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STATICs – Studies on Atmospheric-Ionospheric Coupled system

The life on Earth is sustained because of the presence of its atmosphere.  The Earth’s upper layers of atmosphere which start about 60 km from the Earth’s surface protects the life on Earth from the harmful X-ray, EUV and UV radiation from the Sun.  The neutral gases in the atmosphere are partially ionized by this energetic solar radiation and make the partially ionized upper atmosphere, known as, the ionosphere.  The upper atmosphere where significant number of charged particles (free electrons and ions) exist amidst the background of dominant neutral atoms and molecules makes the coupled Thermosphere – Ionosphere system.

The thermosphere – ionosphere region (approximately between 100 and 1000 km) is the gateway to the outer space and where majority of Low Earth Orbiting satellites (LEOS) including the International Space Station (ISS) are flown. The radio wave communication signals between Earth and Satellites and other spacecraft in space have to pass through this region which often undergoes significant changes due to the presence of irregular ionospheric structures.  As the thermosphere – ionosphere region is nicely sandwiched between the Earth’s lower atmosphere and outer space, it readily responds to forces originating from the lower atmosphere as well as to the particle and electromagnetic forces from the Sun and interplanetary space.  Thus, understanding the structure and dynamical variability of the coupled thermosphere – ionosphere system has potential applications in modeling satellite orbital dynamics, ground based long distance HF communications, satellite based communication and navigation systems, power grid and telecommunication networks,  high precision positioning and drilling applications etc.

The research team at IIG carries out active research on the coupled atmosphere-ionosphere system and its dynamical variability using a suite of ground based radio and optical probing techniques and space borne in-situ and remote sounding observations in addition to empirical/numerical modelling tools.  Several experimental facilities such as state-of-the-art ionosondes, magnetometers, all-sky airglow imagers, MF radars, VHF and L-band scintillation receivers and GPS receivers have been set up over the Indian equatorial and low-latitude regions to study and investigate the dynamics of the Indian low latitude atmosphere – ionosphere system.