Volumetric Imaging of the Auroral Ionosphere: Initial Results from PFISR


Semeter, J., Butler, T., Heinselman, C., Nicolls, M., Kelly, J., & Hampton, D. (2009). Volumetric imaging of the auroral ionosphere: Initial results from PFISR. Journal of atmospheric and solar-terrestrial physics, 71(6-7), 738-743.


The Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar (PFISR) is the first dedicated ISR built with an electronically steerable array. This paper demonstrates the capabilities of PFISR for producing three-dimensional volumetric images of E-region ionization patterns produced by the aurora. The phase table was configured to cycle through 121 beam positions arranged in an 11×11 grid. A 13-baud Barker coded pulse was used, which provided ∼1.5-km range resolution out to a maximum range of 250 km. Backscattered power was converted to electron density by correcting for path loss and applying the Buneman approximation assuming equal electron and ion temperatures. The results were then interpolated onto a three-dimensional cartesian grid. Volumetric images are presented at 5-min, 1-min, and 14.6-s integration times (corresponding to 960, 192, and 48 pulses-per-position, respectively) to illustrate the tradeoff between spatio-temporal resolution and data quality. At 14.6 s cadence, variability in plasma density within the volume appears to be fully resolved in space and time, a result that is supported by both observational evidence and theoretical predictions of ionospheric response times. Some potential applications of this mode for studying magnetosphere–ionosphere interactions in the auroral zone are discussed.

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