Sunday, 30 June 2013

Little house on the lakeside

Who wouldn't want to live in such an idyllic location? At the northern end of Kilpisjärvi, just across the water from Pikku Malla, is this stunning location. It is very close to the IRIS riometer and only a couple of kilometres from KAIRA itself.

Cottage on the lakeside (Photo: J. Keskitalo)

Saturday, 29 June 2013

International CAWSES-II Symposium

CAWSES-II (Climate And Weather of the Sun-Earth System II) is a five-year (2009-2013) international program sponsored by SCOSTEP (Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics) established with an aim of significantly enhancing our understanding of the space environment and its impacts on life and society.

The main functions of CAWSES-II are to help coordinate international activities in observations, modelling, and applications crucial to achieving this understanding, to involve scientists in both developed and developing countries, and to provide educational opportunities for students of all levels.

This International CAWSES-II Symposium will provide an excellent opportunity to discuss the scientific accomplishments of CAWSES-II and look forward to SCOSTEP's future programs at a moment toward the end of its five-year period. The symposium will cover the six major themes of CAWSES-II tasks:

  1. What are the solar influences on the Earth's climate?,
  2. How will geospace respond to an altered climate?,
  3. How does short-term solar variability affect the geospace environment?,
  4. What is the geospace response to variable inputs from the lower atmosphere?,
  5. Capacity Building,
  6. Informatics and eScience.

The symposium offers keynotes/lectures that will be interesting for all participants every morning and more specific sessions of presentations in the afternoon.

Abstract submission deadline: 7 July, 2013
Symposium Date: 18-22 November, 2013


Friday, 28 June 2013

A view from the slopes

To end the week we have a lovely photograph taken by SGO director, Esa Turunen. This shot was taken from the slopes of Saana, looking south across Kilpisjärvi.

Looking southwards, over the slopes of Saana. (Photo: E. Turunen)
Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

The critical eye

During the KAIRA official opening, we had the honour of having a visit by René Vermeulen, director of the International LOFAR Telescope. Of course we showed him around the facility as part of the general open day and he was most interested in the differences between the KAIRA installation and those of other LOFAR stations. Today's photograph was taken during his inspection of the inside of the RF-container.

The ILT director inspects the KAIRA electronics installation.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Late for work because of what? Reindeer?

Summer in Lapland, warm, blue skies, and wildlife. What about this as an excuse for being late for work: I got held up by a group of reindeer blocking the road. Well, this is completely normal in Lapland, though very rare on the road between the village of Sodankylä and the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory. Have a nice summer everyone! Film: Thomas Ulich, SGO.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Installation of an Ionospheric Tomography Receiver in Tromsø

Today we mounted an ionospheric tomography receiver in the EISCAT Ramdfjordmoen site, Norway, and more specifically in the PRE building of the Tromsø Geophysical Observatory. This is the 5th receiver of the TomoScand receiver chain/network. The other receivers are in Finland (Kevo, Sodankylä, Mekrijärvi) and in Tartu, Estonia.

Previously the Aberystwyth group had one of their ionospheric tomography receivers in the PRE building. We got a permission to remove their obsolete tomography antenna and mount our own antenna to the pole they used previously.

First step: Removing an old antenna!

As planned, and weather permitting, we got the antenna mounted. Fortunately we could use the old coaxial cable installed for earlier tomography measurements!

Where should we put the post box?

And as sometimes happens, we had a really bad thunderstorm, but our 'stubborn' scientist mounted also the postbox (that's where the pre-amp is lying physically!) while lightnings were striking not that far away.

Helix antenna mounted succesfully
After this manual/hard labour of antenna installation and installation of computers etc, we had all the things running 'in principle'. Thus on we went and started receiving the beacon satellite signals.

Configuring all the Three computers!

After some significant hassling with DNS servers etc, we got the phase curves!

Finally - Measured phase curves

And thereafter by the mighty wording of the 'expedition leader', we headed towards the Tromsø nightlife...
Expedition leader Lassi, a.k.a. Car Driver

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Dynamical Processes of the Cusp/Polar Cap Ionosphere

At the Autumn meeting of the American Geophysical Union, there will be a special session entitled: "Dynamical Processes of the Cusp/Polar Cap Ionosphere". The AGU meeting this year will be held on 9-13 December 2013 in San Francisco, USA. Submissions on all aspects of cusp/polar cap dynamics are welcome. Abstract submission is open now and will be closed on 6 August. More details on the session can be found at AGU Fall {=Autumn}Meeting website:

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Midnight sunshine

Following on from yesterday's summer solstice post, we need to point out that the midnight sun is visible for a considerable period around this time of the year. In fact, there was midnight sun at the time of the official opening of the KAIRA site.

One of the distinguished guests for the official opening of KAIRA was René Vermeulen, the director of the entire International LOFAR Telescope. Around midnight on the evening after the event, we took René out to the nature reserve at Pikku Malla. From there, it is possible not only to see the KAIRA site, but also to see the mightnight sun, shining over the fells and dales leading from Finland to Norway.

The midnight sun, seen over Siilasjärvi (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

The ILT director... in the midnight sunshine and midsummer snow bank (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

After this brief excursion, we returned to the KAIRA after-party.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Summer solstice

Well, the moment of solstice is upon us. Happy midsummer, everyone. And have a nice weekend too!

Sunshine at "night" over the KAIRA site. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Winter School 2013, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

In 14-25 October 2013 SGO and BDU will organise Winter School 2013. The main objective is to design and implement an educational module on mathematical radar theory. The proposed module consists of the following courses:
View to Lake tana
  1. Incoherent scatter radar theory
  2. Computational inverse problems
  3. Prior Distributions for Bayesian Inversion with Applications 
  4. Modern riometer techniques for middle-atmosphere research

According to BDU proposal, and time allowing, we also consider:
  • Course content revision of selected courses.
  • Inter-departmental collaboration between Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering departments.
  • Radio science laboratory update.

History of victories: Ethiopia - 1, Finland - 1
BDU has currently a significant number of on-going infrastructure projects in near-space studies, i.e. installation of radars, tomography receivers and riometers. The methodology development for these instruments requires deep understanding of mathematics, physics and engineering. The educational module will bring BDU to the cutting-edge of research!
Student opportunities
Based on winter school course grades, the organisers will provide a possibility for 1 or 2 top-level M.Sc students M.Sc thesis position at Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory spring 2014!
The Winter School is funded by: 
  1. Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland: HEI-ICI project - Mathematics & Working Life
  2. Centre for International Mobility CIMO: North-South-South project - East Africa Technomathematics IV

The view from the front

You may recall the post we made on the official ribbon cutting at the KAIRA opening ceremony. No doubt, you have been to the odd opening ceremony yourself. However, not too many of us have stood out the front, directly involved in the honours.

Well, thanks to the SGO director, Esa Turunen, who happened to have his camera with him during the proceedings, now we all know!

The first photograph was taken looking at fellow VIPs...

Colleagues Lauri Lajunen and Markku Lehtinen (Photo: E. Turunen)
Better still is the photograph taken of all of us, looking on in eager anticipation!

Part of the crowd! (Photo: E. Turunen)
Thanks, Esa, for sharing these great photographs with us all.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Control desk

Today's photograph is the control desk in the site office at KAIRA.Our site office (also known as the Lehtinen Barracks) contains some desks and local network that we can use to control the station when we are operating locally. Although we normally leave KAIRA to run fully automatically, there are occasions when being at the site is really useful... usually for maintenance tasks or for setting up new experiments.

Control desk display. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

The photograph shows one of the displays. On the left of the monitor are the data spectral traces from a 21-beam riometry experiment. In the centre right is an all-sky image and the lower right shows some LBA individual-aerial spectra.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Surface cloud over the lake

Occasionally, there are some spectacular cloud formations, but this one was on the surface of the lake. It is a bit difficult to see in the panorama photograph below, but the mist/cloud was moving rapidly over the surface of Kilpisjärvi and breaking and dispersing against the shore by Pikku Malla, a bit like the surf at the coast. Sadly the photograph cannot do justice to the dynamic scene; it was certainly spectacular to see it for real under the menacing, steel-grey skies.

Surface cloud over Kilpisjärvi. Click to enlarge. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

Sunday, 16 June 2013

KAIRA Barbecue

Yesterday, we reported on the official dinner, photograph and awards. Today... we report on the after-party.  :-)

Of course, there was sauna!

But we also fired up one of the little mökki camp fire huts (ideal for when it is -30 C and paffing-it-down with snow). A perfect way to carry on the celebrations.

The campfire hut (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

There, we all sat around the hearth, exchanging stories, sipping wines and beer and grilling sausages.

Come and join the merry gathering! (Photo: J. Keskitalo)

It just wouldn't be right unless we had sausages.

Alternative Finnish cuisine. (Photo: J. Keskitalo)

The party went on until just after 4 am. Of course, in the meantime, we hiked up a mountain, went swimming in the lake and all the other things too... but that can wait for another time.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Formal photograph and dinner

Yes, I know, we're still chipping through the photographs from the official opening! But there are lots of great shots and the various photographers have continued to send them in for display here. We must have over 1000 now!

After the official site opening, and the cake reception and lectures, the staff of SGO and selected guests were invited to a formal dinner at the Biological Research station. The "Bio.Station" is run by the University of Helsinki, has excellent accommodation, and some of the best food of any observatory or field station I've ever been to.

Before dinner, we had a group photograph...

Staff of SGO and guests. (Photo: E. Turunen)

... then we had the food! MMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmm. yes, it was every bit as good as we had been looking forward to all day.

After the meal, there were some speeches made by the Rector of Oulu University (Lauri Lajunen) and the Director of SGO (Esa Turunen). As part of these proceedings, there were two special awards made to members of SGO staff for their outstanding contributions to the KAIRA project: one to Markku Lehtinen and the other to Markku Postila.

Then we went back for seconds of food.

And thirds.

And fourths.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Sun and sky over Pikku Malla

Just a nice photograph to end the week. This one is a lovely skyscape over Pikku Malla. In the foreground are the icy waters of Kilpisjärvi lake (this photo was taken at the beginning of June).

Skyscape over Pikku Malla (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

KAIRA... the 3D-movie

One of the things that we did during the construction of KAIRA was take timelapse photography of the building of the HBA. This was a non-trival task, trying to find a good cantage point, showing the site, but still able to cope with rain, sun and the host of lighting levels to go with it.

Furthermore, the film was shot completely in 3D.

Just one frame...  (Image: B. McClave)

The work was coordinated by time-lapse professional, Brian McClave with his own team and Thomas Ulich from SGO. Brian works for Site-Eye, a company that specialises in such productions. The filming was made with the support not just of SGO and University of Oulu, but also ASTRON / LOFAR and EISCAT.

Thomas Ulich (left) and Brian McClave. (Photo: C-F Enell)

The product was a 2-minute time-lapse, which was enhanced with additional stills and footage from other scenes, as well as interviews, to give a 10-minute mini-documentary about KAIRA. As mentioned earlier, we showed the première of this film at the KAIRA opening, and the 2-minute version featured during the KAIRA presentation at the Nordic Physics Days 2013 conference in Lund, Sweden.

Watching the first public showing. (Photo: J. Keskitalo)

We will continue to feature it at conferences and exhibitions, but the plan is to make some further enhancements and publish the result to various web sites.

Watch this web log for announcements!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013


Today's photograph was taken by SGO Director: Esa Turunen. It's display on the web log coincides with a presentation given by the author at the Nordic Physics Days 2013 conference, in Lund, Sweden.

The KAIRA HBA array. Click to enlarge. (Photo: E. Turunen)

Tuesday, 11 June 2013


On the day of the official opening, we had a reception at the local school, with coffee and cake. And, oh, what cakes! The first cut was made by René Vermeulen, Director of LOFAR.

All delicious... it wouldn't hurt to have one piece of each, right? (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

Foreground: Markku Lehtinen. Background: people going back for seconds. (Photo: E. Turunen)

Seriously, this must have been the best "event cake" I've ever had.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Summer storms

The Arctic Summer is fickle. One minute it is blistering heat from 24/7 sunshine, but then it suddenly turns, plunging the landscape back into the tempest and returning the temperatures back to a pleasant level. The storms can be quite something too. Last week, this storm lashed through the Kilpis valley, hammering the site with sleet and rain and howling winds.

A wall of rain. Prepare to be soaked! (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

Rain pounding down on the HBA tiles. The bicycle is going
nowhere for now. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

Thankfully, we didn't have this on the day of the official opening!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Formal reception

After the official opening, we had a reception at the local Kilpisjärvi School. There was cake and coffee (and more cake!) and a number of speeches and presentations to the gathered crowd. In fact we had so many guests that the only place that could accommodate everyone was the sports all.

Rector of Oulu University, Lauri Lajunen, begins the proceedings.

At the event, we also showed the première of the KAIRA construction film. A 10-min, 3D film describing the facility, the construction and showing some of the spectacular sights of the region. We will be giving a full report on this in another post.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

HF radar

For the past few days I've been in Peru, testing a new low cost low power HF radar developed using software defined radio and a new type of a radar transmission and analysis method. The idea is to use this system to study the structure of ionospheric waves.

The radar consists of one transmit dipole antenna, located ~600 meters from two receiver dipoles used for interferometry and polarization determination. The radar operates at 3.66 MHz with a mere 20 W of transmit power.

The first results are pretty encouraging, as we can see up to 20 hops between the Earth and the ionosphere, as well as meteors, and even aircraft.

The colors indicate Doppler velocity and intensity. Green is low Doppler shift, red means that the target is going away, and blue indicates that the target is coming down. The colors are mixed together, and their intensities indicate return power in a dB scale. 

Friday, 7 June 2013

Ribbon cutting

As promised we have a selection of photos that we will be showing from the opening over the course of the next few days. Here was have the actual cutting of the ribbon by University Rector, Lauri Lajunen, who commenced the proceedings with a brief introduction and welcome.

Left-to-right: Markku Lehtinen, Lauri Lajunen and Esa Turunen. (Photo: Th. Ulich)

Then came the critical moment and the ribbon was cut!

The instant that the ribbon was cut, and KAIRA was opened! (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

In fact, the ribbon was cut multiple times, into small pieces, which were given to the distinguished guests and to the representatives of the participating institutes and a symbolic reminder of the project.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

First photos from the KAIRA official opening

As you know, today is the official opening of the KAIRA facility. There will be so much to tell and many, many photographs to share from what has been a fantastic day. However, just to whet your appetite, here is a quick selection of a handful of photographs from the site opening. The centre image in the montage is the moment the Rector of Oulu University cut the ribbon and declared the station officially open.

Just a few photographs from the KAIRA Official Opening.
Click to enlarge. (Photos: D. McKay-Bukowski)

Many more to follow... and the day is by no means over yet (formal dinner and party yet to come!).

KAIRA officially opened

The following was issued by University of Oulu, Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory


06 June 2013, 13:00 Finnish Local Time

Finland’s largest radio telescope opened at Kilpisjärvi

The largest radio telescope in Finland has be inaugurated on Thursday 6 June, 2013 13:00 local time at Kilpisjärvi. The instrument is the newly built KAIRA (Kilpisjärvi Imaging Radio Receiver Array) radio observatory. KAIRA has been constructed by Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory, which is part of the University of Oulu.

KAIRA is a new generation radio observatory. Research targets include various layers of Earth’s atmosphere and space from near-Earth to deep space.

An important research goal will be the effect of solar activity on atmosphere. For example, KAIRA can be used to study the chemical changes in atmosphere, caused by the electrically charged high energy particles, which precipitate into the atmosphere from space during Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights.

Using KAIRA, we can also gain new knowledge about sapce weather, which is driven by solar activity. "The significance of near-Earth space and space weather is increasing in our society. New knowledge helps us to understand these so that we finally will be able to forecast the space weather", tells Director Esa Turunen of the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory.

Sudden changes in space weather, caused by the Sun, can damage and even destroy satellites orbiting Earth in the near-Earth space. "For example, satellite navigation such as by GPS, is increasing all the time and will fail at times when space weather causes unexpected disturbances in the satellite signals. And space weather has other harmful effects on human technology, too." continues Turunen.

Research of Earth’s atmosphere and near-Earth space was conducted  at Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory (SGO) since the beginning of the 20th century. Finland maintains a leading position in certain areas of radio science. Scientists at SGO have for example developed revolutionary new methods for measuring the near-Earth space using high power radars.

KAIRA is related to the EISCAT radar facility in Northern Fenno-Scandinavia, being able to receive signals from the EISCAT main transmitter, which is located in Tromso, Norway 80 km from KAIRA. KAIRA is used to develop the proposed new generation radar facility EISCAT_3D.

KAIRA: Scientific background and technical description

KAIRA has been built to conduct vital research into the upper atmosphere and to maintain Finland's position internationally as a leading nation in radio science. Locally, this facility represents an important investment in high-technology in northern Finland.

KAIRA is a new-generation radio observatory. Instead of traditional metal parabolic antennas, KAIRA uses a combination of aerials and flat-panel antennas together with sophisticated digital signal processing technology. KAIRA has more than 1500 individual antennas. By using electronic steering, it is possible for the instrument to change the direction it is "looking" in a tiny fraction of a second. Additionally, the digital signal processing allows it to look in multiple directions at once. In fact, it is possible to view the entire sky instantaneously.

KAIRA can act as either a stand-alone passive receiver, as a receiver for the EISCAT VHF incoherent scatter radar in Tromsø, or for use in conjunction with other Fenno-Scandinavian VHF experiments. In additional to being a powerful observing instrument in its own right, KAIRA will act as a pathfinder for technologies to be used in the proposed EISCAT_3D radar system. When EISCAT_3D radar is realized, it will be world’s most advanced high-power radar for upper atmospheric and near-Earth space research.

Globally corresponding facilites can be found in Europe at the LOFAR-network, which includes 44 stations in various countries, as well as in USA and Australia. LOFAR and KAIRA are different compared to most radio telescopes of the world, by their use of fairly long-wavelength HF and VHF radio waves, which have wavelengths from meters to tens of meters. More commonly, radio telscopes use shorter wavelengths. For example the Metsähovi radio telscope in Southern Finland observes cm and mm wavelengths.

Siginificant investement by University of Oulu

KAIRA is the largest individual instrument investment in the 100-year long history of SGO. The University of Oulu funded KAIRA as university infrastructure by a 475 875 EUR share and SGO  invested 418 625 EUR. Support by EU through the European Regional Development Fund,  coordinated by the Regional Council of Lapland, was 320 000 EUR and Sodankylä Municipality supported construction by 50 000 EUR. The overall cost was 1.263 MEUR.

The goal of University of Oulu is to be a strong international research-oriented university. Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory represents the top research of the university at its best. SGO conducts internationally high-level basic research, which is seen to lead to direct practical applications”,  says the Rector of University Lauri Lajunen.

Rector Lajunen inaugurated KAIRA on 6 June 2013 at 13:00 at Kilpisjärvi. During the same day KAIRA is presenting to the public in an open ceremony at 15:00.


Finnish:   Esa Turunen, Director, Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory
English:   Derek McKay-Bukowski, KAIRA Observer-in-Charge

E-mail:    firstname.lastname'at'

Preparing for the official reception

We've just got back from the local school, where the official reception will be held later today. Only a few hours to go!

The excellent local facilities. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

First of the press arrive

We are attracting quite a lot of media attention. Apart from phone/radio interviews, we've had the first direct visits to the site. Here, reporters from the Finnish national public broadcaster arrive at the site.

One of the Yle vehicles in front of the KAIRA LBA (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

KAIRA inauguration tomorrow

Tomorrow, we will formally open the KAIRA facility. As you might imagine, there will be lots of news from this, so we will be posting new images and pictures a lot during the remainder of this week. Be sure to check the web log often!

KAIRA Inauguration Programme.

Ice on the lake

Although the ice on the ground is gone (at least in the valley where KAIRA is), there are still some occasional patches on the hill tops, and certainly the distant mounts remain snow-capped. And the ice on the lake is now starting to break up, although there is still a lot there! These photographs were taken late in the evening of 1st June 2013.

The jetty at the lake shore by the Biological Station. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

Looking southeast from the end of the jetty... (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

... and looking northwest towards Pikku Malla. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

About half-an-hour or so before these photographs were taken, we all went swimming. Yes, it was cold, but the thing that surprised me the most was that the ice chunks are deceptively large, heavy and sharp.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Mini Course on Spatial Models and Related Issues, Sodankylä, 20 August 2013

A one-day mini course on spatial models and related issues will be held at Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory, 20 August 2013. Lecturer is Finn Lindgren from the Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Bath, United Kingdom.

The course concentrates on Gaussian Markov random fields with applications in spatial interpolation, stochastic partial differential equations etc. Studies on these subjects can be found at the R-INLA project website.

For registration, please send an email to lassi.roininen'at' or call at +358 40 482 7773. There is no registration fee!

More info at the event website!

Welcome to Sodankylä!

First Observations of Ionospheric Scintillation in 4-bit mode

On Monday, we reported about experimenting with the 4-bit mode now available at the station.  This allows us to cover up to 190.6 Mhz of continuous bandwidth, four times the amount available using the usual 16-bit mode.  Of course, the low-band and high-band filters only allow up to 80 MHz of continuous bandwidth in any of the 100 MHz Nyquist zones, but it does mean that we can use mode 357 to cover fully the frequency ranges 10-90 MHz, 110-190 MHz and 210-244 MHz simultaneously.  Also, as reported on Monday, there is an issue with saturation across the peak of sensitivity in the low band.

On Sunday night, we carried out the first ionospheric scintillation (as detailed here) observation of Cas A using 4-bit mode.  To alleviate the saturation issue as much as possible, we used the maximum 8 dB attenuation on the signal.  The results look pretty good:

Looking carefully, you can still see a faint band around the 50-60 MHz range, but the scintillation is still clearly visible across this band.  The data themselves also show some very interesting features in the low band, as shown in the 'zoomed-in' image below:

The image is displayed in grey-scale to bring out the features more.  There is a lot of detail to be analysed in these data, particularly as there is no spacing between subbands in 4-bit mode, making it clear that the 4-bit mode is well-enough suited for these kinds of observations.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Grids leaving the site

As we reported Sunday, the remaining LBA grids have been packed for transport from the KAIRA site back to Sodanklyä Geophysical Observatory. A total of 4 packs of grids were made. These were picked up by a forestry lorry (the sort used for moving logs) last Friday.

The packed grids are loaded between the tines. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

The crane at the back looked quite spindly... a bit like a  giant insect. Yet it had no trouble putting the grids in place.

The last one is placed. They were then tied down and got on their way. (Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski)

They were then taken from the site... which is looking pretty smart now. Nearly all the construction material have been cleared away and the grounds are clear from stockpiles. We're nearly ready for the official opening and site inspection on Thursday!