Thursday 6 June 2013

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

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