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Byadmin31 March 2020 Atmospheric
|Space & Atmospheric||Transforming the Arecibo Observatory into a Classroom|
This past January, the Arecibo Observatory became the classroom for students from the Miami University in Ohio. Dr. Qihou Zhou, professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the university, has held the “Undergraduate Hands-on Experience with Incoherent Scatter Radar” three-week winter term course at the observatory for the past six years.
“Students really love it,” Dr. Zhou shared. The course is designed to give engineering students “a hands-on experience with the technical aspects of radar operation” and to “learn the techniques needed to probe various ionospheric regions”.
Each year, the ~15 students attending the course learn the technical aspects of radar operation, including the design and construction of a radio telescope (radar), understanding the propagation and filtering of radar signals, learning the characteristics of the various ionospheric regions, and understanding the techniques used to probe these regions.
Because of the university’s proximity to Wright-Patterson Airforce Base, many of his past students have gone on to do radar work for the airforce. Some students have gone on to pursue space physics, including Dr. Zhou’s current graduate student. “The general knowledge gained from the course is certainly being used by the students for their careers!”.
Dr. Zhou described the experience for the students as “eye-opening”. In addition to working directly with the telescope, the students have the opportunity to explore the island of Puerto Rico. “The trip is not just about the technical learning; there is a cultural component as well,” Dr. Zhou expressed. “Some students have never traveled outside of the continental United States before, so they get to meet the people and experience the culture of Puerto Rico, which is different from Ohio.”
Dr. Zhou completed his PhD on incoherent scatter radar using AO and worked at the observatory as a staff scientist from 1991 - 2002. He continues to use the telescope for his current research, probing the ionosphere and near-Earth space environment to study space weather events, how the ionosphere may connect with different regions of the atmosphere, and meteor ablation in the upper atmosphere.
“The ionosphere is a big, natural lab!” Dr. Zhou explained. “It is a region of complex fluid, thermal, and electrodynamics”. His research focuses on understanding the physics and chemistry of the Earth’s atmosphere, which also has applications for effects on GPS signals.
“AO can get echos from regions in the atmosphere that no other radars are sensitive enough to get,” Dr. Zhou continued. “We are pushing the envelope of what is possible in ionospheric studies with the Arecibo Observatory.”
“AO can get echos from regions in the atmosphere that no other radars are sensitive enough to get... We are pushing the envelope of what is possible in ionospheric studies with the Arecibo Observatory.” - Dr. Zhou, Professor and Chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Ohio University from Miami
Article written by Dr. Tracy Becker - AO Collaborator / SwRI Research Scientist
Head of the Space & Atmospheric Dept.
Keywords: arecibo, observatory, Zhou, ohio, miami, Wright, Patterson, incoherent, scatter, radar, computer, engineering, airforce