The ionosphere ( // ) is the ionized part of Earth's upper atmosphere, from about 60 km (37 mi) to 1,000 km (620 mi) altitude, a region that includes the thermosphere and parts of the mesosphere and exosphere. The ionosphere is ionized by solar radiation. It plays an important role in atmospheric electricity and forms the inner edge of the magnetosphere. It has practical importance because, among other functions, it influences radio propagation to distant places on the Earth.
The thermosphere is the layer in the Earth's atmosphere directly above the mesosphere and below the exosphere. Within this layer of the atmosphere, ultraviolet radiation causes photoionization/photodissociation of molecules, creating ions in the ionosphere. Taking its name from the Greek θερμός meaning heat, the thermosphere begins at about 80 km (50 mi) above sea level. At these high altitudes, the residual atmospheric gases sort into strata according to molecular mass. Thermospheric temperatures increase with altitude due to absorption of highly energetic solar radiation. Temperatures are highly dependent on solar activity, and can rise to 1,700 °C (3,100 °F) or more. Radiation causes the atmosphere particles in this layer to become electrically charged, enabling radio waves to be refracted and thus be received beyond the horizon. In the exosphere, beginning at about 600 km (375 mi) above sea level, the atmosphere turns into space, although by the criteria set for the definition of the Kármán line, the thermosphere itself is part of space.
The mesosphere is the layer of the Earth's atmosphere that is directly above the stratosphere and directly below the thermosphere. In the mesosphere, temperature decreases as the altitude increases. This characteristic is used to define its limits: it begins at the top of the stratosphere, and ends at the mesopause, which is the coldest part of Earth's atmosphere with temperatures below −143 °C. The exact upper and lower boundaries of the mesosphere vary with latitude and with season, but the lower boundary is usually located at heights from 50 to 65 kilometres above the Earth's surface and the upper boundary (mesopause) is usually around 85 to 100 kilometres.
The exosphere is a thin, atmosphere-like volume surrounding a planet or natural satellite where molecules are gravitationally bound to that body, but where the density is too low for them to behave as a gas by colliding with each other. In the case of bodies with substantial atmospheres, such as Earth's atmosphere, the exosphere is the uppermost layer, where the atmosphere thins out and merges with interplanetary space. It is located directly above the thermosphere. Very little is known about it due to lack of research. Mercury, the Moon and the Galilean satellites of Jupiter have surface boundary exospheres, which are exospheres without a denser atmosphere underneath.
As early as 1839, the German mathematician and physicist Carl Friedrich Gauss postulated that an electrically conducting region of the atmosphere could account for observed variations of Earth's magnetic field. Sixty years later, Guglielmo Marconi received the first trans-Atlantic radio signal on December 12, 1901, in St. John's, Newfoundland (now in Canada) using a 152.4 m (500 ft) kite-supported antenna for reception. The transmitting station in Poldhu, Cornwall, used a spark-gap transmitter to produce a signal with a frequency of approximately 500 kHz and a power of 100 times more than any radio signal previously produced. The message received was three dits, the Morse code for the letter S. To reach Newfoundland the signal would have to bounce off the ionosphere twice. Dr. Jack Belrose has contested this, however, based on theoretical and experimental work. However, Marconi did achieve transatlantic wireless communications in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, one year later.
Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss (; German: Gauß[ˈkaɐ̯l ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈɡaʊs]; Latin: Carolus Fridericus Gauss; was a German mathematician and physicist who made significant contributions to many fields in mathematics and sciences. Sometimes referred to as the Princeps mathematicorum and "the greatest mathematician since antiquity", Gauss had an exceptional influence in many fields of mathematics and science, and is ranked among history's most influential mathematicians.
Guglielmo Marconi, 1st Marquis of Marconi was an Italian inventor and electrical engineer, known for his pioneering work on long-distance radio transmission, development of Marconi's law, and a radio telegraph system. He is credited as the inventor of radio, and he shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Ferdinand Braun "in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy".
Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, many near the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.
In 1902, Oliver Heaviside proposed the existence of the Kennelly–Heaviside layer of the ionosphere which bears his name. Heaviside's proposal included means by which radio signals are transmitted around the Earth's curvature. Heaviside's proposal, coupled with Planck's law of black-body radiation, may have hampered the growth of radio astronomy for the detection of electromagnetic waves from celestial bodies until 1932 (and the development of high-frequency radio transceivers). Also in 1902, Arthur Edwin Kennelly discovered some of the ionosphere's radio-electrical properties.
Oliver Heaviside FRS was an English self-taught electrical engineer, mathematician, and physicist who adapted complex numbers to the study of electrical circuits, invented mathematical techniques for the solution of differential equations, reformulated Maxwell's field equations in terms of electric and magnetic forces and energy flux, and independently co-formulated vector analysis. Although at odds with the scientific establishment for most of his life, Heaviside changed the face of telecommunications, mathematics, and science for years to come.
The Kennelly–Heaviside layer, named after Arthur E. Kennelly and Oliver Heaviside, also known as the E region or simply the Heaviside layer, is a layer of ionised gas occurring between roughly 90–150 km (56–93 mi) above the ground — one of several layers in the Earth's ionosphere. It reflects medium-frequency radio waves. Because of this reflective layer, radio waves radiated into the sky can return to Earth beyond the horizon. This "skywave" or "skip" propagation technique has been used since the 1920s for radio communication at long distances, up to transcontinental distances.
In 1912, the U.S. Congress imposed the Radio Act of 1912 on amateur radio operators, limiting their operations to frequencies above 1.5 MHz (wavelength 200 meters or smaller). The government thought those frequencies were useless. This led to the discovery of HF radio propagation via the ionosphere in 1923.
The Radio Act of 1912 is a United States federal law that mandated that all radio stations in the United States be licensed by the federal government, as well as mandating that seagoing vessels continuously monitor distress frequencies. The original bill was initiated during the investigations following the sinking of the Titanic The act set a precedent for international and federal legislation of wireless communications. It was replaced by the Radio Act of 1927.
In 1926, Scottish physicist Robert Watson-Watt introduced the term ionosphere in a letter published only in 1969 in Nature :
Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt, KCB, FRS, FRAeS was a Scottish pioneer of radio direction finding and radar technology.
Nature is a British multidisciplinary scientific journal, first published on 4 November 1869. It is one of the most recognizable scientific journals in the world, and was ranked the world's most cited scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports and is ascribed an impact factor of 40.137, making it one of the world's top academic journals. It is one of the few remaining academic journals that publishes original research across a wide range of scientific fields.
We have in quite recent years seen the universal adoption of the term 'stratosphere'..and..the companion term 'troposphere'... The term 'ionosphere', for the region in which the main characteristic is large scale ionisation with considerable mean free paths, appears appropriate as an addition to this series.
In the early 1930s, test transmissions of Radio Luxembourg inadvertently provided evidence of the first radio modification of the ionosphere; HAARP ran a series of experiments in 2017 using the eponymous Luxembourg Effect.
Radio Luxembourg was a multilingual commercial broadcaster in Luxembourg. It is known in most non-English languages as RTL.
In radiophysics, the Luxemburg–Gorky effect is a phenomenon of cross modulation between two radio waves, one of which is strong, passing through the same part of a medium, especially a conductive region of atmosphere or a plasma. Current theory seems to be that the conductivity of the ionosphere is affected by the presence of strong radio waves. The strength of a radio wave returning from the ionosphere to a distant point is dependent on this conductivity level. Therefore, if station “A” is radiating a strong amplitude modulated radio signal all around, some of it will modulate the conductivity of the ionosphere above the station. Then if station “B” is also sending an amplitude modulated signal from another location, the part of station “B’s” signal that passes through the ionosphere disturbed by station “A” to a receiver in line with both stations may have its strength modulated by the station “A” signal, even though the two are widely apart in frequency. In other words, the ionosphere passes the station “B” signal with a strength that varies in step with the modulation of station “A.” This re-modulation level of the station “B” signal is usually only a few percent, but is enough to make both stations audible. The interference goes away as the receiver is tuned slightly away from the frequency of “B.”
Edward V. Appleton was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1947 for his confirmation in 1927 of the existence of the ionosphere. Lloyd Berkner first measured the height and density of the ionosphere. This permitted the first complete theory of short-wave radio propagation. Maurice V. Wilkes and J. A. Ratcliffe researched the topic of radio propagation of very long radio waves in the ionosphere. Vitaly Ginzburg has developed a theory of electromagnetic wave propagation in plasmas such as the ionosphere.
In 1962, the Canadian satellite Alouette 1 was launched to study the ionosphere. Following its success were Alouette 2 in 1965 and the two ISIS satellites in 1969 and 1971, further AEROS-A and -B in 1972 and 1975, all for measuring the ionosphere.
On July 26, 1963 the first operational geosynchronous satellite Syncom 2 was launched.The board radio beacons on this satellite (and its successors) enabled – for the first time – the measurement of total electron content (TEC) variation along a radio beam from geostationary orbit to an earth receiver. (The rotation of the plane of polarization directly measures TEC along the path.) Australian geophysicist Elizabeth Essex-Cohen from 1969 onwards was using this technique to monitor the atmosphere above Australia and Antarctica.
The ionosphere is a shell of electrons and electrically charged atoms and molecules that surrounds the Earth, stretching from a height of about 50 km (31 mi) to more than 1,000 km (620 mi). It exists primarily due to ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.
The lowest part of the Earth's atmosphere, the troposphere extends from the surface to about 10 km (6.2 mi). Above that is the stratosphere, followed by the mesosphere. In the stratosphere incoming solar radiation creates the ozone layer. At heights of above 80 km (50 mi), in the thermosphere, the atmosphere is so thin that free electrons can exist for short periods of time before they are captured by a nearby positive ion. The number of these free electrons is sufficient to affect radio propagation. This portion of the atmosphere is partially ionized and contains a plasma which is referred to as the ionosphere.
Ultraviolet (UV), X-ray and shorter wavelengths of solar radiation are ionizing, since photons at these frequencies contain sufficient energy to dislodge an electron from a neutral gas atom or molecule upon absorption. In this process the light electron obtains a high velocity so that the temperature of the created electronic gas is much higher (of the order of thousand K) than the one of ions and neutrals. The reverse process to ionization is recombination, in which a free electron is "captured" by a positive ion. Recombination occurs spontaneously, and causes the emission of a photon carrying away the energy produced upon recombination. As gas density increases at lower altitudes, the recombination process prevails, since the gas molecules and ions are closer together. The balance between these two processes determines the quantity of ionization present.
Ionization depends primarily on the Sun and its activity. The amount of ionization in the ionosphere varies greatly with the amount of radiation received from the Sun. Thus there is a diurnal (time of day) effect and a seasonal effect. The local winter hemisphere is tipped away from the Sun, thus there is less received solar radiation. The activity of the Sun is associated with the sunspot cycle, with more radiation occurring with more sunspots. Radiation received also varies with geographical location (polar, auroral zones, mid-latitudes, and equatorial regions). There are also mechanisms that disturb the ionosphere and decrease the ionization. There are disturbances such as solar flares and the associated release of charged particles into the solar wind which reaches the Earth and interacts with its geomagnetic field.
At night the F layer is the only layer of significant ionization present, while the ionization in the E and D layers is extremely low. During the day, the D and E layers become much more heavily ionized, as does the F layer, which develops an additional, weaker region of ionisation known as the F1 layer. The F2 layer persists by day and night and is the main region responsible for the refraction and reflection of radio waves.
The D layer is the innermost layer, 60 km (37 mi) to 90 km (56 mi) above the surface of the Earth. Ionization here is due to Lyman series-alpha hydrogen radiation at a wavelength of 121.6 nanometre (nm) ionizing nitric oxide (NO). In addition, high solar activity can generate hard X-rays (wavelength < 1 nm) that ionize N2 and O2. Recombination rates are high in the D layer, so there are many more neutral air molecules than ions.
Medium frequency (MF) and lower high frequency (HF) radio waves are significantly attenuated within the D layer, as the passing radio waves cause electrons to move, which then collide with the neutral molecules, giving up their energy. Lower frequencies experience greater absorption because they move the electrons farther, leading to greater chance of collisions. This is the main reason for absorption of HF radio waves, particularly at 10 MHz and below, with progressively less absorption at higher frequencies. This effect peaks around noon and is reduced at night due to a decrease in the D layer's thickness; only a small part remains due to cosmic rays. A common example of the D layer in action is the disappearance of distant AM broadcast band stations in the daytime.
During solar proton events, ionization can reach unusually high levels in the D-region over high and polar latitudes. Such very rare events are known as Polar Cap Absorption (or PCA) events, because the increased ionization significantly enhances the absorption of radio signals passing through the region.In fact, absorption levels can increase by many tens of dB during intense events, which is enough to absorb most (if not all) transpolar HF radio signal transmissions. Such events typically last less than 24 to 48 hours.
The E layer is the middle layer, 90 km (56 mi) to 150 km (93 mi) above the surface of the Earth. Ionization is due to soft X-ray (1–10 nm) and far ultraviolet (UV) solar radiation ionization of molecular oxygen (O2). Normally, at oblique incidence, this layer can only reflect radio waves having frequencies lower than about 10 MHz and may contribute a bit to absorption on frequencies above. However, during intense sporadic E events, the Es layer can reflect frequencies up to 50 MHz and higher. The vertical structure of the E layer is primarily determined by the competing effects of ionization and recombination. At night the E layer weakens because the primary source of ionization is no longer present. After sunset an increase in the height of the E layer maximum increases the range to which radio waves can travel by reflection from the layer.
This region is also known as the Kennelly–Heaviside layer or simply the Heaviside layer. Its existence was predicted in 1902 independently and almost simultaneously by the American electrical engineer Arthur Edwin Kennelly (1861–1939) and the British physicist Oliver Heaviside (1850–1925). However, it was not until 1924 that its existence was detected by Edward V. Appleton and Miles Barnett.
The Es layer (sporadic E-layer) is characterized by small, thin clouds of intense ionization, which can support reflection of radio waves, rarely up to 225 MHz. Sporadic-E events may last for just a few minutes to several hours. Sporadic E propagation makes VHF-operating radio amateurs very excited, as propagation paths that are generally unreachable can open up. There are multiple causes of sporadic-E that are still being pursued by researchers. This propagation occurs most frequently during the summer months when high signal levels may be reached. The skip distances are generally around 1,640 km (1,020 mi). Distances for one hop propagation can be anywhere from 900 km (560 mi) to 2,500 km (1,600 mi). Double-hop reception over 3,500 km (2,200 mi) is possible.
The F layer or region, also known as the Appleton–Barnett layer, extends from about 150 km (93 mi) to more than 500 km (310 mi) above the surface of Earth. It is the layer with the highest electron density, which implies signals penetrating this layer will escape into space. Electron production is dominated by extreme ultraviolet (UV, 10–100 nm) radiation ionizing atomic oxygen. The F layer consists of one layer (F2) at night, but during the day, a secondary peak (labelled F1) often forms in the electron density profile. Because the F2 layer remains by day and night, it is responsible for most skywave propagation of radio waves and long distances high frequency (HF, or shortwave) radio communications.
Above the F layer, the number of oxygen ions decreases and lighter ions such as hydrogen and helium become dominant. This region above the F layer peak and below the plasmasphere is called the topside ionosphere.
From 1972 to 1975 NASA launched the AEROS and AEROS B satellites to study the F region.
An ionospheric model is a mathematical description of the ionosphere as a function of location, altitude, day of year, phase of the sunspot cycle and geomagnetic activity. Geophysically, the state of the ionospheric plasma may be described by four parameters: electron density, electron and ion temperature and, since several species of ions are present, ionic composition. Radio propagation depends uniquely on electron density.
Models are usually expressed as computer programs. The model may be based on basic physics of the interactions of the ions and electrons with the neutral atmosphere and sunlight, or it may be a statistical description based on a large number of observations or a combination of physics and observations. One of the most widely used models is the International Reference Ionosphere (IRI),which is based on data and specifies the four parameters just mentioned. The IRI is an international project sponsored by the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) and the International Union of Radio Science (URSI). The major data sources are the worldwide network of ionosondes, the powerful incoherent scatter radars (Jicamarca, Arecibo, Millstone Hill, Malvern, St Santin), the ISIS and Alouette topside sounders, and in situ instruments on several satellites and rockets. IRI is updated yearly. IRI is more accurate in describing the variation of the electron density from bottom of the ionosphere to the altitude of maximum density than in describing the total electron content (TEC). Since 1999 this model is "International Standard" for the terrestrial ionosphere (standard TS16457).
Ionograms allow deducing, via computation, the true shape of the different layers. Nonhomogeneous structure of the electron/ion-plasma produces rough echo traces, seen predominantly at night and at higher latitudes, and during disturbed conditions.
At mid-latitudes, the F2 layer daytime ion production is higher in the summer, as expected, since the Sun shines more directly on the Earth. However, there are seasonal changes in the molecular-to-atomic ratio of the neutral atmosphere that cause the summer ion loss rate to be even higher. The result is that the increase in the summertime loss overwhelms the increase in summertime production, and total F2 ionization is actually lower in the local summer months. This effect is known as the winter anomaly. The anomaly is always present in the northern hemisphere, but is usually absent in the southern hemisphere during periods of low solar activity.
Within approximately ± 20 degrees of the magnetic equator, is the equatorial anomaly. It is the occurrence of a trough in the ionization in the F2 layer at the equator and crests at about 17 degrees in magnetic latitude. The Earth's magnetic field lines are horizontal at the magnetic equator. Solar heating and tidal oscillations in the lower ionosphere move plasma up and across the magnetic field lines. This sets up a sheet of electric current in the E region which, with the horizontal magnetic field, forces ionization up into the F layer, concentrating at ± 20 degrees from the magnetic equator. This phenomenon is known as the equatorial fountain.
The worldwide solar-driven wind results in the so-called Sq (solar quiet) current system in the E region of the Earth's ionosphere (ionospheric dynamo region) (100–130 km (62–81 mi) altitude). Resulting from this current is an electrostatic field directed west–east (dawn–dusk) in the equatorial day side of the ionosphere. At the magnetic dip equator, where the geomagnetic field is horizontal, this electric field results in an enhanced eastward current flow within ± 3 degrees of the magnetic equator, known as the equatorial electrojet.
When the Sun is active, strong solar flares can occur that hit the sunlit side of Earth with hard X-rays. The X-rays penetrate to the D-region, releasing electrons that rapidly increase absorption, causing a high frequency (3–30 MHz) radio blackout. During this time very low frequency (3–30 kHz) signals will be reflected by the D layer instead of the E layer, where the increased atmospheric density will usually increase the absorption of the wave and thus dampen it. As soon as the X-rays end, the sudden ionospheric disturbance (SID) or radio black-out ends as the electrons in the D-region recombine rapidly and signal strengths return to normal.
Associated with solar flares is a release of high-energy protons. These particles can hit the Earth within 15 minutes to 2 hours of the solar flare. The protons spiral around and down the magnetic field lines of the Earth and penetrate into the atmosphere near the magnetic poles increasing the ionization of the D and E layers. PCA's typically last anywhere from about an hour to several days, with an average of around 24 to 36 hours. Coronal mass ejections can also release energetic protons that enhance D-region absorption in the polar regions.
A geomagnetic storm is a temporary intense disturbance of the Earth's magnetosphere.
Lightning can cause ionospheric perturbations in the D-region in one of two ways. The first is through VLF (very low frequency) radio waves launched into the magnetosphere. These so-called "whistler" mode waves can interact with radiation belt particles and cause them to precipitate onto the ionosphere, adding ionization to the D-region. These disturbances are called "lightning-induced electron precipitation" (LEP) events.
Additional ionization can also occur from direct heating/ionization as a result of huge motions of charge in lightning strikes. These events are called early/fast.
In 1925, C. T. R. Wilson proposed a mechanism by which electrical discharge from lightning storms could propagate upwards from clouds to the ionosphere. Around the same time, Robert Watson-Watt, working at the Radio Research Station in Slough, UK, suggested that the ionospheric sporadic E layer (Es) appeared to be enhanced as a result of lightning but that more work was needed. In 2005, C. Davis and C. Johnson, working at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, UK, demonstrated that the Es layer was indeed enhanced as a result of lightning activity. Their subsequent research has focused on the mechanism by which this process can occur.
Due to the ability of ionized atmospheric gases to refract high frequency (HF, or shortwave) radio waves, the ionosphere can reflect radio waves directed into the sky back toward the Earth. Radio waves directed at an angle into the sky can return to Earth beyond the horizon. This technique, called "skip" or "skywave" propagation, has been used since the 1920s to communicate at international or intercontinental distances. The returning radio waves can reflect off the Earth's surface into the sky again, allowing greater ranges to be achieved with multiple hops. This communication method is variable and unreliable, with reception over a given path depending on time of day or night, the seasons, weather, and the 11-year sunspot cycle. During the first half of the 20th century it was widely used for transoceanic telephone and telegraph service, and business and diplomatic communication. Due to its relative unreliability, shortwave radio communication has been mostly abandoned by the telecommunications industry, though it remains important for high-latitude communication where satellite-based radio communication is not possible. Some broadcasting stations and automated services still use shortwave radio frequencies, as do radio amateur hobbyists for private recreational contacts.
When a radio wave reaches the ionosphere, the electric field in the wave forces the electrons in the ionosphere into oscillation at the same frequency as the radio wave. Some of the radio-frequency energy is given up to this resonant oscillation. The oscillating electrons will then either be lost to recombination or will re-radiate the original wave energy. Total refraction can occur when the collision frequency of the ionosphere is less than the radio frequency, and if the electron density in the ionosphere is great enough.
A qualitative understanding of how an electromagnetic wave propagates through the ionosphere can be obtained by recalling geometric optics. Since the ionosphere is a plasma, it can be shown that the refractive index is less than unity. Hence, the electromagnetic "ray" is bent away from the normal rather than toward the normal as would be indicated when the refractive index is greater than unity. It can also be shown that the refractive index of a plasma, and hence the ionosphere, is frequency-dependent, see Dispersion (optics).
The critical frequency is the limiting frequency at or below which a radio wave is reflected by an ionospheric layer at vertical incidence. If the transmitted frequency is higher than the plasma frequency of the ionosphere, then the electrons cannot respond fast enough, and they are not able to re-radiate the signal. It is calculated as shown below:
where N = electron density per m3 and fcritical is in Hz.
The Maximum Usable Frequency (MUF) is defined as the upper frequency limit that can be used for transmission between two points at a specified time.
where = angle of attack, the angle of the wave relative to the horizon, and sin is the sine function.
The cutoff frequency is the frequency below which a radio wave fails to penetrate a layer of the ionosphere at the incidence angle required for transmission between two specified points by refraction from the layer.
The open system electrodynamic tether, which uses the ionosphere, is being researched. The space tether uses plasma contactors and the ionosphere as parts of a circuit to extract energy from the Earth's magnetic field by electromagnetic induction.
Scientists explore the structure of the ionosphere by a wide variety of methods. They include:
A variety of experiments, such as HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program), involve high power radio transmitters to modify the properties of the ionosphere. These investigations focus on studying the properties and behavior of ionospheric plasma, with particular emphasis on being able to understand and use it to enhance communications and surveillance systems for both civilian and military purposes. HAARP was started in 1993 as a proposed twenty-year experiment, and is currently active near Gakona, Alaska.
The SuperDARN radar project researches the high- and mid-latitudes using coherent backscatter of radio waves in the 8 to 20 MHz range. Coherent backscatter is similar to Bragg scattering in crystals and involves the constructive interference of scattering from ionospheric density irregularities. The project involves more than 11 different countries and multiple radars in both hemispheres.
Scientists are also examining the ionosphere by the changes to radio waves, from satellites and stars, passing through it. The Arecibo radio telescope located in Puerto Rico, was originally intended to study Earth's ionosphere.
Ionograms show the virtual heights and critical frequencies of the ionospheric layers and which are measured by an ionosonde. An ionosonde sweeps a range of frequencies, usually from 0.1 to 30 MHz, transmitting at vertical incidence to the ionosphere. As the frequency increases, each wave is refracted less by the ionization in the layer, and so each penetrates further before it is reflected. Eventually, a frequency is reached that enables the wave to penetrate the layer without being reflected. For ordinary mode waves, this occurs when the transmitted frequency just exceeds the peak plasma, or critical, frequency of the layer. Tracings of the reflected high frequency radio pulses are known as ionograms. Reduction rules are given in: "URSI Handbook of Ionogram Interpretation and Reduction", edited by William Roy Piggott and Karl Rawer, Elsevier Amsterdam, 1961 (translations into Chinese, French, Japanese and Russian are available).
Incoherent scatter radars operate above the critical frequencies. Therefore, the technique allows probing the ionosphere, unlike ionosondes, also above the electron density peaks. The thermal fluctuations of the electron density scattering the transmitted signals lack coherence, which gave the technique its name. Their power spectrum contains information not only on the density, but also on the ion and electron temperatures, ion masses and drift velocities.
Radio occultation is a remote sensing technique where a GNSS signal tangentially scrapes the Earth, passing through the atmosphere, and is received by a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite. As the signal passes through the atmosphere, it is refracted, curved and delayed. An LEO satellite samples the total electron content and bending angle of many such signal paths as it watches the GNSS satellite rise or set behind the Earth. Using an Inverse Abel's transform, a radial profile of refractivity at that tangent point on earth can be reconstructed.
Major GNSS radio occultation missions include the GRACE, CHAMP, and COSMIC.
In empirical models of the ionosphere such as Nequick, the following indices are used as indirect indicators of the state of the ionosphere.
F10.7 and R12 are two indices commonly used in ionospheric modelling. Both are valuable for their long historical records covering multiple solar cycles. F10.7 is a measurement of the intensity of solar radio emissions at a frequency of 2800 MHz made using a ground radio telescope. R12 is a 12 months average of daily sunspot numbers. Both indices have been shown to be correlated to each other.
However, both indices are only indirect indicators of solar ultraviolet and X-ray emissions, which are primarily responsible for causing ionization in the Earth's upper atmosphere. We now have data from the GOES spacecraft that measures the background X-ray flux from the Sun, a parameter more closely related to the ionization levels in the ionosphere.
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There are a number of models used to understand the effects of the ionosphere global navigation satellite systems. The Klobuchar model is currently used to compensate for ionospheric effects in GPS. This model was developed at the US Air Force Geophysical Research Laboratory circa 1974 by John (Jack) Klobuchar.The Galileo navigation system uses the NeQuick model.
Objects in the Solar System that have appreciable atmospheres (i.e., all of the major planets and many of the larger natural satellites) generally produce ionospheres.[ citation needed ] Planets known to have ionospheres include Venus, Uranus, Mars and Jupiter.
The atmosphere of Titan includes an ionosphere that ranges from about 1,100 km (680 mi) to 1,300 km (810 mi) in altitude and contains carbon compounds.
In telecommunication, the term critical frequency has the following meanings:
The F region of the ionosphere is home to the F layer of ionization, also called the Appleton–Barnett layer, after the English physicist Edward Appleton and New Zealander Miles Barnett. As with other ionospheric sectors, 'layer' implies a concentration of plasma (physics), while 'region' is the volume that contains the said layer. The F region contains ionized gases at a height of around 150–800 km above sea level, placing it in the Earth’s thermosphere, a hot region in the upper atmosphere, and also in the heterosphere, where chemical composition varies with height. Generally speaking, the F region has the highest concentration of free electrons and ions anywhere in the atmosphere. It may be thought of as comprising two layers, the F1-and F2-layers.
An aurora, sometimes referred to as polar lights, northern lights, southern lights, is a natural light display in the Earth's sky, predominantly seen in the high-latitude regions.
The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) was initiated as an ionospheric research program jointly funded by the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It was designed and built by BAE Advanced Technologies (BAEAT). Its original purpose was to analyze the ionosphere and investigate the potential for developing ionospheric enhancement technology for radio communications and surveillance. As a university-owned facility, HAARP is a high-power, high-frequency transmitter used for study of the ionosphere.
Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum longer than infrared light. Radio waves have frequencies as high as 300 gigahertz (GHz) to as low as 30 hertz (Hz). At 300 GHz, the corresponding wavelength is 1 mm, and at 30 Hz is 10,000 km. Like all other electromagnetic waves, radio waves travel at the speed of light. They are generated by electric charges undergoing acceleration, such as time varying electric currents. Naturally occurring radio waves are emitted by lightning and astronomical objects.
Space weather is a branch of space physics and aeronomy, or heliophysics, concerned with the time varying conditions within the Solar System, including the solar wind, emphasizing the space surrounding the Earth, including conditions in the magnetosphere, ionosphere, thermosphere, and exosphere. Space weather is distinct from but conceptually related to the terrestrial weather of the atmosphere of Earth. The term space weather was first used in the 1950s and came into common usage in the 1990s..
A geomagnetic storm is a temporary disturbance of the Earth's magnetosphere caused by a solar wind shock wave and/or cloud of magnetic field that interacts with the Earth's magnetic field. The increase in the solar wind pressure initially compresses the magnetosphere. The solar wind's magnetic field interacts with the Earth's magnetic field and transfers an increased energy into the magnetosphere. Both interactions cause an increase in plasma movement through the magnetosphere and an increase in electric current in the magnetosphere and ionosphere.
A whistler is a very low frequency or VLF electromagnetic (radio) wave generated by lightning. Frequencies of terrestrial whistlers are 1 kHz to 30 kHz, with a maximum amplitude usually at 3 kHz to 5 kHz. Although they are electromagnetic waves, they occur at audio frequencies, and can be converted to audio using a suitable receiver. They are produced by lightning strikes where the impulse travels along the Earth's magnetic field lines from one hemisphere to the other. They undergo dispersion of several kHz due to the slower velocity of the lower frequencies through the plasma environments of the ionosphere and magnetosphere. Thus they are perceived as a descending tone which can last for a few seconds. The study of whistlers categorizes them into Pure Note, Diffuse, 2-Hop, and Echo Train types.
TV DX and FM DX is the active search for distant radio or television stations received during unusual atmospheric conditions. The term DX is an old telegraphic term meaning "long distance."
Radio propagation is the behavior of radio waves as they travel, or are propagated, from one point to another, or into various parts of the atmosphere. As a form of electromagnetic radiation, like light waves, radio waves are affected by the phenomena of reflection, refraction, diffraction, absorption, polarization, and scattering. Understanding the effects of varying conditions on radio propagation has many practical applications, from choosing frequencies for international shortwave broadcasters, to designing reliable mobile telephone systems, to radio navigation, to operation of radar systems.
In radio communication, skywave or skip refers to the propagation of radio waves reflected or refracted back toward Earth from the ionosphere, an electrically charged layer of the upper atmosphere. Since it is not limited by the curvature of the Earth, skywave propagation can be used to communicate beyond the horizon, at intercontinental distances. It is mostly used in the shortwave frequency bands.
In physics, absorption of electromagnetic radiation is the way in which the energy of a photon is taken up by matter, typically the electrons of an atom. Thus, the electromagnetic energy is transformed into internal energy of the absorber, for example thermal energy. The reduction in intensity of a light wave propagating through a medium by absorption of a part of its photons is often called attenuation. Usually, the absorption of waves does not depend on their intensity, although in certain conditions, the medium changes its transparency dependently on the intensity of waves going through, and saturable absorption occurs.
Plasma stealth is a proposed process to use ionized gas (plasma) to reduce the radar cross-section (RCS) of an aircraft. Interactions between electromagnetic radiation and ionized gas have been extensively studied for many purposes, including concealing aircraft from radar as stealth technology. Various methods might plausibly be able to form a layer or cloud of plasma around a vehicle to deflect or absorb radar, from simpler electrostatic or radio frequency discharges to more complex laser discharges. It is theoretically possible to reduce RCS in this way, but it may be very difficult to do so in practice. Some Russian systems e.g. the 3M22 Zircon (SS-N-33) missile have been reported to make use of plasma stealth.
A sudden ionospheric disturbance (SID) is an abnormally high ionization/plasma density in the D region of the ionosphere caused by a solar flare and/or solar particle event (SPE). The SID results in a sudden increase in radio-wave absorption that is most severe in the upper medium frequency (MF) and lower high frequency (HF) ranges, and as a result often interrupts or interferes with telecommunications systems.
Ionospheric absorption is the scientific name for absorption occurring as a result of the interaction between various types of electromagnetic waves and the free electrons in the ionosphere, which can interfere with radio transmissions.
The Earth–ionosphere waveguide refers to the phenomenon in which certain radio waves can propagate in the space between the ground and the boundary of the ionosphere. Because the ionosphere contains charged particles, it can behave as a conductor. The earth operates as a ground plane, and the resulting cavity behaves as a large waveguide.
This is an index to articles about terms used in discussion of radio propagation.
In the height region between about 85 and 200 km altitude on Earth, the ionospheric plasma is electrically conducting. Atmospheric tidal winds due to differential solar heating or due to gravitational lunar forcing move the ionospheric plasma against the geomagnetic field lines thus generating electric fields and currents just like a dynamo coil moving against magnetic field lines. That region is therefore called ionospheric dynamo region. The magnetic manifestation of these electric currents on the ground can be observed during magnetospheric quiet conditions. They are called Sq-variations and L-variations (L=lunar) of the geomagnetic field. Additional electric currents are generated by the varying magnetospheric electric convection field. These are the DP1-currents and the polar DP2-currents. Finally, a polar-ring current has been derived from the observations which depends on the polarity of the interplanetary magnetic field. These geomagnetic variations belong to the so-called external part of the geomagnetic field. Their amplitudes reach at most about 1% of the main internal geomagnetic field Bo.
Solar phenomena are the natural phenomena occurring within the magnetically heated outer atmospheres in the Sun. These phenomena take many forms, including solar wind, radio wave flux, energy bursts such as solar flares, coronal mass ejection or solar eruptions, coronal heating and sunspots.
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