Principal Investigator: Marc Lessard

Rocket Observations of Pulsating Aurora (ROPA) launched from Poker Flat Research Range, 30 miles north of Fairbanks, AK, on February 12, 2007 at 114504 UT.  The event was typical of pulsating aurora events observed during the ROPA mission; patchy structure developed within widespread diffuse aurora after a small substorm break-up with the patches gradually beginning to pulsate over time.  The onset of pulsations occurred at around 11:22UT and was seen to vary from one patch to another with no apparent phase coherence.

ROPA launch; photo by Todd Valentic

The ROPA sounding rocket mission investigated various aspects of pulsating aurora, including the spatial distribution of patches during a pulsating event, characteristics of electrons and ions associated with the patches, current closure in a pulsating patches and the convection electric field and its possible relation to drifting patches. The main objectives of the mission included acquiring large-scale, topside images of a pulsating auroral region and investigating current closure associated with pulsating patches.

ROPA payload; photo by Hyojin Kim

Consistent with the broad objective to obtain information about pulsating aurora over an extended region, ROPA incorporated the use of two Fly Away Detector (FAD) subpayloads.  Each FAD included a science-grade magnetometer, a GPS receiver and a HEEPS (tophat) electron detector. The FADs incorporated small rocket motors to achieve separation velocities of ~15-20 m/s to provide simultaneous, multipoint observations with separations the order of 7-10 km (a significant fraction of typical patch sizes) at apogee.

Sarah working on imager; photo by Hyomin Kim

The ROPA main payload instrumentation included an imager filtered at 558 nm, another imager at 428 nm, a solid state electron detector, an electron HEEPS and an ion HEEPS. A subpayload, to be separated at minimal separation speed, consisted of a Cornell Wire Boom Yo-yo (COWBOY) system to acquire electric field measurements, a science-grade magnetometer, an ERPA, and GPS receiver.

ROPA updates

January launch window week 1
January launch window week 2
February launch window
ROPA launch

Related links article
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