Here are some photographs of the situation as we found it and the problem cable.

Snow of the cables in the mausoleum. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

The culprit. A loose ground connection, possibly caused by a misseated o-ring. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

Wednesday 28 November 2012

The path to the mausoleum

Despite the service to the aerial, we were still having problems with RCU #84 (Aerial #42, X-polarisation). The next most likely source of the problem would be the cable join. This means opening up tyhe LBA mausoleum (where the excess lengths are located and the joins are placed).

The LBA mausoleum. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)
Getting to the mausoleum is easy. However, opening it up was quite a challenge in the cold conditions.

KAIRA VHF-altitude angles

One of the primary experiments for KAIRA is to observe incoherent scatter from the EISCAT VHF transmitter near Tromsø, Norway. In order to do this, the digital beam of KAIRA needs to be correctly pointed to intersect the correct volume of the ionosphere. To assist experimenters in planning this, the following graph can be used to estimate the centre elevation for a given altitude. Click on the graph to see the enlargement.

KAIRA pointing elevation angles to intersect at specific altitudes
above the VHF transmitter near Tromsø. (Graph: J. Vierinen)

Please note that depending on the observing frequency, the beamsize can actually be quite large, spanning many degrees.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Ode to the coffee machine

Our trusty double nozzled source of energy.


First there was a big bang
Then galaxies formed and
upon one planet
around a small sun...

There was a land, where
the sacred beans did grow
Ethiopia, (or Kenya or Peru)
We don't care!

Oh wondrous artefact
thou takest our beans,
gently roasted,
meticulously ground.

With the pure spring water
Clear and copper free
highest pressure
near to boiling

And thou blasts the water
and the sacred beans
together as would a
particle accelerator

Elemental magic
Air, earth, fire and coffee
The drink of power
Sleeps bane

The rites performed
in the graveyard shift

And thus extracts
the nectar of the gods
the beverage of the scientists
the fuel of the equations

We pause, as we who sip thy acrid concoction
feeling the rush of the blood and
palpitations of the heart
encouraged and inspired

We are brave now
ready to face another day
another boring meeting
another line of code

Photo by J. Vierinen, text by J. Vierinen and D. McKay

Monday 26 November 2012

Digging down to the ground plane

One of the tasks for the recent site maintenance visit was to do some tests and replacement on LBA aerial #42. To gain access to this, we needed to dig out the snow, down to the ground plane.

LBA aerial L42 (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

Friday 23 November 2012

The fiery mountain

On the day of the E3D site visit to KAIRA, we were treated to a spectacular sight. Just as we'd finished lunch, we came out to see the last blink of the setting sun catch the snow-covered Saana Mountain in its entirety. All other parts of the landscape were in shadow and gloom and only the mountain was illuminated by the amber rays of the setting sun. Sadly, the tiny little camera in the mobile telephone will not do this justice, but hopefully you get just a small idea of the beauty of the fiery mountain.

Saana, near Kilpisjärvi, Finland. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)
Have a nice weekend!

Wednesday 21 November 2012

LBA aerials in the snow

Today's photograph shows part of the Low-Band Antenna (LBA) array . As you can see, we have a good covering of snow over the entire field. Fortunately, there is no ice build-up on either the posts or the wires.
The LBA field at KAIRA. Click on the image to see an enlargement. (Photo: Esa Turunen)

Tuesday 20 November 2012

E3D visit to the KAIRA site

Last week we hosted a small visit to the KAIRA site by some of the EISCAT_3D project team. The main objective was to show the site the new EISCAT director and explain the significance of our project and demonstrate its capabilities.

Staff and visitors at the KAIRA site. (Photo: Esa Turunen)
We didn't move, but the photographer certainly did! (Photo: Esa Turunen)

Sunday 18 November 2012

Aurora over the E3D meeting

During the EISCAT_3D "all-hands" meeting, we were treated to some mostly-clear skies and a bit of auroral activity too.

Some of the delegates at the E3D "all-hands" meeting. Photo: Esa Turunen

Wednesday 14 November 2012

EISCAT 3D meeting in Kiruna

KAIRA is linked to the EISCAT_3D project. As a result, we are participating in this week's "All-Hands" meeting, which is being held at the Swedish Institute for Space Physics. This is where the EISCAT headquarters is also located. It is a great opportunity to get the team together to talk about the upcoming work in the project and to review the current situation.

The photograph shows Craig Heinselman talking about recent developments on another phased array radar system.

Craig Heinselman at the EISCAT_3D meeting. Photograph by Esa Turunen.

Craig will be taking over as Director of EISCAT in 2013. We all look forward to working with him.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

RFI on the horizon

We are now taking routine all-sky images with KAIRA, 24 hours a day. These are great as not only are we building up a fantastic data archive, but we are starting to get a good feel for some of the features.

In this image, there is a strong source on the south-eastern horizon. It is so bright that it saturates out all the other sources in the sky.

No doubt this is some RFI (Radio-Frequency Interference). It is possible to recover the data, but these require a reasonable amount of work. In the case of fast-burst RFI, sometimes it is easiest just to flag it (i.e. note it, but otherwise ignore it) and move on.

Friday 9 November 2012

Snow laden branches

Just another wintry photograph to end the week. 

Have a nice weekend. (And stay warm!)

Wednesday 7 November 2012

LBAs in the snow

At the moment, we have a few engineers on site to carry out maintenance work and continue with some of the general site work that needs to be carried out. They also took a few photographs and one of them is featured on today's web log post.

Looking south-southeast across the KAIRA LBA array. (Photo: M Postila)

Monday 5 November 2012

An unexpected party

We don't normally get reindeer in around the institute. A few reindeer fences should put stop to them wandering through. However, our experiences at KAIRA indicate that one should not rely 100% on a reindeer fence and that there will always be occasions when these lovely creatures turn up for a party.

So, sure enough, the other day we did have a small herd wander in... I've no idea how they managed it! The first I heard of it was the doleful clanging of the bells that a few of them are wearing. They then spent a couple of hours digging through the snow trying to get at the left over grass from the past summer.

Reindeer at the EISCAT 32m dish at Sodankylä. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

The source of the clanging noise. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

Sunday 4 November 2012

Snow posts

The Sunday before last, a great lorry rumbled through Tähtelä and put sticks into the ground along the side of the road. Yes, sticks. These turned out to be just eco-friendly snow-posts, to mark where the roads are before the snows set in (which they did soon after!).

The thin stick in the foreground is the snow post. I guess you just need to know what to look for.

Friday 2 November 2012

Freezing fog

The other day we had a freezing fog come through. These are wonderful, as they leave the trees — especially the deciduous ones — covered in a thin "fur" of ice crystals. A few more of these, and even the conifers will be ghosts in twilight shadows.

Ice on the trees in Tähtelä. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

Thursday 1 November 2012

The Finnish State Flag

Today's photograph features the Finnish State Flag flying beside the EISCAT 32m dish at Sodankylä. Finland has quite a few "flag days", when it is customary to fly the national flag. This particular photograph was taken on 24th October 2012, and the flag had been hoisted for United Nations day.

The EISCAT 32m dish and the Finnish State Flag, 24-Oct-2012. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)