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Project Summary

This is a proposal of Universidad Metropolitana (UMET) (NSF Grant: AGS-1039593), a non-profit private institution that is a member of the Ana G. Méndez University System (AGMUS), to lead an ambitious international effort that aims to create a Global Scale Ionospheric Plasma laboratory by placing two National Science Foundation (NSF) Incoherent Scatter Radars (ISR) at both ends of the same geomagnetic field line. This project will be carried out by procuring an “Advanced Modular Incoherent Scatter Radar (AMISR)” from SRI International, which has successfully developed, deployed, and operated AMISRs at Poker Flat, Alaska, and Resolute Bay, Northern Canada. If successful, the new AMISR will be deployed in Argentina at a location where the field of view includes the magnetically conjugate point of the Arecibo Observatory’s ISR and Heater. This will serve to create the Argentine Ionospheric Radar Experiment Station (AIRES) which, together with the Arecibo Observatory, will be able to perform inter-hemispheric measurements of the Earth’s ionosphere. The Arecibo ISR is part of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC), a national research center operated by Cornell University. It supports two quasi-simultaneous radar look directions within the overall viewing area of the system. An upgraded ionospheric heating facility will shortly become operational within the main telescope dish.


  1. Support the acquisition of a state-of-the-art instrumentation that improves access to, and increased use of, modern research and research training instrumentation by scientists, engineers, and undergraduate and graduate students.
  2. To implement an internationally rich research training program in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields mainly in Astronomy and Atmospheric Science for graduate and undergraduate pre-college students as well as science teachers.
  3. To enhance and support research in Atmospheric Science and Planetary Science using both the proposed AIRES and the Arecibo Observatory facilities.

Intellectual Merit

The intellectual merit of the proposal revolves around the ambitious goal to create an global scale ionospheric laboratory which will uniquely provide detailed measurements enabled by combining observations from the new AIRES with those made by the Arecibo ISR. It will provide innovative capabilities for studies in the Heater interaction volume, as well as never-before attempted, unique, new capabilities to make conjugate observations in the undisturbed ionosphere. These will support a wide range of studies, including the physics of atmospheric waves and layers, and low latitude plasma instabilities and irregularities.

Broader Impacts

The installed system will bring state-of-the-art radar technology to Puerto Rico, U.S. and Argentinean Universities, in a form, and with accessibility tools, which makes it readily available to students from all communities. The proposal builds on and strengthens the capabilities of UMET in establishing major research infrastructure and associated student support, and leverages the interest and experience of Argentinean colleagues, and the experience and expertise of the ISR group at SRI. It will build on an internationally rich collaborative effort lead by NorthWest Research Associates (NWRA) and Universidad Nacional de La Plata (UNLP), which is currently developing the crucial logistical, scientific and educational infrastructure needed for the success of the proposed program. The results of the project will be disseminated through peer-reviewed journals, conferences, meetings, and publications, as well as the organization of international schools both in Puerto Rico and Argentina. It also exploits ongoing NSF and other funding at Arecibo and strengthens the future role of that facility.

Dr. Juan F. Arratia, Executive Director of the AGMUS Student Research Development Center, will manage the program under the overall supervision of the UMET Chancellor. Dr. Arratia has extensive project management experience, with more than twenty years of experience and was honored in 2006 with the “2006 Presidential Award in STEM Mentoring (PAESMEM)” from the President of the United States at the White House.