MO Physics Talk: “Ionospheric Sounding for Earth-Space Environment Science” by Dr. Terrence Bullet of the University of Colorado Boulder and NOAA

by Clint Dominic G. Bennett and Quirino Sugon Jr

The Solid Earth Dynamics / Upper Atmosphere Dynamics Laboratory of Manila Observatory and the Department of Physics of the School of Science and Engineering of Ateneo de Manila University cordially invites you to the talk “Environmental Sounding for Earth-Space Environment Science” by Dr. Terrence Bullet on Wednesday, 23 October 2019, 10;00-11:00 AM at Heyden Hall, Manila Observatory. Dr. Terrence Bullet is a Research Associate of the University of Colorado Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and the Chief Engineer of the World Data Center A Ionosonde Program.


The ionosphere is a layer of ionized plasma created by solar Ultraviolet light, at a height of 60km to over 1000 km. As an ionized plasma, the ionosphere strongly interacts with radio waves, allowing long distance shortwave radio communication and disrupting radio waves between satellites and the ground, such as the GPS navigation system in everyone’s phone. The ionosphere is also an easily detectable trace plasma in the Earth’s thermosphere, the upper layer of the atmosphere through which all energy entering or leaving Earth must pass.

Ionosondes are radar instruments that measure the ionosphere. They are the first radar systems, dating back to the 1920’s. The Manila Observatory has operated such an instrument since the 1950’s. A new digital receiver ionosonde is just installed at Manila Observatory. This new instrument, the Vertical Incidence Pulse Ionosphere Radar or VIPIR, is built for scientific discovery and is used in the US, South America, Japan, Korea and Antarctica.

About the Speaker

Dr. Terrence (Terry) Bullett

  • Research Associate, University of Colorado Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences
  • Chief Engineer, World Data Center A Ionosonde Program

My primary career interest is making observations with ionosondes and their application to solve scientific and engineering problems of radio wave propagation in the ionosphere and to study space weather and space climate. Over the last 30 years, I have installed or upgraded almost three dozen ionosondes around the world.

I started this adventure at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where I obtained my BS in Electrical Engineering (1984), MS in Radar Systems Engineering, and eventually my Doctorate of Engineering by measuring ionosphere plasma motions with ionosondes. I was hired by the US Air Force Research Laboratory in 1989 and soon lead their ionosonde program. This afforded me to experience all aspects of ionospheric sounding, including instrument design, antenna design, installation, operation, data analysis, and use of real time data for applications such as HF propagation and ionospheric forecasting. I also obtained familiarity with numerous other ionosphere sensing techniques, including space-based sensors, space-based beacons, ground based radars and especially sounding rockets. I have supported 12 sounding rocket launches with ionosonde data.

In 2000 I started and lead a project to create a new generation ionosonde with modern technology. This has developed into the Vertical Incidence Pulsed Ionospheric Radar (VIPIR) which first operated in 2006 at Wallops Island, USA. This MF-HF radar is oriented toward research and discovery. With 20 instruments now operating and another 10 in various planning stages, the discoveries from the owners of these instruments are just starting to be published.

In 2007, I joined the World Data Center ionosphere group as Chief Engineer, where I now work in cooperation with NOAA, promoting real time space weather and long term space climate data collection worldwide.

My current interests include operating and improving a small network of ionosondes in the US, improving the quality of data from all types of ionosondes, antenna design, preservation of the long-term climate record of ionosonde observations, real time international data exchange, multi-sensor ionospheric studies, open source software development and teaching the next generation of ionosonde scientists. I am a General class radio amateur operating under the call sign W0ASP in the US and HL2JDM in Korea.

My recent volunteer efforts include being the Chief Scientist for the Radio Astronomy program at the Little Thompson Observatory in my home town of Berthoud, Colorado. This all-volunteer group teaches astronomy to all ages. Our radio telescope has measured the temperature around the black home at the center of our galaxy.

Top: Dr. Terry Bullet, Dr. Justin Mabie, and Clint Bennett installing an ionosonde receiver. Botom left: Dr. Terry Bullett with the ionosonde computer. Bottom right: Ionosphere Research Building at Manila Observatory.

About quirinosugonjr
Physics professor and corporate blogger

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