September 18, 2002

Kelley Receives Grant for Research

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Prof. Michael C. Kelley, space physics, has been awarded a Fulbright grant to continue his upper-atmosphere research in Crete, Greece this academic year.


The United States Educational Foundation in Greece awards the grant under the Fulbright Scholar program, which is administered by the United States State Department. Kelley applied for the grant last year and is now one of three grant recipients in Greece this term. There will be three more recipients announced in the spring.

Kelly’s grant is being used to pay for travel and living expenses in Greece. Additional support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) has enabled Kelley to fund student involvement in the project as well.

Since July, Kelley, in collaboration with Prof. Christopher Haldoupis of the University of Iraklion, has been capturing images of the Earth’s upper atmosphere over Greece as part of his research project. Kelley selected Crete as his research site because of the opportunity it presented to combine the data collected by his camera with radar data collected by Haldoupis.

Kelley is pleased with how his research is progressing.

“We have found a new phenomenon on July 4 which we are trying to understand,” Kelley said.

“Basically, [it is] a region of bright greenline, which is different from any we have seen before. The Greek scientist I work with has his own instrument, scientific radar and he also sees a strong event. It is just the sort of thing we hoped for, something new and seen by both our instruments,” Kelley added.

Roving Camera

This past summer, Kelley sent Mike Nicolls ’03, an engineering research assistant, to assist him in Greece.

“Mike was a summer student at Arecibo in 2000 and came highly recommended by the director so I grabbed him in my own NSF Research for Undergraduates Program at Cornell,” Kelley said.

In Crete, Nicolls help set up an $80,000 traveling camera called the Cornell All Sky Imager.

The camera records images of storms in the lower ionosphere, the region of the atmosphere that is between 95 and 120 kilometers above the earth. The camera is also set up to capture nighttime images of airglow–light that is given off by chemical reactions in the upper atmosphere, but that is much too faint to be seen by the naked eye.

Once recorded, the camera transmits these images over the Internet to be analyzed by Kelley’s research team, comprised of Jonathan Makela grad and Pamela Loughmiller grad who can analyze them remotely.

“It was a great experience,” said Nicolls. “It was definitely an exciting adventure. The cameras were not small, though, they were difficult to carry and could only be set up at night right when the sun went down.”

Nicolls also noted how it was often difficult to get supplies and equipment as he was not near a city and the people only spoke Greek.

Kelley will remain in Greece until early December. “We have an apartment about 500 feet above the ocean looking over a small seacoast village,” Kelley said. He and his wife plan to scuba dive soon at a beach nearby allowing Kelley a break from his typical 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. schedule.

“Professor Kelley is one of the most respected people in his field in the world,” said Nicolls. “Students say there is no better advisor they could have. He always supports my ideas, and when a student lacks them, he readily offers his own. I feel very lucky to be working with him.”

Archived article by Alison Levine