Ionospheric total electron content variability and its influence in radio astronomy

Botai, Ondeg Joel (2006) Ionospheric total electron content variability and its influence in radio astronomy. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.

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Abstract

Ionospheric phase delays of radio signals from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites have been used to compute ionospheric Total Electron Content (TEC). An extended Chapman profle model is used to estimate the electron density profles and TEC. The Chapman profle that can be used to predict TEC over the mid-latitudes only applies during day time. To model night time TEC variability, a polynomial function is fitted to the night time peak electron density profles derived from the online International Reference Ionosphere (IRI) 2001. The observed and predicted TEC and its variability have been used to study ionospheric in°uence on Radio Astronomy in South Africa region. Di®erential phase delays of the radio signals from Radio Astronomy sources have been simulated using TEC. Using the simulated phase delays, the azimuth and declination o®sets of the radio sources have been estimated. Results indicate that, pointing errors of the order of miliarcseconds (mas) are likely if the ionospheric phase delays are not corrected for. These delays are not uniform and vary over a broad spectrum of timescales. This implies that fast frequency (referencing) switching, closure phases and fringe ¯tting schemes for ionospheric correction in astrometry are not the best option as they do not capture the real state of the ionosphere especially if the switching time is greater than the ionospheric TEC variability. However, advantage can be taken of the GPS satellite data available at intervals of a second from the GPS receiver network in South Africa to derive parameters which could be used to correct for the ionospheric delays. Furthermore GPS data can also be used to monitor the occurrence of scintillations, (which might corrupt radio signals) especially for the proposed, Square Kilometer Array (SKA) stations closer to the equatorial belt during magnetic storms and sub-storms. A 10 minute snapshot of GPS data recorded with the Hermanus [34:420 S, 19:220 E ] dual frequency receiver on 2003-04-11 did not show the occurrence of scintillations. This time scale is however too short and cannot be representative. Longer time scales; hours, days, seasons are needed to monitor the occurrence of scintillations.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ionosphere, Global positioning system
Subjects:Q Science > QC Physics
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Physics & Electronics
ID Code:2672
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:23 Apr 2012 12:05
Last Modified:23 Apr 2012 12:05
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