Science For Alaska

Science for Alaska Lecture Series 2014: Jan. 28

A Wondrous Sheen: Optical Studies of Aurora in the Digital Age."

Don Hampton
Research Associate Professor of Space Physics
UAF Geophysical Institute

The aurora has been watched for eons, and observed scientifically for over 100 years. In this period of discovery, the GI has pioneered many studies using optical instruments in conjunction with measurements from ground-based radars, sounding rockets and satellites, to make major advances in understanding how auroras are generated and why they look the way they do. Using this knowledge and a figurative explosion in digital technology, especially low-cost high-sensitivity digital imagers, we are now expanding the boundaries of our understanding, including the range of brightness - from very faint to blazing bright auroral forms, the scale size - from a few meters to thousands of kilometers, and the temporal realm - from 1000 frame-per-second imaging to long-term characterization of auroral morphology. In this talk I'll discuss new measurements enabled by the advanced technology, how auroral studies contribute to the overall effort to characterize "geo-space", and speculate on some possible discoveries that UAF will be involved in that will be enabled by the digital age. 
Biographical Information:
Don received his B.S in physics from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Masters and PhD in Physics both at UAF. After his graduate studies he worked for Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. in Boulder CO for 10 years, including five years working on the NASA mission to a comet, called Deep Impact. Since returning to Alaska he has helped to modernize the optical observations of auroras conducted by the GI and Poker Flat, working with a diverse set of researchers from the US and abroad. 

Oct. 2001-Present: Research Assistant Professor in Space Physics, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Nov. 2006-Oct. 2011: Optical Science Manager, Poker Flat Research Range and Geophysical Institute Chief Systems Engineer, Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.

2005-2006: Chief Systems Engineer, Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.

1999-2006: Systems Engineer, Deep Impact Instrument Suite, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.

1996-1999: System Engineer, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.