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Ionospheric hole behind an ascending rocket observed with a dense GPS array


An ascending liquid-fuel rocket is known to make a hole in the ionosphere, or localized electron depletion, by leaving behind large amounts of neutral molecules (e.g. water) in the exhaust plume. Such a hole was made by the January 24, 2006 launch of an H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima, Southwestern Japan, and here we report its observation with a dense array of Global Positioning System receivers as a sudden and temporary decrease of total electron content. The observed disturbances have been compared with a simple numerical model incorporating the water diffusion and chemical reactions in the ionosphere. The substantial vanishing of the ionosphere lasted more than one hour, suggesting its application as a window for ground-based radio astronomical observations at low frequencies.


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Correspondence to Kosuke Heki.

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Furuya, T., Heki, K. Ionospheric hole behind an ascending rocket observed with a dense GPS array. Earth Planet Sp 60, 235–239 (2008).

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Key words

  • GPS
  • ionospheric hole
  • rocket launch
  • total electron content
  • radio astronomy