Enhancing Education with Optical Aurora Detectors

PI: Joseph A. Shaw, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Montana State University

The Aurora Borealis (“Northern Lights”) can be seen in Montana, but with lower probability than a high-latitude location such as Alaska. The purpose of this project is to create optical sensors that can detect the presence of an aurora in the sky and alert interested people via cell phone messages so they can go outside and look. The sensors will also provide data that will be useful for determining how often auroras are actually observable in a given location (as opposed to how often they might be visible if the sky was clear, etc.)

A prototype of the first optical aurora detector was tested in Fairbanks, Alaska during March 2007 and is currently operating at the Montana State University (MSU) campus in Bozeman, Montana. Students currently are developing improved versions of this instrument, which will be tested in Alaska during early 2009 in a collaborative effort between MSU and the University of Alaska – Fairbanks.  

Contact Information

Mail: Joseph A. Shaw
Electrical & Computer Engineering Department
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717
E-mail: Joseph Shaw
Phone: (406) 994-7261

Montana Space Grant Home
Updated March 24, 2008