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Athabasca University

Athabasca University Geophysical Observatory II (AUGO II)

AUGO II is Canada’s newest and most complete subauroral observatory.  Based on the highly successful Athabasca University Geophysical Observatory, it expanded observational capacity featuring six climate-controlled domed optical observation suites, on-site accommodation, and most importantly, dark skies free of light pollution from urban development.

The AUGO II site is located in rural Athabasca County, approximately 25 km southwest of the town of Athabasca (latitude 54 36’ 10”, longitude 113 38’ 40” west). The 4187 sq ft (389 m2) two storey facility will contain six 82 square foot (7.66 m2) observation suites on the upper floor, each equipped with a 1-m spectrally flat transparent acrylic dome, providing an unobstructed view of the night sky and the northern horizon.

Unlike AUGO, this new observatory has residential facilities on the main floor for up to nine persons (six comfortably).  Wheelchair accessible throughout, AUGO II is capable of housing guest researchers in a comfortable environment during weeklong observing campaigns, typically conducted during the winter months.  Guests are able to prepare meals onsite in a fully equipped kitchen.  The facility is fully connected to the outside world by means of a newly constructed 50 mbit/s dedicated wireless data link to AU (one of the fastest networks in Athabasca County), allowing guest researchers to be continually in touch with their experiments and their data.

AUGO II also serves as a testing ground for next generation H-beta meridian scanning phototometers and multispectral high resolution all-sky imagers.  These highly advanced optical instruments are necessary in studying auroral proton precipitation (blue aurora).  AUGO II also serves as an important training facility for the next generation of space science researchers, providing an unparalleled observing location and state-of-the-art facility where leading researchers can work and share ideas together.

AUGO II shares the same locational advantages as the original AUGO facility, except that by being in a secluded, rural location, it poses even darker skies, allowing it to study faint auroral activity without the effect of urban light pollution.  AUGO II’s northern subauroral location places it under the orbital footprint of the ongoing THEMIS satellite mission as well as the upcoming Radiation Belt Storm Probe (RBSP) mission.  This presents a unique window of opportunity for researchers wanting to do studies at the AUGO facilities that can tie into these and future space missions.

The 1.5 million dollar AUGO II project is funded by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Athabasca University, and the Alberta Science and Research Investments Program (ASRIP). Network infrastructure is funded by the Canadian Advanced Network and Research for Industry and Education (CANARIE).

Updated September 06 2013 by AU Geophysical Observatory

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