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[pib] Ionospheric Electron Density (IED) and its applications


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: IED

Mains level: Not Much

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG), Mumbai, have developed a global model to predict the ionospheric electron density with larger data coverage—a crucial need for communication and navigation.

We can gauge these days that PIB is coming with ample news which is visibly important and are focused on basic GS concept. Ionospheric Electron Density is one such concept. Its significance for prelims cannot be denied.

Ionospheric Electron Density (IED)

  • The ionosphere exists between about 90 and 1000 km above the earth’s surface.
  • Radiation from the sun ionizes atoms and molecules here, liberating electrons from molecules and creating a space of free electron and ions.

Studying IED

  • The ionospheric variability is greatly influenced by both solar originated processes and the neutral atmosphere origin.
  • Scientists have tried to model the ionosphere using theoretical and empirical techniques; however, the accurate prediction of electron density is still a challenging task.
  • In recent years, Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) are showing potential to handle more complex and non-linear problems.

What are Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs)?

  • ANNs are computing systems vaguely inspired by the biological neural networks that constitute animal brains.
  • Such systems “learn” to perform tasks by considering examples, generally without being programmed with task-specific rules.
  • For example, in image recognition, they might learn to identify images that contain cats by analyzing example images that have been manually labeled as “cat” or “no cat” and using the results to identify cats in other images.
  • They do this without any prior knowledge of cats, for example, that they have fur, tails, whiskers and cat-like faces.
  • Instead, they automatically generate identifying characteristics from the examples that they process.

Significance of IED

  • Due to the ability of ionized atmospheric gases to refract high frequency (HF, or shortwave) radio waves, the ionosphere can reflect radio waves directed into the sky back toward the Earth.
  • Radio waves directed at an angle into the sky can return to Earth beyond the horizon.
  • This technique, called “skip” or “skywave” propagation, has been used since the 1920s to communicate at international or intercontinental distances.

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