It was operated by the UCLA plasma physics laboratory from 1986 through 2007. A unique capability at that time, it could radiate 70 MW ERP at either 2.85 MHz or 4.53 MHz. These frequencies are close to a multiple of 2 and 3 of the electron gyro-frequency at ionospheric altitudes. Sending a pulse of HF-radio waves upward could accelerate the electrons in the ionosphere. Somewhat like waves on the ocean, the character of the ionosphere could be inferred from the backscatter signal. Other experiments attempted to combine RF and visible excitation where the latter probed metal ions such as sodium.
The HIPAS facility also used a LIDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging) instrument. Other projects included:
- A plasma torch, used for experiments in hazardous waste disposal
- A 2.8 meter liquid mirror telescope, which uses a spinning bowl of mercury to form the mirror, used for laser experiments.
- An array of antennae which are used for exciting the ionosphere.
- "Philosophy of Science Portal: HIPAS Observatory closed". December 14, 2009.
- "Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - HIPAS Observatory auction a treasure trove of technology throwbacks quirky equipment". web.archive.org. April 9, 2012.
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