Picture by Lina Broman
Picture by Lina Broman

We are situated on the Esrange Space Center premisses, situated 40 km to the East of Kiruna. Within Esrange, hundreds of atmospheric rockets and balloons have been launched and it is in this location that we have spent two weeks. The intensive period of lectures and hands-on experience are part of the PhD Middle Atmosphere course: in this time we have been able to get closer to ongoing scientific experiments and see how those experiments probe the - to us theoretically described - middle atmosphere. We have been invited to see how atmospheric rockets are prepared, to launch a balloon with radiosondes ourselves, to get onboard stratospheric scientific airplanes, and to watch real-live communication with the Swedish Odin satellite.

MISU’s Atmospheric Physics group has its operational lidar stationed at Esrange, and learning how to operate the lidar system is a crucial part of the course. The ‘LIght Detection And Ranging’ technology that comprises the lidar instrument is a remote sensing technique of the atmosphere, with which temperature profiles can be obtained, or Noctilucent clouds (NLC), gravity waves or Polar Stratospheric clouds (PSC) can be observed. It boils down to shooting a laser beam up to 100 km in the atmosphere. The force is strong with this one.

The longest, continuous run of observations lasted more than 80 hours and setting up day and night shifts becomes trickier when entering the 3rd night. More often then not, however, clouds prevail and we are put on standby. Spare time activities, aside from preparing seminars, include skiing, ice fishing, pool, table tennis, and sauna (obviously).

So there you have it; being isolated in the most northern parts of Sweden is not too bad.


Koen Hendrickx

PhD Student, MISU