New Brunswick

UNB physicists developing new weather monitoring instrument for Canadian Arctic

Work to develop and install a new space weather monitoring instrument in the Canadian Arctic has begun in the physics department at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.

Students will test new instrument in Resolute, Nunavut

P.T. Jayachandran, the chair of UNB's physics department, will spend three years working with students to develop and install a new space weather monitoring instrument in the Canadian Arctic. (Submitted by the University of New Brunswick)

Work to develop and install a new space weather monitoring instrument in the Canadian Arctic has begun in the physics department at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.

P.T. Jayachandran, the chair of UNB's physics department and principal investigator of the Canadian High Arctic Ionospheric Network, will oversee the three-year project after being selected by the Canadian Space Agency.

The project will improve the high-frequency radar known as a modular ionospheric sounder, which is deployed in harsh, remote environments like the Arctic or space.

"We transfer a signal up to space and because of the upper atmosphere, some of the signal is reflected and then we receive the reflected signal to study the upper atmosphere," Jayachandran said.

He said the system being used now was developed 20 years ago, but with advances in technology the system can be made smaller and power consumption can be reduced.

"It can reduce the cost as well, so we can deploy as many of them in the field and then send them into space if we can miniaturize the system to the level of a small cellphone," Jayachandran said.

Working during COVID-19

Amid COVID-19, students have been working to develop parts of the instrument, with some working at home on the design and only being allowed in the lab to build and test it.

The plan is to start testing in the Canadian Arctic in Resolute, Nunavut, by this time next year. For now, students will do their testing at a site in Blissville, N.B.

The new device will be part of 25 research sites located across Canada's Arctic, with one additional site in New Brunswick.

Jayachandran secured $300,000 in funding from a Canadian Space Agency program that supports the development of new scientific knowledge and space technologies, and allows students to acquire hands-on experience in space-like missions.

UNB undergraduate and graduate students will be involved in the research and development of the complex hardware and software required for the instrument and will participate in its installation.

With files from Sarah Morin

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