Department of Earth and Space Science & Engineering

 

 

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Ian McDade

Professor of Space Science

York University, Toronto, Canada


BA 1976, University of Cambridge, England

MA 1980, University of Cambridge, England

PhD 1979, The Queen's University of Belfast, Northern Ireland

Department of Earth and Space Science & Engineering (ESSE)
Lassonde School of Engineering, York University
4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario, M3J 1P3, CANADA
Email: mcdade@yorku.ca    Home Tel: 905 853 3009

Department web site www.yorku.ca/esse

 

Latest update February 2014

See publications to date below

For recent guest church sermon see Big Bang and God

Research Interests -

For amazing video of the material described below visit:

http://vimeo.com/32001208

 

or even better

 

http://vimeo.com/34152211

 

Aeronomy and the Photochemistry & Space Physics of Earth's Upper Atmosphere:  

Ian McDade's research activities are primarily in the areas of  'Optical Aeronomy ' and 'Space Physics'.   He uses ultraviolet, visible and infrared measurements made from the ground, rockets and satellites to study processes that produce light in Earth's upper atmosphere - such as the 'Nightglow' and the 'Northern Lights' or 'Polar Aurora'.  The Nightglow is light emitted by a glowing shell of Earth's atmosphere about 100 km above the surface where the pressure is less than a millionth of the surface pressure and the temperature can drop below -173C ~ 100 K.  Unlike the Polar Aurora which is sporadic, caused by hot electrons injected from above and most prevalent in polar regions, the Nightglow exists all over the globe, is fairly constant in intensity and is caused by chemical reactions in the very cold rarefied air.  It is sometimes referred to as the Permanent Aurora and actually occurs during the day as well when it is called the Dayglow.  Unfortunately, the human eye is not sensitive enough to see the Nightglow from Earth but if our eyes were about ten times more sensitive we would be aware that the sky is pea green at night!  Astronauts, however, can clearly see the Nightglow when they look towards the horizon where geometry amplifies the intensity of the Nightglow by a factor of about a hundred as shown below.

 

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The Nightglow as observed from Space.  

The lower left segment is the moonlit solid Earth and cloud tops and the green arc above it is the

Nightglow layer located about 100 km above the surface.  The bright speckles are

local stars streaked by the movement of the spacecraft during the exposure.  The diffuse

blob towards the centre is distant galactic light, diffuse aurora, or local ionospheric emissions.

 

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Earth's Aurora as observed from the ground shortly after sunset

 

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Earth's Nightglow and Aurora as observed from space

 

His research focuses on attempts to understand the physics and the chemistry of these processes and the development of Remote Sensing techniques which exploit these phenomena to study, and monitor, the evolving state of Earth's upper atmosphere.

 

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The GEMINI (General Excitation Mechanisms In the NIghtglow) rocket experiment

launched from White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, in February 1994

 

 

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The launch of one of seven ETON (Energy Transfer in the Oxygen Nightglow)

rockets from Uibhist a Deas  (South Uist), The Outer Hebrides, Scotland, on 23 March 1982*. 

These rocket launches can be as colourful and fascinating as the object of the research!

 

Previously, much of his research was performed using high altitude rockets, such as the ETON and GEMINI rockets shown above.

 

 

Today most of his research is performed using observations made from satellites such as the Odin satellite depicted below.

 

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The Swedish/Canadian/French/Finnish Odin satellite

which was launched from Svobody, Siberia on 20th February 2001

by a Russian START 1 launcher (see below)

 

 

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The launch of Odin from Svobody, Siberia, 20th February 2001

on a 'surplus' Russian mobile START 1 ICBM rocket.

 

 

Odin carries two instruments to study Earth's upper atmosphere: a Swedish instrument called the SMR (Sub-millimetre and Millimetre Radiometer) and a Canadian instrument called OSIRIS (the Optical Spectrograph and IR Imager System).  The two instruments are designed to measure the amount of ozone in the stratosphere as well as the tiny amounts of other constituents implicated in the destruction of ozone. Ian McDade's research group at York's Centre for Research in Earth and Space Science (CRESS) www.cress.yorku.ca  is playing a key role in the analysis of the measurements being made by OSIRIS now in its 11th year of successful operations.   Meanwhile, research groups at York, in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and industry, are working on a new satellite instrument called SWIFT (the Stratospheric Wind Interferometer For Transport studies) -DASHSWIFT-DASH is being designed to measure winds and ozone in the stratosphere and is under detailed study for possible deployment on a future CSA mission.

 

 

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Engineering drawing of the SWIFT instrument under study for deployment on a future

Canadian Space Agency mission.

See below for more information about SWIFT

 

 

But Ian still does some 'Rocket Science' especially as part of York University's Faculty of Science and Engineering annual 'Science and Engineering Olympics':

 

A nice safe 'Water Rocket' flight (right click and Save Target As..)

 

A dangerous 'Water Rocket' flight (right click and Save Target As..)

 

A winning 'Water Rocket ' flight (right click and Save Target As..)

 

Movie credits on the above are due to Andrew Fleming (fflem@msn.com)

 

 

Now the big ones:

 

The launch of OSIRIS on the Odin satellite (right click and Save Target As N.B this is a .ram file playable by Real Player.

 

 

 

Ian is currently doing some ground-based work on making the CN Tower in Toronto the biggest sundial in the world

 

See big news on that later.

 

 

For more information on  SWIFT see:  

 

       SWIFT Overview

 

      

For more information on Odin, OSIRIS  visit:

       

        osirus.usask.ca

     

 

For Ian McDade's Publications as of January 2014 see:

 

Publications