Analysis of the Effect of the August 2017 Eclipse on the Ionosphere Using a Ray-trace Algorithm

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Virginia Tech

The total solar eclipse over the continental United States on August 21, 2017 offered a unique opportunity to study the dependence of the ionospheric density and morphology on incident solar radiation. Unique responses may be witnessed during eclipses, including changes in radio frequency (RF) propagation at high frequency (HF). Such changes in RF propagation were observed by the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) radars in Christmas Valley, Oregon and in Fort Hays, Kansas during the 2017 eclipse. At each site, the westward looking radar observed an increase in slant range of the backscattered signal during the eclipse onset followed by a decrease after totality. In order to investigate the underlying processes governing the ionospheric response to the eclipse, we employ the HF propagation toolbox (PHaRLAP), created by Dr. Manuel Cervera, to simulate SuperDARN data for different models of the eclipsed ionosphere. Thus, by invoking different hypotheses and comparing simulated results to SuperDARN measurements, we can study the underlying processes governing the ionosphere and improve our model of the ionospheric responses to an eclipse. This thesis presents three studies using this method: identification of the cause of the increase in slant range observed by SuperDARN during the eclipse; evaluation of different eclipse obscuration models; and quantification of the effect of the neutral wind velocity on the simulated eclipse data.

Ionosphere, Eclipses, Ray-trace, SuperDARN, 2017 Eclipse