Antarctic Research Team:

Researchers:

  • Harm Moraal
  • Pieter Stronker
  • Helena Krüger

Students:

  • Renier Funchs
  • Ruan Nel
  • Hendrik Krüger
  • Godfrey Mosotho

Electronic Technician:

  • Gert Benade

 

IT support staff:

  • Anne Mans

 

Research:

The SANAE IV base in Antarctica

Mini neutron monitors

SANAE IV is the fourth South African research base in Antarctica. The first SANAE base was occupied in December 1959. Since then there have also been SANAE II and SANAE III bases. The new SANAE IV base was built on top of a rocky outcrop, at Vesleskarvet. This base is approximately 80 km from the edge of the continent and 160 km from the edge of the ice shelf.

The research programme at SANAE (South African National Antarctic Expedition) is part of the government’s Antarctic Programme, SANAP (South African National Antarctic Programme). Neutron monitors of the CSR at Sanae record cosmic rays on a continuous basis since 1964. Each year, since 1964, a physicist/engineer in cosmic rays has been responsible for this research project.

Cosmic rays are energetic particles from outer space (and sometimes from the sun), that travel nearly at the speed of light through space, and their intensity varies with solar activity. They can be detected by spacecraft and recorded by detectors on the earth. A group in the Centre develops and operates detectors, so-called neutron monitors, to record the cosmic-ray intensity. There are four such neutron monitor stations under our authority, i.e. SANAE in Antarctica (two instruments), Hermanus and Potchefstroom in South Africa, and Tsumeb in Namibia. These neutron monitors are part of approximately 40 such stations in the worldwide network.

To intercalibrate the worldwide neutron monitor network, in order to use the data for spectral studies, we designed and built mobile calibration neutron monitors.

This concept of calibration neutron monitor was further improved, and led to the concept of a mini neutron monitor, so that a mini neutron monitor becomes a permanent detector in its own right. With these smaller, simpler and much cheaper neutron monitors we plan a renewed network of mini neutron monitors. One of these new mini neutron monitors has already been installed at the Neumayer station, Antarctica, for continuous monitoring of the cosmic-ray intensity. Another advantage is the much easier deploying of these mini neutron monitors at remote mountain stations.

The SANAE neutron monitor is an important instrument to record Ground Level Enhancements due to very high-energy particles produced occasionally by the sun. This production happens in solar flares and/or their accompanying Coronal Mass Ejections.

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