A FAST Page for Project SMART

by Chadd Bailey and Ellen Swider

What Is SMART?

Each summer, the University of New Hampshire sponsors Project SMART, an academic program designed for high school sophomores and juniors. Project SMART (Science and Mathematics Achievement through Research Training) is a three and a half week program that provides high school students with the opportunity to explore, in depth, fields of science that are generally not offered in most school curriculums. This year's fields of study were Space Science and Biotechnology. Previous years have included these fields, Environmental Sciences and Marine Biology. Students involved in Project SMART research these sciences, attend statistics and computer classes. The knowledge they have gained is then tied together in the form of a research project or paper.

As members of the Space Science group, we attended daily classes in statistics taught by Greg Reilly, physics, and astronomytaught by Lou Broad and Scott Goelzer. In these classes we learned about our universe, graphing data and rocketry. During one of our most memorable classes, one of our instructors turned a Carbon dioxide (CO2) fire extinguisher into a rocket and propelled himself into a nearby dumpster! On another occasion we constructed our own rockets out of cardboard and balsa wood, painted, and then launched them.

Project SMART is beneficial to students by offering alternative courses and giving them a taste of college life - particularly that of a graduate student.

What We Did

For the research portion of Project SMART, we collaborated with Dr. Eberhard Möbius, a physicist and the Project Director, to study the auroral ion beams found in the Aurora. Dr. Möbius is involved with Plasma Physics and their relation to Space. On this project, he is focusing primarily on the acceleration of the particles. Another advisor to us, Dr. Lynn Kistler, also a physicist, is concerned with how the particles are accelerated and then transported. Her main interest in the project is what happens to the beams after they are accelerated from the earth's magnetosphere. Li Tang, a graduate student working towards his Ph. D. in Physics, was very helpful to us in explaining the processes we needed to gather our data. We were able to compare our results with some of his previous work in this project. Eric Lund, a research scientist at the University of New Hampshire, was very helpful in pointing out where we were incorrectly reading our data. He also suggested graphing several aspects of our data that we had not considered before. Eric is currently researching electromagnetic waves and their use as an energy source.

Some say that the Northern Lights are the glare of the artic ice and snow; and some say that it's electricity, and nobody seems to know.

-Robert W. Service

The auroras are a result of activity on the sun and solar wind. The sun discharges a continuos stream of electrons and ions. These ions, when attracted by the earth's magnetosphere, circle the earth's radiation belts. They are then accelerated by this energy into high latitudes where they produce auroral displays.

Our goal was to determine the ion beams' acceleration region, and define parameters that may affect the location of the region. In order to research the auroras we analyzed summary data retrieved by one of NASA's Small Explorer spacecrafts (SMEX), the Fast Auroral SnapshoT explorer (FAST). FAST is a small satellite which orbits the earth and explores the auroral zones. Launched on August twenty-first, 1996, FAST has orbited the earth for nearly a year.

The instrument on FAST that we were specifically concerned with was the Time-of-flight Energy Angle Mass Spectrograph (TEAMS). The information from this satellite was in the form of graphs, one of which is right below this section. Using this information, we recorded the date, orbit, Universal Time, altitude, Magnetic Local Time, and Invariant Latitude of the auroral passages. On the occasions where we found beams, we recorded the Universal Time, altitude, Magnetic Local Time, Invariant Magnetic Latitude, duration, and energies of the dominant ions: H+, He+, He++, and O+. From our research we have concluded many things about the aurora. For example, there is a definite correlation from the number and location of the beams we studied to the invariant latitude at which they occurred. There is still another correlation from the number of beams to the magnetic local time.

The FAST satellite. The gray circular object on the right is the instrument TEAMS.