Friday, February 18, 2022
LAMP mission logo

Scientists from the University of Iowa will travel to Alaska in February to launch the LAMP sounding rocket mission, designed to explore the energy of a pulsating aurora, one of the many forms of Northern Lights.

The UI team includes Allison Jaynes, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and LAMP co-investigator and graduate student Riley Troyer.

The  sounding rocket launch window is scheduled for Feb. 24 to March 10, 2022, depending on conditions at Poker Flat Research Range outside Fairbanks, Alaska. The rocket will fly north over the village of Venetie, where a ground support team will be stationed. 

A rocket flight team has been there for days, but most of the science team is just starting to arrive and prepare. Part of the ground-based team is setting up an instrument called a riometer, which will measure the density of electrons in the sky overhead above the Poker Flat Research Range. This will help determine when to launch the rocket. An identical instrument will heading up with the team to the downrange site, in Venetie, AK to be installed early next week. 

The mission will investigate pulsating aurora, which look like large patches or splotches of light across the sky and is typically much fainter than the bright arcs and curtains shown in most photography. It gets its name from the periodic pulsations it exhibits – from several to 10’s of seconds between on and off phases. 

Jaynes' role on LAMP is for the PLASMIC instrumentation, a solid-state detector telescope that will measure the high energy part of the pulsating aurora spectrum to see how much of the total energy content is contained above 10s keV.e

LAMP is an international, multi-institutional effort with instrument contributions from NASA Goddard, Dartmouth College, University of New Hampshire, and JAXA, Tohoku University, Nagoya University, and Kyutech in Japan, and University of Iowa. Ground support includes team members from the above institutions as well as the USAF Academy and NJIT, and UEC in Japan. The rocket flight is supported by NASA Wallops Flight Facility and Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska.

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