The aurora borealis and australis provide an immense amount of information about the influence of the sun on Earth’s magnetic environment. Through the sun’s 11-year cycle of activity, its little-understood longer-term variations, and its short-lived flares, it causes geomagnetic storms that can interfere with radio wave propagation and disrupt power lines. For this reason, its study is of great importance to Canada, as to other polar countries.
The second optical phenomenon is “airglow”, produced by solar ultraviolet light which dissociates molecular oxygen to atomic form, driving chemical activity, including visible light, similar to the aurora, but at a level below the visual threshold of the human eye. Because it occurs continuously, all over the Earth, its study is extremely valuable in characterizing the state of the upper atmosphere.
From Prairie Skies to Outer Space can be purchased on Amazon.
Shepherd has published two previous books, Spectral Imaging of the Atmosphere (2002) and Canada’s Fifty Years in Space – the COSPAR Anniversary (2008).
About the author
Gordon G. Shepherd obtained his BSc and MSc degrees at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon before receiving his PhD at the University of Toronto in 1956. After 12 years as a faculty member at the University of Saskatchewan, Shepherd became professor of physics at York University in 1969. He retired in 2000 and maintains an active research program as Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus.
Shepherd is a highly distinguished academic and has graduated more than 30 PhD students during his career. Awards and recognitions include: Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, Fellow of the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute, John H. Chapman Award of Excellence from the Canadian Space Agency, SCOSTEP Distinguished Research Scientist Award and the COSPAR William Norberg Medal.