The world’s network of magnetic observatories is a group of organizations configured to measure variations in the earth’s magnetic field. Generally, their work focuses on using the time and space variations in the geomagnetic field as a diagnostic tool for understanding:
Other roles performed by magnetic observatories include:
One of the most dynamic areas of interest is in using observatory data as a warning system to protect us from the sun. This interest reflects a number of occurrences in the last ten to fifteen years and the recognition of the sun’s ability to disrupt our increasingly high-technology, network-oriented global village.
Image courtesy of SOHO/ LASCO consortium. (http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap000309.html) SOHO is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA. Use of this image assumes
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Some of the most recent events, include:
There are also additional effects to consider. To find out more, click here.
As a key member of the global observatory network, the United States Geological Survey is uniquely positioned to lead in monitoring occurrences from both external and internal sources.
As Mr. Leroy Pankratz, Geophysicist and Observatory Operations Task Leader noted, “The USGS has one of the most extensive magnetic observatory systems on earth – stretching from Guam to Puerto Rico and as far north as Point Barrow, Alaska. We also maintain strong international collaboration with observatories at Vassouras, Brazil; the King George Islands in Antarctica and Alibag, India.”
Currently, the USGS is operating 14 observatories with a combination of fluxgate and proton precession magnetometers. Similar to GEM’s dIdD instrument in its measuring objectives, fluxgate magnetometers systems monitor variations in the magnetic field (i.e. changes in inclination, declination and horizontal, vertical and total intensity). Proton magnetometers serve to measure changes in the earth’s total field.
The USGS has been using single sensor and gradiometer GEM’s GSM-19s for several years for site studies. Developmental research has also been conducted by the USGS in conjunction with the Eotvos Lorand Geophysical Institute (ELGI) expanding on the concept utilized in the GEM’s dIdD system from a nearly one-meter diameter coil system to the present basketball sized system.
One of the GSM-19s will soon be running at Boulder, Colorado on a new Personal Computer Data Collection Platform (PCDCP). This new generation system will acquire geomagnetic data at sample rates of one hertz (1 sps) which replaces older DCP systems which were adapted from acquisition systems originally developed for stream flow measurement. The GSM-19 1-second data along with the fluxgate triaxial data will be Gaussian filtered to one-minute values for compatibility.
As noted by Mr. Pankratz, “The GSM-19 is effective for observatory applications because of its higher sampling rate (1 sample per second) and long-term monitoring stability”. A second installation is targeted this year for the USGS facility at Fairbanks, Alaska.
Mr. Pankratz indicated that there is increasing interest in magnetic observatory systems from a number of groups including the military — who have a keen interest in monitoring for purposes of sensitive military communication and navigation satellites as well as guidance systems in smart bombs and missiles
With this interest and knowing more about the potential of the sun’s fury to affect the delicate balance of our electrical, communication and human systems, we wish the USGS and the rest of the international magnetic observatory community continued success in their observatory efforts and research!
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