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A Brief History of EISCAT

The EISCAT Scientific Association has existed since 1975. Here you'll find a summary of the most important events since then.

The EISCAT Scientific Association was founded in December 1975, with a membership originally comprising the research councils of six European countries (Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and the UK). The aim of the association was defined as being "to make significant progress in the understanding of physical processes in the high latitude upper atmosphere by means of experimental programmes", utilising the technique of incoherent scatter. The first operations, using the tristatic UHF radar system were carried out in August 1981. The first operations of the VHF radar at Tromso occurred in May 1985.

The next decade saw rapid development of the capabilities of these radar systems, in terms of the diversity and complexity of the available experiments and also in terms of the supporting software for data processing, analysis and visualisation. During their first decade of operations, the EISCAT radars made significant progress in almost every one of the key science areas for which they were intended, as well as making a number of unexpected discoveries besides. The capabilities of EISCAT were significantly extended in 1993 by the take-over of the HF Heating facility in Tromso which had previously been operated as a German facility by the group at MPI in Lindau.

In 1996, EISCAT made a major advance through the inauguration of the EISCAT Svalbard Radar (ESR), close to Longyearbyen on Svalbard. The ESR had taken around six years to construct, and is still (in 2004) the world's most advanced incoherent scatter radar. Initially the ESR consisted only of one dish, the 32m steerable antenna. The 42m fixed dish was officially inaugurated in May 2000. This antenna had been built using funding from Japan, which joined the association in 1996.

During 2000, the EISCAT mainland radars were fully renovated and equipped with new receiver systems with more advanced signal processing capabilities. Various hardware modifications included new transmitter klystrons for the UHF radar at Tromso. A new operating system (EROS4) was implemented on all of EISCAT's radars, as well as new software to display raw data and to analyse the results. An extensive suite of new experiments has been developed to run on these radars, which exploit the most recent advances in pulse coding and signal processing. Upgraded data analysis also ensures that these instruments are the best of their kind in the world.