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Institute Information

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Polar Geophysical Institute as a part of the Kola branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences (now the Polar Geophysical Institute (PGI)) was established on 14 October 1960 by the decree of Presidium of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR to explore physical processes at high latitudes.

PGI is located in Murmansk and Apatity (Kola Peninsula). PGI basic observatories are in Lovozero (Kola Peninsula) and Barentsburg (Shpitzbergen archipelago), where regular observations of aurora, cosmic rays, and geomagnetic pulsations are conducted. There are also several points on Kola Peninsula for specific quasi-regular observations (like satellite radio tomography) and new equipment testing.

In accordance with the program of basic fundamental researches of RAS for 2007 – 2010 years, PGI is engaged in the following scientific activities:

  • study of the aurora and conducting precise optical measurements at high latitudes
  • investigation of key problems of radio physics and acoustics, including the fundamentals of radio physical and acoustic means of communication, location and diagnostics, non-linear phenomena
  • exploration of physical processes in space plasma
  • experimental and theoretical study of the cosmic rays
  • study of the physics of other planets and solar-terrestrial relations

Scientific interests of PGI embrace a wide scope of problems, the basic of which are solar-terrestrial relations, plasma processes in the magnetosphere-ionosphere system and artificial modification of the ionosphere by powerful radio wave transmitters. PGI contribution to Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System (SIOS) will include equipment installed around observatory buildings 5 km north of Barentsburg (various optical instruments, induction and fluxgate magnetometers, radio interferometer and the most poleward part of PGI radio tomographic array), and neutron monitor near PGI office in Barentsburg. PGI data will be used in combination with data obtained by other SIOS participants to study the energy input into the upper polar atmosphere (SIOS project item «Magnetosphere – polar ionosphere/atmosphere – links to climate»).

  • solar-terrestrial relations, space weather, plasma processes in the solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere system. A theory of interaction of solar wind perturbations with the bow shock and MHD discontinuities of various types is currently under way. The most spectacular display of space weather is magnetospheric substorm, when a huge amount of energy is released to the ionosphere via particle precipitation and wave generation (click on the image to see movie). Great attention is paid to morphology and physics of the substorm, including modeling of kinetic processes in a thin current sheet that forms in the magnetotail in the transition to substorm expansion. A new research is investigation of self-organized criticality and turbulence in the magnetosphere-ionosphere system.

  • observations and theoretical studies of the aurora, which is a result of interaction of magnetospheric charged particles with atmospheric species. The aurora brings us information about the processes both in space where the electrons and protons come from and in the atmosphere where the aurora is produced.

    PGI conducts auroral observations by ground CCD and EMCCD imagers, all-sky TV cameras and other highly sensitive instrumentation such as the Fabri-Perrot interferometer, which can successfully image auroras not only under dark-sky conditions but even near sunset. This instrument is also capable of detecting a weak luminosity when it is induced by heating facilities (SURA, EISACT, SPEAR).

  • monitoring and theory of the cosmic rays, which are high energy (~ 1 GeV) protons and nuclei coming from space. With the use of PGI neutron monitor observations the initial characteristics (including energy spectra) of solar cosmic rays (SCR) are derived from the solution of inverse problem. Modeling of SCR propagation over the interplanetary medium and penetration of relativistic SCR into the magnetosphere is performed. Of primary interest are periods of solar flares and magnetic storms. The effects of cosmic rays in the atmospheric and climatic variations are being studied.

  • reconstruction of two-dimensional ionosphere electron density by the method of satellite tomography in the area extended for about 1700 km, from the subauroral ionosphere (Karelia) to the polar cap (Svalbard). Methods of satellite radio tomography are applied to investigate small-scale inhomogeneities in the ionospheric F-region at polar cap latitudes. For interpretation of transverse to the geomagnetic field anisotropy of the inhomogeneities spacecraft data are compared with simultaneous observations of ionospheric convection by SuperDARN. At highest latitudes, the PGI chain of tomographic stations can be used for study of ionosphere modulating effects produced by the SPEAR heating facility.

  • observations of geomagnetic pulsations in the frequency range of 0.1-20 Hz. Two identical induction magnetometers with a precise time reference, which were designed and constructed in PGI, are installed at PGI observatories Barentzburg (Svalbard) and Lovozero (Kola peninsula), making possible to investigate the meridional propagation of geomagnetic disturbances in the ionospheric waveguide. Due to their high sensitivity, the magnetometers are also capable of detecting weak signals excited in the Shumann and Alfvén resonators. The induction magnetometer in Barentzburg can be used in active experiments on SPEAR facility for registration of low-frequency (~ 1 Hz) modulations of the pumping wave.

  • physics of the lower ionosphere, including electron density distributions, composition and photochemistry at heights of the ionospheric D- region (50-90 km), wind velocity and electric field intensity in the E- region of the ionosphere, acoustic and gravitational waves and their presumed connection with earthquakes and meteorite fall. Data obtained by partial reflection technique are used to study high-latitude ionospheric effects of cosmic gamma-radiation, solar eclipses, bursts of X rays and corpuscular fluxes, penetration of high energy magnetospheric particles. The measurements are used to explore such unique phenomena as noctilucent clouds, polar mesosphere echo, and wave disturbances in partially ionized dust plasma.

  • physical and photochemical processes in the atmospheres of the Earth and other planets. The atmosphere of the Arctics is a centre of attraction. Spatio-temporal variations of tropospheric parameters, influence of anthropogenic and space factors on the dynamics of minor gas species, atmospheric ozone dynamics, and atmospheric electricity are basic issues to study. A new field is modeling of physical processes in the atmospheres of terrestrial planets at the early stage of their evolution.

PGI is an organizer of the annual international seminar «Physics of auroral phenomena», which enjoys great popularity among the members of scientific community. The seminar is held in Apatity in February-March. The seminar program includes sections on magnetic storms and substorms, auroras, cosmic rays, wave processes, solar-terrestrial relations, etc. Participation in the seminar can be nicely combined with mountain skiing in the Khibiny.