NJIT Researchers Study Antarctica's Landscape

Steve Adubato goes one-on-one with Robert Melville and Gil Jeffer from the New Jersey Institute of Technology to discuss the importance of their studies in Antarctica and what it's like living in the desolate landscape.

8/22/17 #2068






"We'd like to welcome Gil Jeffer, who is a research engineer, NJIT, and also, Doctor Robert Melville, research scientist, NJIT's Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research. Which is? Describe what that is, that center. Well, we study space weather. I like to say, in one word, we're studying the sun. In our case, by effect on the earth. There are many aspects of that. We go to... Gil and I go to Antarctica along with our 3rd coworker, Andrew Stillinger, to design and implement engineering projects which generate data, which then go back to the research groups at the center. Talk about the information that came back from Antarctica, and why it's important for every American watching right now. Basically, space weather has quite a bit of influence on our daily lives. Coronal mass ejections are when the sun puts off... What is that? Coronal mass ejections are when the sun puts off literally billions of tons of material heading towards the earth at a very high speed. Sometimes they don't head towards the earth. But when they do, they can couple with our magnetic field. And when that happens, it can cause a lot of influences to your daily life. For example, communications. Extra radiation for people flying on aircraft. Especially the extra radiation for any pilot or any spacecraft, where it may hurt their electronics. It induces current on long electrical lines. But when you first started...? The whole... this Antarctica initiative started, what was the goal? Well, the beginning of the amount of research in Antarctica could be dated back to 1957. The famous International Geophysical Year. Hmm. That was really the beginning of really, space weather research. Studying the earth's magnetic field. Do we have that graphic maybe? Of the...? Can we show it? Yeah. They'll put it up there. They'll put it up there as you're talking about it. Okay. Go ahead. Yeah. But the idea is the sun blows this solar wind at the earth. Is that what it is right there? Correct. That's it. Talk it through. Okay. This graphic is showing the sun blowing the ever-present solar wind that is is strong enough that magnetic field lines facing the sun, the so-called dayside, or compressed, magnetic field lines on the other side, the nightside are stretched several hundred times the radius of the earth. They're storing energy. And when thing snaps, as Gil said, it can dump a bunch of energy into the earth. It's roughly 50 times the output of the largest power dam that we have in the world. A terawatt of energy dumped into the upper atmosphere. What do we do with that information in terms of public policy? You come back with this..."