Experiments are scheduled through the end of the month at the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program or HAARP facility. It’s the first time science is being conducted at the ionospheric research station in Gakona since the University of Alaska Fairbanks took it over from the Air Force in 2015.
The UAF Geophysical Institute has spent the last two years overhauling generators, antenna and other equipment that’s used to stimulate the electrically charged area of the upper atmosphere. GI spokesperson Sue Mitchell highlights two of the projects that are part of the upcoming federally-funded research campaign at HAARP.
“One of the projects will create an artificial aurora,” Mitchell said. “It will not be visible by the naked eye but should be able to pick it up with cameras. And then they’re testing the feasibility of using HAARP to do some over-the-horizon radar applications, take a look at the sea ice on the Arctic ocean, perhaps by bouncing transmissions off of the ionosphere.”
Mitchell said HAARP is being operated on a pay-as-you-go basis, similar to the Poker Flat Rocket launch facility it runs for NASA. She said HAARP is expected to be on line for less than a day during this first run of projects because it’s costly to operate.
“The rate for running HAARP runs about $5,000 an hour,” Mitchell said. “The generators are very expensive. It’d take a lot of fuel to run per hour, so that’s the main cost.”
The generators energize HAARP’s 3.6 megawatt transmitter, beaming signals through 180 antenna into the ionosphere, 50 to 600 miles above the earth’s surface. Mitchell said the public can track what’s going on through HAARP’s Facebook page. It’s part of an effort to debunk lingering conspiracy theories about what happens at the former military research facility. Those theories include weather and mind control.
“This is a fantastic research facility,” Mitchell said. “It is not capable of all the things that it’s been accused of, but it a really fascinating and interesting and powerful research tool.”
Agencies funding this month’s HAARP research projects include the National Science Foundation, The Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Naval Research laboratory. UAF-based researchers are involved in the projects.