Monday, April 17, 2006

Hi There to the SID Monitor Community. Our Monitor in Cambridge MA (the Peoples Republic of Cambridge) has been up in an 8th grade classroom for a month now and we should be automatically uploading our data automatically soon.

I wrote up a "press release" for the school news letter and I think it will be going out to the local papers. I am including it here. It was reviewed by someone with newspaper editing experience and
Deborah Scherrer has looked at it. Feel free to copy it and adjust it to your local needs.

Best Regards
Nick Gross
Co-Director of Education for CISM
======================= Text Below this line=========

Peabody School Part of International
Space Environment Monitoring System

Students and parents entering the Cambridge’s Peabody Elementary School on Rindge Ave. from the rear may have notices an addition to the roof of the building. The addition is a Very Low Frequency (VLF) radio antenna that is connected to a specialized receiver located in Mr. Edward Rice’s 8th grade science classroom. This, along with the internet connected computer, make up a Sudden Ionosphere Disturbance (SID) Monitor. This device and others like it distributed around the country, and even around the world, are part of a science experiment to detect changes in the Earth’s upper atmosphere caused by activity on the sun.

The receivers were developed at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California and are partly supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) funds through the Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling (CISM) in the Astronomy Department at Boston University. A Peabody parent, Nicholas Gross, is the co-Director for Education in CISM and provided the initial contact between the research program and the Peabody School. The radio receiver is provided by the project and the antenna was built here at Peabody.

The receiver is pre-tuned to the frequency of a VLF radio station run by the government in North Dakota. Radio waves at these frequencies reflect off the upper layer of the atmosphere back to Earth. In this way they can travel very long distances, even around the world. The strength of the reflection can change depending on the state of this topmost layer of the atmosphere, called the ionosphere. The ionosphere can be changed by activity on the Sun, such as solar flares, which will increase the density of charged particles in the upper atmosphere. This will change the strength of the radio signals received by the antenna on the Peabody School Roof. The strength of the signal is measured by the receiver and collected on a computer every 5 seconds. The data is regularly uploaded to the Solar Center at Stanford and placed in their database. It can then be compared with data from other receivers to see local, regional and even worldwide differences.

Students and teachers at Peabody can use the monitor and the Solar Center database to enhance their regular curriculum on the Sun and its effects on the Earth. It can also be used as the basis for impressive Science Fair Projects that are out of the ordinary. Mr. Rice noted that often students do not feel connected to the star in our backyard, only 93 million miles away. The monitor provides a tangible connection that the students have never before experienced before. Mr. Jay Mahoney, the 7th grade technology teacher, will also take advantage of the monitor to illustrate the use technology in exploring the world around us.

Though the Sun is currently quiet, it is expected to become more active starting next year as it goes through its 11-year solar cycle. Predictions for this next cycle suggest that the activity will be very high, providing many opportunities to ask interesting questions that can be answered by the data. The effects of this increased activity will also be apparent by increasing problems with radio communications, satellite malfunctions, power fluctuations, and increased danger of radiation exposure to astronauts.

The Peabody School is currently one of five schools in the database and the first school outside of California. Approximately 35 monitors have been shipped to various schools around the country and the program plans to place 100 of the monitors. The United Nations has designated next year as the International Heliophysical Year (IHY) (The heliosphere is the region that is influenced by the Suns magnetic field and the solar wind, well beyond the orbit of the planets.) The plan is to place a monitor in every country in the United Nations. In this way, students at Peabody will not only be connected to the Sun, but will be connected to other students around the world who are also studying the sun. In this way, the international connection of science can be experienced by students at the middle and high school level.


Post a Comment

<< Home