ECE 4174 Upper Atmosphere / Ionosphere Space Weather | ECE | Virginia Tech

Undergraduate PROGRAMS

Course Information


Interaction of Earth’s upper atmosphere and space environment with spacecraft: processes that affect atmospheric density relevant to spacecraft orbit decay; basic composition and structure; radiation and radiative transfer; atmospheric energy balance; atmospheric chemistry and ion production/loss mechanisms; fundamental concepts of Solar-terrestrial physics including ionospheric Chapman theory; atmospheric energy/mass transport; ionospheric electrodynamics; ionospheric storms; planetary atmospheres/ionospheres; instrumentation

Why take this course?

The Earth’s upper atmosphere/ionosphere forms the inner boundary of the space environment and is the region where the majority of spacecraft reside. As society becomes increasingly dependent on technologies embedded in this environment it is imperative to develop improved understanding of its physical properties and dynamics during extreme disturbances produced by changes in solar activity. This course covers composition, structure, and dynamics of the upper atmosphere/ionosphere system and how it responds to external forcing from the solar wind and magnetosphere. These concepts are key to understanding how the interaction between this region and spacecraft can change over time. Students with such training will be better equipped to pursue career opportunities at aerospace corporations or other entities affected by or interested in the near-Earth space environment. This course is offered at the 4000 level because it requires prior knowledge of physical applications of vector calculus related to fields, such as fluid mechanics covered in AOE 3014 or electromagnetism covered in ECE 3105. To ensure success in AOE 4674 (ECE 4174), students should have learned concepts of vector calculus related to fields, flux quantities and potentials.

Learning Objectives

  • Contrast the vertical, latitudinal, and day-night structure of the upper atmosphere
  • Apply the equations of atmospheric chemistry, radiation, and gas dynamics
  • Contrast the vertical, latitudinal, and day-night structure of the ionosphere
  • Apply fundamental concepts of Solar-Terrestrial physics including the equations of Chapman theory and ionospheric electrodynamics
  • Interpret the storm-time response of the atmosphere-ionosphere system
  • Contrast the atmosphere and ionosphere of Earth to other planets
  • Categorize the principles of atmosphere/ionosphere measurement techniques

Course Topics


Percentage of Course

Fundamental Concepts of Solar-Terrestrial Physics 10%
The Quiet-Time Neutral Upper Atmosphere (Composition, Radiation, Photochemistry, and Energy Balance; Structure: Altitude, Latitude, and Day vs Night Dependence; Transport and Dynamics: Diffusion, Winds, Tides, Waves etc.) 20%
The Quiet-Time Ionosphere (Composition, Ion Production/Loss, and Chapman Theory; Structure: Altitude, Latitude, and Day vs Night Dependence; Electrodynamics: Conductivity, Currents, Convection, etc.) 20%
The Disturbed Atmosphere-Ionosphere (Solar Activity, Geomagnetic Storms, and Auroral Substorms; Storm-time Atmosphere-Ionosphere Dynamics; Space Weather Impacts) 20%
Radiowave Propagation in the Ionosphere 10%
Planetary Atmospheres and Ionospheres 10%
Upper Atmosphere/Ionosphere Instrumentation 10%