Physics at RMC – A New Department: 1995 to 2001

The History of Physics at RMC is “still” a work in progress…The long-term aim is to have a book published. For now we are fortunate to have obtained from Dr David Baird portions of his draft which covers the period up to 2001. This is the fourth and final part in the series.  

CHAPTER SIX

A New Department: 1995 to 2001

The closing of Royal Roads and CMR in 1995 had an significant impact on many aspects of the life and work of RMC as a whole. In the RMC Physics Department major developments in research and curriculum arose from changes in departmental membership. As was mentioned in the last chapter, four of the longest-serving department members had retired in 1995, with three more, Wright, Wiederick and McBride, following three years later. In a short space of time, therefore, one half of the long-term members of the professorial staff in the department were replaced. This in itself had a significant impact on departmental activity in general and on research programs, but in addition, a major change in departmental teaching and research arose from the return of the undergraduate space program to RMC.

New Staff Members

 

The vacancies created in 1995 were filled by the arrival of Joe Buckley, Rick Marsden, Pier Schurer, and Mike Stacey from Royal Roads, and of Roger Favreau from CMR. Each of these new members represented new areas of expertise and research.

Buckley, a graduate originally of McMaster University and with a Ph.D. in Oceanography from UBC had extensive experience in oceanographic support for oil exploration on Canada’s East coast before joining the Faculty at Royal Roads in 1988. Marsden, an RMC graduate in Honours Mathematics and Physics, obtained his Ph.D. in Oceanography from UBC following military service. After two years of post-doctoral work at Dalhousie University, he joined the Royal Roads Faculty in 1982. Schurer obtained Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees from the University of Gröningen in Holland. Following post-doctoral study at Gröningen he came to Royal Roads in 1978. Stacey graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from UBC before earning his Ph.D. from Dalhousie in Physical Oceanography. Following four years of post-doctoral research, first at the Institute for Ocean Sciences in BC and then at UBC, he joined the Royal Roads Faculty in 1987.

Favreau studied at McGill University, receiving his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in nuclear physics. Following two years in industry, he joined the CMR Faculty in 1963 where he served for many years as a consultant to mining companies in the field of explosives technology.

 A short time later, though closing two out of three colleges had provided some savings, further reductions in staffing at RMC led to the loss of two positions within each of the three departments in the Division of Science. This prompted three more retirements from the Department of Physics, and McBride, Wright and Wiederick left in 1998. The Department of Mathematics and Computing Science similarly lost two positions, but since no member of that department was ready to retire, two members took transfers, one to physics and one to chemistry. In this way the Department of Physics acquired as a colleague an old friend and fellow theoretical physicist, Dr. S. Ranganathan. Ranganathan had earned his Ph.D. at Cornell University in the field of theoretical physics and joined the RMC faculty in 1969. For many years he participated in the department’s extensive work in theoretical physics, specializing in the theory of condensed matter physics and publishing a large number of papers in this area. He also served between 1985 and 1994 as Head of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. From the beginning of the programs in the 1950’s and 1960’s, many of the more theoretical of the physics courses in the Honours Mathematics and Physics and Engineering Physics programs had been given by the Department of Mathematics, and Ranganathan had given courses in Classical Mechanics and Quantum Mechanics. Later, he had played an early and significant role in the development and implementation of space studies at RMC, and served as Director of Space Research at RMC from 1995 to 1999.

As the space program developed, the astronomical component of the department’s staff increased substantially. The first professional astrophysicist to join the department was Harold Kenny. After graduating from the Engineering Physics program at RMC in 1982, Kenny had studied for his M.Sc. (1989) and Ph.D. (1995) in astronomy at the University of Calgary, where he specialized in the radio emissions from symbiotic stars, i.e., stars in pairs sufficiently close that they can exchange material and thereby emit radiation. His research involved observations made using radio telescopes in New Mexico, with the famed Very Large Array, in England and in Australia.

Three other astrophysicists then joined the faculty, making astrophysics a flourishing part of the departmental activity. One was Dr. Gregg Wade, a graduate first of the University of Toronto in 1994, who continued on to research in astronomy at the University of Western Ontario where, by 1998, he earned both his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees, specializing in the properties of magnetic stars and initiating his extensive list of publications. Following post-doctoral experience at the University of Toronto and at l’Université de Montréal, he joined the department at RMC in 2001.

 

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Also in 2001 the department was joined by Dr. Jean-Marc Noël (photo left). A graduate of Laurentian University in Mathematics, Noël obtained his Master’s degree in 1994 in Applied Physics and proceeded to doctoral studies at the University of Western Ontario in the field of ionospheric physics. His research work on mathematical modelling of the electric currents and fields that are responsible for auroral displays earned him his Ph.D. in 1999, followed by teaching experience in Sudbury at Laurentian University and in London at Fanshawe College.

 

 

In the field of satellite tracking, the department was joined by L.Cmdr. Douglas Burrell (photo left). Starting with B.Sc. (1972) and M.Sc. degrees at the University of Manitoba, he moved to the University of Calgary for a Ph.D. in astrophysics. Specializing in helioseismology, he obtained his Ph.D. in 1976 before joining the RCN to serve at sea as a Combat Systems Engineer. Burrell eventually was able to return closer to his field of astronomical expertise when he was posted to Colorado Springs in 1998. There he worked as an orbital analyst in the Satellite Catalogue for Space Command before being posted to RMC to provide his space expertise to the Space Science programs in teaching and research.

Change was taking place also in the area of Non-Destructive Testing, a field in which the Department of Physics had long served DND’s requirements. In 1997 the department was joined by J.M.S. Dubois, an Engineering Physics 1987 graduate from RMC, in the department’s military position for Non Destructive Testing. Dubois had started his graduate studies at the University of Toronto’s Institute for Aerospace Studies where he specialized in optical fibre sensing before undertaking. Ph.D. research at Queen’s University. There he worked on non-destructive testing using the eddy current methods pioneered by Prof. David Atherton for the examination of gas pipelines. After finishing his Ph.D., he obtained practical working experience with AERE before his appointment to RMC to continue his research and development work.

Most of the new members of the department appear in the departmental photograph taken in 1999.

New Degree Programs

Following the curricular contortions of the early and middle 1990’s, the degree offerings since 1995 achieved an improved level of stability with the new degrees in Physics and in Space Science. The programs were designed to appeal to a variety of students, with each program offered at the Honours, Major and Minor levels. In addition, a degree B.Sc. (General) was offered to candidates who obtained a specified number of science or engineering credits. Lastly, a combined program was created with a Major in Physics and a Minor in Business Administration.

The re-introduction of the undergraduate space program, coupled with the new departmental expertise in oceanography and remote sensing resulted in major additions to the undergraduate course offerings. Of the undergraduate courses offered at this time for Third and Fourth Year students, over 40% fell within the categories of space, oceanography, or remote sensing. As part of the department’s commitment to more widespread education in oceanography a short course in Oceanography for the Canadian Ice Service was also offered.

Graduate Studies

Because of the continuing need within DND for graduates holding advanced degrees in space-related areas and the high cost of such programs in the US, the need was urgent to create such programs within Canada. Lengthy negotiations were necessary, however, and it was only in the year 2000 that the first students enrolled in the new program at RMC leading to a Master’s degree in Space Operations.

In addition, significant on-going programs of graduate studies in Acoustics and Oceanography and in Non-Destructive Testing were maintained.

Research

Optics

Rochon‘s work that was described in the preceding chapter on birefringence in organic materials was merely the start in an extensive series of experimental work and publications. The initial discovery of the optically-induced diffraction grating on the surface of the azoaromatic polymer was followed by study of the processes leading to the mass transport required to form the diffraction grating surface under the influence of the incident beam. This takes place, surprisingly, even at temperatures below the softening temperature of the polymer. In addition, Rochon and his co-workers developed other related polymers with improved properties, and investigated the application of the gratings to such purposes as optical coupling into waveguides, a process that is sensitive to both wavelength and angle of incidence.

 

Photoacoustic spectrometry

In the work initiated by Lachaîne in the 1980’s on photoacoustic spectrometry, one particular example illustrated the specific virtues of the photoacoustic technique. As is common practice, one of the drugs used in Photodynamic Therapy (the cancer treatment earlier) was subject to sterilization before use. The white powder was sterilized using γ-radiation, but an unfortunate consequence of the sterilizing process was a yellow discoloration of the material. It was necessary to investigate this change to see if the change of colour was associated with an alteration in the safety or efficacy of the drug. Lachaîne undertook the study and was able, using photacoustic spectrometry, to ascribe the discoloration to the formation of F-centres (an electron bound to a radiation-induced vacancy in the crystal lattice). This identification confirmed the harmless nature of the colour change. Although the identification was later confirmed by other types of spectroscopy, Lachaîne ‘s observation demonstrated the speedy and convenient effectiveness of the photoacoustic method.

Piezoelectric materials

The work on piezoelectric materials that Mukherjee and his co-workers had started in the late 1980’s had gained steadily in scope and international recognition. The substantial extent and reputation of this work is best described in Mukherjee‘s own words.

Piezoelectric materials are now being used in a very wide range of technological applications that entail a correspondingly wide range of operating conditions under which these materials exhibit very significant non-linearities. Mukherjee and his research associates carried out a systematic investigation of these non-linearities by developing experiments to measure the piezoelectric strain as a function of temperature and of high applied fields and stresses. They also determined the time dependence of the piezoelectric response and were able to to explain transient effects observed earlier by sonar engineers. Following the development of high strain piezoelectric single crystals around the year 2000, this group was part of a US Navy-sponsored effort to characterise the properties of these crystals, and their use has now significantly improved the performance of medical ultrasound and torpedo countermeasures. They also determined the properties of dielectric elastomer actuators as part of a DND project to investigate their possible use in reducing the noise generated by naval platforms. Betweeen 1992 and 2005 Mukherjee was a Canadian representative on the Technical Cooperation Program’s panel on ceramic materials, and during this period his laboratory was part of several TTCP/US Navy-sponsored efforts to develop new sonar devices for the detection and identification of underwater mines. In 2001 Mukerjee was cross-appointed as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Queen’s University and was the Deputy Director of the Queen’s Centre for Manufacturing of Advanced Ceramics and Nanomaterials from 2001 until the Centre was closed in 2008. This Centre, of which Mukherjee‘s laboratory became a part, was started with an initial funding of 3.3 million dollars from the Ontario Government, and it also received an equipment grant of over 7 million dollars from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Condensed matter physics

Before joining the Department of Physics, Ranganathan‘s research had been in the area of dynamics and transport properties of dense fluids. He had studied atomic motions in classical fluids using time-dependent correlation functions applied to a variety of systems ranging from simple monatomic fluids to plasmas and liquid metals. This work continued after joining the Department of Physics, and his research included exact theoretical formulations of binary collision contributions to time correlation functions, and molecular dynamics simulations of a bilayer electron gas.

 

 

Oceanography

Since RMC became the beneficiary of so much of the research and educational expertise in oceanography at Royal Roads the development of oceanographic studies at Royal Roads must be included as an important part of RMC’s historical heritage.

The study of oceanography at Royal Roads was started on the initiative of Dr. John Duffus (photo left), then Head of the Department of Physics (and later Dean of Science and Engineering). Duffus commissioned Dr. W.N. English, who had been Director of the Bedford Oceanographic Institute in Nova Scotia and involved in the founding of the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Patricia Bay, BC, to make recommendations regarding the initiation of studies in oceanography at Royal Roads. With the support, also, of Dr. George L. Pickard, Head of the Institute of Oceanography at UBC (who later received an Honorary Degree from Royal Roads for his contributions to oceanography at Royal Roads), the program was undertaken, and in 1974 Dr. D.P. Krauel from the Bedford Institute joined the Faculty at Royal Roads as the first oceanographer. He was joined in 1982 by Marsden, the second specialist in oceanography. Equipment was assembled, including a research vessel and the acoustic Doppler current profiler for measuring water velocity used by Marsden in his research, and the oceanographic group grew with the arrival in 1987 of Stacey, of Dr. Sherman R. Waddell, who had obtained his Ph.D. at Dalhousie University and was an expert in underwater acoustics, and of Buckley in 1988.

The study of oceanography had a long and respected history at Royal Roads. It was only natural, therefore, that the arrival at RMC in 1995 of three of the leading Royal Roads researchers would result in the initiation of a number of lines of research new to RMC.

Stacey‘s work at Royal Roads had centred on theoretical modelling of tidal flow in fjords, and much of the recent work was concerned with Knight Inlet on the NW coast of British Columbia. Water flow in fjords is very complex, and this particular fjord also has characteristics, including an underwater sill that separates the water of the fjord from the deeper water of the open ocean, that have made it particularly attractive for the study of tidal flow. Stacey‘s work concerned the impact on the water flow of the underwater sill and the influences of fresh water run-off, winds and tides. To obtain the required measurements, Stacey‘s collaborators installed water current meters at various depths to obtain the depth profile of the water velocity and also anemometers to measure wind velocity. The outcome was a complete description of the water currents in Knight Inlet. Since then a combination of theoretical and experimental work has permitted the refinement of the description of the water circulation in Knight Inlet which led to even closer agreement between observations and models.

Since coming to RMC, Stacey pursued similar studies in the Saguenay Fjord on the north shore of the St. Lawrence estuary. This fjord is interesting, partly because it contains two sills and also because of flooding that prompted increased research interest, and Stacey‘s modelling of the situation successfully clarified the structure of the tidal flow.

Marsden‘s work at Royal Roads had included investigation of air-sea interaction and tidal flow in a variety of locations, near the west coast of Vancouver Island, in Knight Inlet (in which measurements of water flow provided confirmation of the model developed by Stacey), in the Gulf of Alaska, and in the Arctic Ocean near Resolute in the Canadian Arctic. Marsden had used a variety of measuring methods such as a drifting buoy to measure wave characteristics, and instruments deployed through land-fast ice to determine the depth profile of water flow velocity. These studies had resulted in improved understanding of tidal flow and confirmation of existing models of air-sea interaction.

Marsden, too, continued his oceanographic studies after moving to RMC, turning his attention to the study of polynyas, the lanes of open water that can form in otherwise continuous ice cover in polar seas. These features are not only vital to the life cycles in the area, but are also significant in the carbon dioxide balance in the atmosphere, a topic of interest to those interested in global warming. Marsden‘s area of interest was the Nares Strait, the narrow body of water that lies between Ellesmere Island and Greenland and connects the Arctic Ocean with Baffin Bay. In his studies of the ice cover in Nares Strait and of the area of open water known as the North Water Polynya, Marsden used satellite-based infrared imaging (received at Canadian Forces Station Alert on the North shore of Ellesmere Island) to observe the details of the ice break-up and to carry out analysis of the warming mechanisms involved. The break-up of ice in this particular area is of substantial interest for a number of reasons. These include shipping access to Northern waters, the influence of water outflow from the Arctic Ocean on climate around the world, and the formation of icebergs that drift South and cause alarm to shipping and oil drilling platforms. In addition, the issue of Canadian sovereignty over Arctic waters is affected substantially by the changes in the Arctic ice cover and the possible opening of the North-West Passage to commercial shipping. Many future decisions on environmental and political issues will be affected by these significant studies of ice behaviour.

Buckley‘s research at Royal Roads had also been concerned with radar estimation of oceanic surface conditions and included both ship-based and remote, satellite-based, observing methods. While at Royal Roads he participated in 1991 in the ERS1 Wave Apectrum Calibration and Validation Experiment, and in 1994 in the Sea Truth and Radar Systems experiment on the Grand Banks in Newfoundland. In these experiments, Buckley‘s topic was the accurate determination of surface wave characteristics from radar observations. It is difficult to estimate sea state using ship-borne radar at grazing incidence. Using simultaneous observations of radar scatter and direct measurement of wave height, Buckley and his co-workers were able to validate an existing model of radar clutter from waves observed at grazing incidence, and to provide direct calibration so that wave height could be obtained from radar measurements. Buckley continued the work to correlate satellite data with surface conditions. By refining the models of radar scattering, he and his co-workers generated closer agreement between observation and theory, and extended the models to include the confusing influence of ship velocity.

Mössbauer spectroscopy

Schurer‘s longterm research had been in the area of Mössbauer Spectroscopy. The Mössbauer effect arises when a radioactive nucleus emits a γ-ray while the atom is embedded in a solid matrix of some kind. The effect of the lattice vibrations in that matrix on the frequency of the emitted γ-ray provides a sensitive and versatile method of determining the lattice characteristics or magnetic properties of a wide variety of materials. For example, before moving from Royal Roads, Schurer‘s most recent work concerned the formation of epitaxial layers by molecular beam bombardment. Molecular beam epitaxy refers to the formation of a single-atom layer on a substrate that takes on the crystal structure of the underlying substrate. This process, which is of substantial importance in many areas, was studied by Schurer using Mössbauer Spectroscopy to identify the precise atomic configuration of the deposited atoms. Also, in a demonstration of the versatility of Mössbauer techniques, he evaluated the use of amorphous rare-earth alloys for use in magnetic refrigerators. Schurer continued to use Mössbauer techniques at RMC to study the magnetic properties of hydrogenated rare-earth iron alloys and of iron-copper structures grown using molecular beam epitaxy methods.

Non-destructive testing

After McBride retired from RMC, the emphasis on non-destructive testing in the department shifted from acoustic emission to other methods of non-destructive evaluation. Dubois, who arrived in the department in 1997, had pursued his graduate studies in the field of eddy current testing. Although the use of eddy current testing to detect cracks and other defects in metallic materials had been common for many years, the method had undergone substantial development in recent years. In particular, the use of pulsed techniques with their extended frequency range and computerized analysis of the eddy current signals provided more sensitive information on defect location and depth below the surface, a benefit particularly valuable for the layered, composite materials found in modern aircraft. At RMC Dubois and his co-workers developed and refined the signal processing methods for receiving the eddy current signals, and were awarded several patents on the procedures used.

RMC became the designated centre for graduate studies in Non-Destructive Testing for AERE, thus providing stable funding for research and a steady flow of graduate students.

Excavation of rock by explosives

After coming to RMC, Favreau continued his decades-long study of the use of explosives in rock excavation. Favreau had constructed models for the mechanical and chemical action of explosive shock waves on rock, and routinely used explosions to provide experimental information to assist in extending and refining the models. Favreau‘s work was both theoretical and practical, studying mathematically the behaviour of stress waves in brittle solids, and, in addition, acting as a consultant to mine or quarry operators to optimize their blasting procedures.

Fundamental particle theory

Favreau‘s work for many years had also included the theory of fundamental particles. In the traditional theory of fundamental particles, problems arise from the assumption that sub-atomic particles can be described in a mathematical model as a geometrical point that does not have any spatial dimension. Point particles give rise to infinities when integration is carried out over the whole space around the particle to calculate such quantities as field energy. This inconvenience is commonly treated by the process known as re-normalization. Favreau‘s work, on the other hand, tackled the problem by constructing a model of fundamental particles that are not points but have finite extension. Favreau‘s work, both in fundamental particle theory and in engineering consulting, continued unabated in his “retirement”.

Astrophysics

As has been mentioned, the first professional astrophysicist to join the department at RMC was Kenny, whose research had been in the area of radio emissions from symbiotic stars. After his arrival he was been joined in astronomical work by two other department members, Wade and Burrell.

Wade already had a long record of astronomical achievement and publication. Prior to coming to RMC, his work concerned the magnetic properties of stars, and he continued research in this area of interest after joining the department. Magnetic fields in stars arise from the motion of charged particles in the stars, and so are a sensitive indicator of the turbulent convective processes in the stars. Their study can lead to information about the behaviour of the star that can be obtained in no other way. In addition, the magnetic fields are involved in the gaseous emissions that constitute flares and prominences, and so magnetic fields are significant in the emission of the “solar wind”, the stream of energetic charged particles from stars. We who live in the vicinity of a star are greatly affected by these particulate emissions since they cause damage to satellites and disruption of radio communications. Their prediction is of great importance, and so increased knowledge of the magnetic properties of stars in general can have a very practical outcome.

The magnetic fields in stars can be measured using the Zeeman splitting of spectrum lines, but Wade‘s work usually used the more sensitive polarimetric methods that detect polarization in the spectrum lines. This sensitive equipment is available only in leading observatories in the world, and Wade‘s work was carried out at the Pic du Midi observatory in France and in Chile. His observations on a number of hot magnetic stars contributed substantially to our previously deficient understanding of these interesting astronomical objects.

Space research

On his arrival at RMC in 1989 Somers initiated research into space science. This new area of research for the Physics Department initially involved satellite-based optical and radar imaging for search and rescue operations, and later developed into studies in satellite tracking.

In order to support the new space-oriented studies at RMC, Somers arranged for the transfer in 1992 to RMC of two major astronomical telescopes that had previously been used by the Defence Research Board for satellite tracking at the observatory in St. Margaret’s, New Brunswick. The first was a Baker-Nunn telescope (a modified form of a Schmidt camera) with a 20 inch aperture and a 30 inch mirror and very wide 30 degree field-of-view. It was never assembled after arrival in Kingston. The second was a Space Object Identification (SOI) 24 inch telescope that had been used at St. Margaret’s to collect optical signatures from satellites. When transferred to RMC it was housed in a large 15 foot dome on the roof of Module 3 of the Sawyer Building. Regrettably, this telescope also was never put into service, and was later donated to an American university.

Later telescope acquisition included a 16 inch Meade LX200 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope that was mounted in the 15 ft dome on the roof of the Sawyer Building that had been built for the 24 inch telescope. This 16 inch Meade telescope was donated to RMC by the ex-cadet Class of 1970 (one of whose members is astronaut Marc Garneau) on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of their graduation in October 2005. Another 16 inch Meade LX200 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, mounted in a six foot clam-shell dome, was acquired by Burrell to conduct satellite tracking research in the Space Surveillance Research and Analysis Laboratory (SSRAL). Finally, a 14 inch Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope mounted on a Paramount high-precision mount became the workhorse of the SSRAL. For many years it was used for satellite tracking research, and served as the prototype for the group of three observatories that are used by DND to make the coordinated observations across Canada required for satellite tracking.

In addition to these major astronomical instruments, a number of smaller telescopes were used in for research and graduate/undergraduate classes and projects.

The initiative shown by Somers led to ongoing development of space-oriented studies. Somers, however, left RMC in 1998 to join DND’s Directorate of Space Development in Ottawa as Staff Officer for coordination of research and development. Later, in 2001 after three months back in Kingston developing programs for satellite tracking, he joined the NATO Consultation Command and Control Agency in the Hague as Principal Scientist in the area of early warning and sensors. This has become NATO’s new ballistic missile defence system. On retirement in 2007, Col. Somers returned to RMC as advisor on space studies, and became in 2008 an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Physics.

In addition to the work initiated by Somers a substantial increase in the requirement for programs in space research arose following the return of the Space Science undergraduate program to RMC in 1995. In 1996, therefore, based on a proposal from Dean of Science Dr. A.J. Barrett (photo left), the College formed the Centre for Space Research. With a mandate covering both space research and space education, its purpose was to coordinate all space-related activities and to provide liaison with space-related agencies both within DND and in the wider community. The members of its Executive Committee were drawn from a variety of departments in science and engineering with its first Director Dr. Ranganathan, who since 1993 had served as the College’s contact person with DND’s Directorate of Space Development. In addition, an Advisory Board was appointed with members drawn from a wide variety of governmental and industrial agencies.

Since its formation the Centre has sponsored and coordinated a wide range of multi-disciplinary, space-related research activities. Only a few examples from these extensive activities can be included here.

In order to capitalize on the existing expertise in optics within the department, one of the earliest space-oriented research topics to be chosen was satellite tracking. Racey (photo left) and co-workers set up, in association with DND’s Directorate of Space Development, the Space Surveillance Research and Analysis Laboratory (SSRAL), and constructed Canada’s first totally automated satellite tracking facility for tracking deep sky satellites. Named CASTOR (Canadian Automated Small Telescope for Orbital Research), the equipment consisted of a specially adapted Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope combined with computerized monitoring of the images.

The purpose was to track automatically the Molniya fleet of Russian communications satellites by determining their orbital characteristics. The Molniya fleet of satellites were placed in orbits that made them difficult to track. In order to provide coverage over northern parts of Russia that could not be supplied by geo-synchronous satellites in the equatorial plane, these satellites were placed in orbits inclined to the equator and of such eccentricity that they spend a large part of their orbital time above high latitudes in the northern hemisphere. To monitor the orbital characteristics of these satellites, Racey and Somers installed a 14″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope on the roof of the Sawyer Building. To determine the orbital characteristics of a satellite from a single sighting, they caught the satellite’s image on a CCD array. With a stationary telescope the “image ” of the satellite is a line in the field of view. This line can then be compared with the images of adjacent stars of known position. Computerized analysis of the track across the elements of the CCD array then allows calculation of the orbital characteristics of the satellite. In this way a digital catalogue of the orbits of a large number of satellites was constructed, The RMC Castor system was replicated by Somers, then at the Defence Research Establishment Ottawa, into the three-observatory Ground Based Optical (GBO) system now in place in Ottawa, Valcartier, PQ and Suffield, Alberta. With GBO as a planned testbed, Somers initiated a program for NEOSSAT, a joint Defence Research and Development Canada and Canadian Space Agency for tracking satellites and detecting earth-approaching asteroids. NEOSSAT and a similar DND SAPPHIRE satellite are scheduled for launch in 2011, with the RMC SSRAL playing an important role in the planned on-orbit research.

The satellite tracking work at RMC was extended by Burrell and co-workers. In order to expedite the localization of poorly tracked space objects, the newly-acquired Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope was equipped with a CCD camera used in time delay and integration (TDI) mode. The field of view of this telescope was enlarged optically which, with the CCD camera used in the TDI mode, provided the equivalent of a large scanned area on the sky. This allowed the system to operate in search mode to detect objects whose orbital constants are poorly known.

After his arrival at RMC Noël continued his research on mathematical modeling of the electric fields and currents in the ionosphere that are responsible for auroral displays. His work concentrated on the modelling of intense and fast-moving, localized charge structures. Study of these particular charge structures enables us, firstly, to have a better understanding of auroral phenomena themselves. In addition, however, because his work concentrated on understanding plasmas in regions where satellites and other space-borne equipment are located, it also provided information about a number of processes in the upper atmosphere that are of practical significance, including satellite communications, the effect of atmospheric drag on satellite orbits, and the possibility that echoes from such charge concentrations can be misinterpreted as arising from a solid object that is approaching at an alarmingly high speed.

In other areas of space-based research, Buckley and Marsden installed a receiving station to receive signals directly from orbiting satellites. Using a receiver dish on the roof of the Sawyer Building and on-line computation, Buckley and Marsden received surveillance data from a series of satellites in polar orbits. These signals provided data that were processed to construct images at a variety of wavelengths in the visible and infra-red regions of the spectrum covering a large part of North America and the Western Atlantic. Such images, capable of 1km resolution, can be used for a wide variety of purposes. They were, for example, used to monitor ice movement in support of the Polynya project already described in Marsden’s research.

 RMC Physics Department Staff in 2001

Front Row: Dr. Lachaine, Ms. Millikin, Dr. Marsden, Mr. Korolok, Mr. Astapov

2nd Row: Capt MacWilliams, Capt Weston, Mr. Serdula, Dr. Stacey, Mrs. Jerebic

3rd Row: Mr. Judd, Dr. Buckley, Mr. Earl, Mr. Lockridge, SLt MacLeod

4th Row: Lt(N) Emirch, Maj Masys, Maj Labreque, Dr. Ranganathan, Mr. Languille, Capt Stockermans,

Mr. Earl, Dr. Schurer, Dr. Racey, Dr. Rochon