Category Archives: public service announcement


Happy Halloween

Comic: Peanuts; Artist: Charles M. Schulz


Aurora Season Returns

It’s that time of year again. The aurora forecast from UAF’s Geophysical Institute is up and running again. A moderate aurora is being forecast for Thursday, with it being visible directly overhead for Fairbanks, weather permitting.

In Canada, Dawson City, Fort Nelson and Fort McMurray will find the northern lights directly overhead, assuming cloud cover doesn’t obscure viewing.

The aurora will be low on the horizon for Marquette, Michigan and Sundsvall, Sweden.

An equal, but opposite aurora will be taking place in the Southern Hemisphere, as well.

The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska – Fairbanks puts out their geomagnetic forecast daily.

All images credit: UAF Geophysical Institute


Happy Fourth of July


A smokey sunset over the Pioneer Aviation Museum at Pioneer Park, Fairbanks


Arctic Research aboard the RV Polarstern

UTQIAGVIK, Alaska


Recent paths of Arctic ice floes; Source credit: Thomas Krumpen, Alfred Wegener Institute; Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Bremen

Researchers from around the globe have congregated on Alaska’s Arctic coast. They are planning a once in a generation expedition into the heart of one of the harshest environments on Earth: The Arctic.

It’s a 12 month, 17 nation, 300 scientist effort aboard the German ice breaker Polarstern, to document climate change in the Arctic. This coming autumn, the Polarstern will be positioned in a remote part of the Siberian Arctic, and then wait to be frozen in the ice. The research vessel will then flow with the floe; traveling with the ice as it moves across the Arctic Ocean.

Only twice has a transpolar drift happened successfully in history. Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen did it first in 1893. Ten years ago, a small sailing ship named the Tara also completed a transpolar drift without the sea ice crushing its hull.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the National Science Foundation and universities from Alaska-Fairbanks to Oregon State to Dartmouth are involved. Most northern nations are playing a role, as well. Russia, China and Sweden have all committed ships and aircraft for resupply support. Japan and Switzerland have developed new research equipment especially for the expedition.

Unlike Antarctica, there is no land at the north pole to build a permanent research station. The RV Polarstern is the next best thing. At any one time, 60 people will be living and working on the ice breaker. Resupply will take place every 60 days, weather permitting. Researchers will also be swapped out during resupply runs.


Graph credit: National Snow & Ice Data Center

Time is running short for a expedition like this one. The key is to find old sea ice, 4-5 years old, and get locked into that. Since 1980, 95% of Arctic sea ice that is 4+ years old, has been lost. In the graph above, the lightest yellow is 1 year old ice, the dark purple 5+ years old.

It should be an interesting study, although researchers on board the ice breaker from December to February will not see the sun. They should see polar bears, however.

#MOSAiC


Find Your Trail!

Today is National Trails Day. Get outside and experience a trail near you. Or better yet, grab some friends and volunteer to maintain a neighborhood trail.



The Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery; Meuse, France

Over 14,000 Americans are buried at this cemetery. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the costliest of WWI for the United States, with over 122,000 casualties. The cemetery contains the greatest number of American military dead in Europe.




Rover & Out


Mars Rover selfie; Photo credit: NASA’s Opportunity Rover

NASA’s Opportunity Mars Rover was designed to operate for just 90 days, but it ran on for 15 years. NASA officially declared Opportunity dead on Wednesday, after trying to wake up the little rover one final time.


Looking back on Mars’ Perseverance Valley; Photo credit: NASA’s Opportunity Rover

Opportunity has been silent since June 10 of last year, when a massive Martian dust storm engulfed Opportunity. The dust storm overtook the entire planet 10 days later, and that would have prevented the rover from using its solar panels to recharge its batteries.

The final message from Opportunity to NASA was “My battery is low and it’s getting dark.” Rest in peace, Opportunity.

NASA’s final wake up call to Opportunity was Billie Holiday’s “I’ll be seeing you”.

The Onion also had a final tribute to the golf cart sized explorer:

https://www.theonion.com/spacecraft-travel-from-all-over-galaxy-to-honor-end-of-1832602862