Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The International Year of the Quiet Sun

The International Year of the Quiet Sun was a Sci-Fi Novel by Wilson Tucker published in 1971. The book is a ridiculous piece on time travel at the bureau of weights and measures. Strangely the name was taken from a real scientific project that began way back in 1964 which was a part of the International Geophysical Year IGY. (Cue the flashback music)

The International Year of the Quiet Sun is abbreviated IQSY. It was A joint U.S. and Soviet scientific study of cosmic rays. (many other nations played roles including Germany and New Zealand) The goal was to measure the cycle of solar activity. They way they did this was to beam radio waves from massive steel towers at the upper atmosphere and measure the wave as they received it. This is done with interferometers. I'll try to summarize the linear math. This is a way to study patterns of interference by their supposition. I.E. If A produces response X and input B produces response Y then input (A + B) produces response (X + Y). This was really important. Sputnik had only been launched in 1957, and quit orbits by humans began only in 1961. The strength of solar radiation varies and they wanted to measure it's intensity. More here.

The hardware description comes from the papers of the National research Council:
"In 1964 a 40 Mc/s transmitter was put into operation with 2.5 megawatt peak power. The antenna is also a radio telescope for radio and radar astronomical work. Profiles of electron density and temperature, ionic components, density fluctuations, and motions of the medium are obtained from the lowest ionosphere heights to several thousand kilometers... A 70-m diamter antenna zenith pointing paraboloid is also used at this site with a 440 Mc/s transmitter 150 kW average power."
IGY also operated a "Radio Noise Network" to provide continuous study of noise distribution from solar maximum to solar minimum. They had stations in two dozen countries and I barely understand what they were up to.

So Russia and the U.S. erected radio towers in Antarctica in October of 1964. The project was coordinated by SCAR, the Scientific Committee in Antarctic Research. They studies the ionosphere, aurora, glaciology, seismology, magnetic fields, meteorology, and oceanography. Of the ten volumes of reports they collected, 10 are to aurora and 9 to the ionosphere.