Solar wind periscope
The solar wind periscope is one of the research projects by KHM.
Jonas Hansen, Lab-D, Laboratory for Dimensional Research
Lasse Scherffig, Lab3, Laboratory for Experimental Computer Science
KHM, Academy of Media Arts Cologne
Space weather, mainly in form of the solar wind or heliosphere, constantly affects earth’s atmosphere. A solar flux of particles collides with atmospheric gas atoms creating an ionized layer at the border between earth and space. Depending on the solar wind and the ionization caused by it, this layer can both reflect or absorb high frequency (HF) electromagnetic waves. Radio signals may use this reflecting layer in order to reach places normally occluded by the curvature of the earth – a process named skywave propagation. In turn, the range of a HF radio signal is determined by the reflection and absorption of this layer and thus becomes a correlate of the ionization by the solar wind. Because of this, by measuring radio signal range an earth-bound radio station can serve as a weather station for extraterrestrial weather.
The „solar wind periscope“ is a periscope connecting the visible surroundings of the Weather Tunnel with invisible space weather which becomes accessible through an antenna. It is accompanied by an antenna connected to a radio receiver. The receiver constantly monitors low-power HF radio signals stemming from a global network of radio transmitters known as wsprnet (pron.: whisper net). Through wsprnet, the radio receiver monitors which nodes of the global transmitter network currently are reaching the Weather Tunnel, indicating their respective range and thus ionospheric conditions.
Looking through the periscope, the surroundings of the Weather Tunnel can be seen. This image is augmented by a direction-dependent visualization of radio signal range and therewith the solar wind and its current effect on the ionosphere of the earth.
Jonas Hansen works as media artist and member of the artistic/scientific staff of the Academy of Media Art Cologne (KHM) working at Lab.D in the area of 3D animation/design, playable systems and hybrid games. In his artistic work Hansen develops interactive installations and experimental games that explore the boundaries between the real and the virtual world. He has taken part in a numerous exhibitions around Europe and is an active participant in various conferences and workshops including MART, Museum of Modern Art, Rovereto, Artefact festival, Leeuven, V2_ Institute, Rotterdam, Ars Electronica, Linz and Club Transmediale, Berlin. pixelsix.net
Lasse Scherffig studied cognitive science and digital media in Germany, Switzerland and the USA. He has worked both in art and science contexts, publishing on Cybernetics, interaction, location and satellites and showing collaborative art projects at numerous festivals and venues. He currently works at Lab3, Laboratory for Experimental Computer Science at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne.