Thematic group: PEPS
Scientific Leader: Aurélie Marchaudon
Main OSU: Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées

Description / Background

SuperDARN is an international consortium of coherent High Frequency (HF) radars providing continuous observations of ionospheric plasma convection in the mid- and high-latitude regions (auroral zones and polar caps) of both hemispheres. The global coverage of the network and the continuous operation of the radars make SuperDARN a tool of choice for characterizing the global state of the magnetosphere-ionosphere system in near-real time. The interest of this monitoring is critical in the framework of Space Weather, since it gives access to the electrodynamics of the magnetosphere-ionosphere system. Convection is also often used as an input to ionospheric models, since it is involved in particular in Joule heating through ion-neutral friction.

Scientific Objectives

The main objectives of the SuperDARN radars are:

1. Global monitoring of auroral, polar and mid-latitude regions by combining data from all radars, which is useful as input to ionospheric models;

2. study of the differences in dynamical ionospheric behaviour between both two hemispheres;

3. coordinated measurements between ground-based instruments (SuperDARN-Eiscat-ESR coordination) and satellites (Champ, Déméter, Cluster-II, Double Star, Thémis, RBSP and in the near future the SWARM and MMS missions);

4. in the long term, reconstruction of ionospheric density over large portions of the globe, thanks to SuperDARN data assimilation into scientific and operational ionospheric models.

Involvement of IRAP

France is responsible of the Kerguelen radar management (southern hemisphere) and is recognized by the Institut National des Sciences de l’Univers (INSU) of the CNRS as a National Observation Service (SNO) in AA-ANO6 (Surveillance of the Sun and the Earth’s space environment) with the Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées (OMP) as the main OSU. IRAP is responsible for the technical maintenance and data processing of the Kerguelen radar. The data are archived in several databases common to the SuperDARN consortium (USA, Canada, United Kingdom). The advantage of the Kerguelen radar is in particular to probe the auroral ionosphere of the southern hemisphere, which has been little studied by other instruments until now, due to the difficulty of access and installation of instruments in these regions (southern high-latitudes). This location in the network makes all the relevance and originality of the Kerguelen radar.
Technical Manager: LoÏc Noguès (IRAP).


  • INSU, via the Programme National Soleil-Terre (PNST) and occasionally for maintenance funding via the Astronomy-Astrophysics Specialized Commission (CSAA);
  • OMP (Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées);
  • IPEV (Institut Polaire Emile Victor) for the support of all the logistic activities of the radar (supply of electricity, internet connection and the employment at 10% of a civic service volunteer, VSC) and the management of the activities necessary for the maintenance of the radar.