Professor Christopher S. Ruf presented a talk on “The Discovery of Lightning on Mars with a Radio Telescope” during our meeting on April 15, 2010 at 6:30pm in EECS 3427. You can find out more about him from his website. We also held a Vice President election during the meeting.
~~~~~~~ Abstract of the talk ~~~~~~~
Observations of Mars by a specially modified 34m radio telescope made during a large dust storm on the planet show clear signs of strong and sudden bursts of electrical discharge, i.e. lightning. The telescope was modified using a high order moment (kurtosis) microwave detector that was developed for other reasons – to detect the presence of low level radio interference in terrestrial passive microwave observations of thermal emission from low earth orbit. The kurtosis detector was fortuitously also able to discriminate between Mars’ thermal emission and non-thermal emission by the lightning. Spectral features of the kurtosis measurements suggest that Schumann Resonance fields are present and that they are modulating the lightning.