Remotely Operated Optical Aurora Detectors

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

This project provides exciting educational opportunities for undergraduate students to work in multi-disciplinary teams to design and implement the technology needed to create a network of remotely operated optical aurora detectors that alert “subscribers” when an aurora appears in the night sky. Current aurora detector designs will be refined, leading to lower-cost, robust systems that can be deployed in a network around Montana and beyond. The project will set the stage for a network of sensors operating at MSGC Affiliate campuses, under remote computer control and communicating data to a central host computer for internet display. Students will participate in significant outreach efforts throughout Montana. The data obtained from an aurora detector network will enable studies of the statistical frequency and brightness of auroras as a function of season, location, and phase of the solar cycle. Modules describing aurora science and detection technology will be provided for university courses on electro-optical systems, remote sensing systems, optical design, physics of photography, and basic astronomy. This project is particularly timely because it:

a)    coincides with the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) in 2009, designed to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the Universe through the day- and night-time sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery;

b)    leads to an operational network of aurora detectors during what is predicted by some models to be one of the most active solar cycles in modern times.


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 February 20, 2009