Draw me a cloud: a tale of hopes and predictions

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More dedicated than ever to push science forwards and make it understandable for everbody, the team has decided to go to the next level regarding the advertisement of the SCRAP experiment. Our goal is ambitious: within one year, everyone in the street should be able to give an educated answer to the question that will be entertaining us today.

“If you pick up dust from under your bed and sprinkle it in space, what happens?”

A recent unbiased survey conducted in utter agreement with scientific ethics on a very representative sample of people randomly chosen in a bar after midnight draws rather dim conclusions on the general awareness about dust in the mesosphere. Typical answers include

– It’ll glow green, right?
– There is no dust under my bed, I am a very clean person, by the way I am searching for an appartment…
– Put that microphone away from my face!

This question is in fact very serious and central to the SCRAP project. Of course, there is no way to know for sure before the experiment is done, but one of our key objectives at the moment is to predict how the dust cloud will look like on our measurements.

Science says: "not like that".
Science says: “not like that”.

Since we are dealing with radar scattering, what we are looking for is the spectral signature of the microparticles. That is, we want to identify specific features in the radar signal which would tell us that our dust is there and give us information about its size and electric charge. With the help of plasma theory, it is possible to describe how the wave amplitude and frequency are modified by the presence of particles. Then, the big issue is to know whether we are able to measure these modifications…

Please, don't make it white noise...
Please, don’t make it white noise…

And that’s where optimization comes into play! Though there are many constraints we need to fulfill – strangely enough, they wouldn’t let us release 15 tons of mercury droplets in the atmosphere – we still have some room to design the experiment. All the parameters we can act on (particle size, amount, material, …) are still being investigated in order to maximize our chances to have a beautiful radar signal in the end.


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