Archway One holds about 180 people, and just about every seat was full to hear Craig Rodger give his inaugural professorial lecture.  I moved a seat over toward the centre of the theatre twice as people kept on coming in.  The lecturer was a big bouncy man who could amplify his voice to the back of the theatre without needing to resort to a microphone.  I jumped in my seat a couple of times.  In a suit and tie and professorial gown he was quickly sweating a lot.

In 1958 the Americans sent their first satellite into space.  It was big enough that it carried a geiger counter.  They would follow its beep around the earth.  To their surprise they discovered it beeped continuously.  The earth was surrounded by radiation belts.  Who would’ve thunk it!  The radition belts form a dynamic dough-nut shape that envelopes the earth from pole to pole.

The solar wind is formed from super-heated gas exploding off the surface of the sun.  When these eructations hit the earth then killer electrons play merry havoc with satellites.  They penetrate the shielding of satellites and zap the electronics.  One weather satellite went zombie after launch and broadcast its frequencies to all others in its orbit for five months until its batteries flat-lined and it could be re-booted.  That’s US$3 million worth of software going around the world in one satellite alone.  The geosynchronous orbit of satellites lie within the outer limits of the radiation belt.

These charged electrons hitting the atmosphere die.  They are absorbed into the atmosphere.  Getting satellites into the right place and the right direction to measure the loss is just too impossible.  However we can measure precipation by reading broadcast radio waves.  These are provided free of charge by military stations around the world.  These are people who need to know that the world is still there, and sometimes what the baseball scores are.  There are science sites in the polar regions that are reading this stuff and doing the number-crunching.  There are no military secrets to discover from it.  Most of it is heavily encrypted.

Intense particle percipitation affects temperature change.  It creates odd elements (odd hydrogen and nitrogen I think, HOx and NOx).  Is this making a difference to the ozone layer in the polar sky, like pacman?  There is a paper coming out on this in an eminent journal.  Watch out for it.

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