Scherrer, Deborah, Ray Mitchell, Morris Cohen, "Connecting the Earth to
the Sun: Students Monitor Solar Disturbances to Earth's Ionosphere";
poster presentation at North American IHY Community Science Planning
Workshop, Boulder, CO; 16-18 Feb, 2005.
Earth's ionosphere reacts strongly to the intense x-ray and ultraviolet
radiation released by the Sun during a solar event.
By using a receiver to monitor the signal strength from distant VLF
transmitters, and noting unusual changes as the waves bounce off the
ionosphere, students around the world can directly monitor and track
these Sudden Ionospheric Disturbances (SIDs).
Stanford's Solar Center, in conjunction with
the Electrical Engineering Department’s Very Low Frequency
group and local educators, have developed
inexpensive SID monitors that students can install and use at their
local high schools. Students "buy in" to the project by building
their own antenna, a simple structure costing
less than $10 and taking a couple hours to assemble. Data collection
and analysis is handled by a local PC, which need not be fast or
elaborate. Stanford provides a centralized data repository and
chat site where students can exchange and discuss data.
Because there are VLF transmitters scattered
around the world, the monitors can be placed virtually anywhere
there is access to power.