Noora Partamies describes experiences from a substorm school in Iceland, part of IPY project 63; ICESTAR/IHY.
Once again the space physics group of the University of Bergen put together a substorm school for Master and PhD students in space physics. This time the course was organised together with Finnish Meteorological Institute. Six students and two lecturers from Norway met three students and two lecturers from Finland for ten days in late November to learn, observe and discuss substorm related processes in the near Earth space.
The course location was a small Fosshótel Nesbúð in Nesjavellir about 80 km east of Reykjavik, a few kilometres off the shore of the Iceland's largest lake þingvallavatn. The hotel surroundings provided interesting terrain for walking and a number of day hike options, as well as a dark enough night sky for auroral observations. The lectures in the mornings covered the basic knowledge of the Sun, solar wind, magnetosphere, ionosphere and aurora. For each topic the basic terminology and phenomenology was introduced but also some open questions and relevant research problems were brought up.
"I loved the walks we had. They gave me a lot of energy"
"Great balance for body and mind!"
Every lunch was accompanied by a digesting two-hour walk into the nature around. This way we got to enjoy the daylight hours outside and retreat back to the artificial light of the lecture room for exercises when the afternoon started to become darker.
"It was doing the exercises that made me realize what I do and do not understand"
Icelandic weather kept us surprised. With the temperatures around zero, the precipitation could be anything from heavy rain to hails and snow ... and particles! Space weather predictions and observations were carefully followed during the entire course in order to see the effects of particle precipitation.
"Aurora hunting is an interesting study of human being."
The night of the 22nd was finally a clear one and the space weather predictions came true. A large coronal hole of the Sun had turned towards the Earth and was spitting high energy plasma towards us. Some of the participants saw the northern lights for the first time ever and provided a full set of new sound effects that have not been described as sounds of the aurora. Everybody was standing outside and most people had their photography equipment intensively in use. This became OUR event. It was analyzed from the solar wind condition to the morphology of the aurora. The whole group was extremely motivated to learn, but seeing the activation that they had been waiting for added a lot of fresh enthusiasm into the learning process.
"Working through and analyzing the data was maybe the most educational experience."
Saturday the 24th was our sunniest day that we spent on an excursion to a nearby crater, geysirs and the magnificent waterfall Gullfoss. The roads were slippery after the rain of the day before and the freezing nighttime temperatures. But the weather was lovely, and the memory cards were full of photos by the dinner time back in Nesbúð.
"Hiking, car ice-skating, sightseeing and long discussions made this substorm school an unforgettable and valuable experience."
During the last few nights the hot tub in the backyard was extensively used to warm up, to relax and to talk about the day's most important issues. It was almost dark enough of a corner to observe the aurora from the hot tub. Some people also enjoyed the hot stream from a nearby power plant.
"The most important lesson is that there are no straightforward answers."
"I just fell in love with this country. I'll be back!"
Text and photos by Noora Partamies. Quotations from students on the course.
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Thursday, 13 December 2007 00:15
Substorm studies in IcelandWritten by ICESTAR IHY
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