• Exploration of mesospheric metal layers from Chatanika, Alaska

      Martus, Cameron M.; Collins, Richard L.; Mölders, Nicole; Sassen, Kenneth (2013-08)
      Layers of free metal atoms exist in the mesopause region of the atmosphere, generally between 80 and 100 km altitude. Resonance fluorescence lidar provides the best way to measure the structure and dynamics of these metal layers. Resonance lidar observations using tunable dye lasers are conducted at the Lidar Research Laboratory (LRL) of Poker Flat Research Range (PFRR), Chatanika, Alaska (65°N, 147°W). In this thesis, we present three fundamental aspects of mesospheric resonance lidar studies: lidar system commissioning and operation, analysis of temporal variations in the metal layers based on observations, and observations of the nickel layer. An excimer-pumped dye laser system has been used in the past for observations at LRL-PFRR, and we report on the alignment and testing of this system as well as the deployment of a new Nd:YAG-pumped dye laser system. Both of these systems are tested with observations of the sodium layer at 589 nm. Through an analysis of simultaneous observations of the sodium and iron layers taken in the past at LRL-PFRR, we study the common motion of the two layers and suggest an external forcing mechanism for the motions. We find that the motion of the layers is, in most of the observations, consistent with downward propagating gravity waves. Based on elemental abundances in meteors, the most likely source of mesospheric metal layers, we expect to find a nickel layer, yet such a layer has not been reported. We attempt to detect the layer using resonance lidar at the 337 nm nickel absorption line. We make several likely detections of the layer and present an initial estimate of the nickel profile. Signals received in the nickel measurements are as expected from a simulation based on signals received in past observations of sodium and iron.