Cleaning up after HANEs

The newest issue of Scientific American has a good article on high atmosphere/low space nuclear explosions, and I found this intriguing explanation of HAARP. Whether it's the "true" one or not remains to be seen. This is only a small portion of the article.


Cleaning up after HANEs

[p. 106, June 2004, Scientific American]

If an adversary succeeded in detonating a nuclear device in space today, the U.S. would be at a loss to remediate its long-term effects. Down the road, though, cleanup techniques now being studied might do the job. One approach is to eliminate harmful radiation "more quickly than nature would," says Greg Ginet, a program manager at the Air Force Research Laboratory. Researchers at the facility, along with others funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), are investigating whether generating very low frequency radio waves in space might send the resulting radiation out of orbit more rapidly.

To understand how that procedure might work, Papadopoulos says, it helps to consdier an analogy. The earth's radiation belts in some ways resemble leaky buckets. Planetary magnetic forces pump energetic particles, or plasma, into the buckets. The rate at which they leak out depends on the amplitude of very low frequency (VLF, or between one hertz and 20 kilohertz) electromagnetic waves in the vicinity. A nuclear explosion, however, overfills the buckets, creating the artificial belts. The key to removing the plasma more rapidly from the magnetosphere is to increas the rate at which the radiation leaks out into the atmosphere, a process akin to widening the hole in the bottom of the buckets.

One way to do this, scientists say, would be to deploy a fleet of satellites designed to inject radiation belts artificially with VLF waves. To that end, DARPA and the U.S. Air Force are experimenting with the VLF transmitters at the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Project (HAARP) facility in Gakona, Alaska.

HAARP is devoted to the study of the ionosphere--or, more specifically, how the ionosphere can be manipulated by man-made means. The facility it is being expanded in part to provide the Pentagon with a way to test whether it can reduce the population of charged particles in the earth's radiation belts.

HAARP researchers are trying to determine how many satellites might be needed for a global mitigation system. They are buoyed in this effort by work conducted by Stanford University during the 1970s and 1980s. Stanford scientists injected VLF [p.107] waves into the Van Allen belts using a transmitter located near the South Pole, and those waves, they found, were sometimes significantly amplified by the trapped electrons in the belts. This amplification occurs by tapping the free energy associated with the trapped particles, Papadopoulos notes. The resonance-based process is analogous to the electron-stimulation effect that occurs in free-electron lasers where a "wiggler" magnet accelerates electrons so that they emit synchrotron radiation.

This amplification phenomenon lies at the heart of the HAARP effort. By boosting the VLF waves sent out by a fleet of satellites using natural means, the U.S. could employ far fewer emitting spacecraft, which could save billions of dollars. Defense Department researchers have shown that this amplyfying effect could cut the number of satellites needed from more than 100 to fewer than 10.

Scientists have demonstrated that the facility can generate extremely low frequency (ELF) and VLF waves and inject them efficiently into the radiation belts. It does this by periodically altering the flow of the auroral electrojet--a natural current that exists in the ionosphere some 100 kilometers overhead. The modulation, which produces a virtual ELF and VLF antenna in the sky, is accomplished by periodically turning on and off a high-frequency transmitter to change the temperature and thus the conductance of the plasma current. Researchers expect the completed facility to have sufficient power to determine whether the amplification and mitigation scheme can work. A space experiment to test these hypotheses may be conducted later this decade, according to Ginet, but any operational ground or satellite system is years beyond that...

Informant: Ken DeBusk


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Juni 2004

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