International Geophysical Year (IGY) ran from July 1957 through December
1958 and was designed to promote cooperation between countries in the
earth sciences realm of research. In all, 67 countries participated
in various IGY projects. China declined involvement based on objections
to Taiwan being involved, arguably perpetuating its people's languishing
behind the Iron Curtain of Communism much longer than it otherwise would
have. Global studies were carried out for the aurora and airglow, cosmic
rays, geomagnetism, gravity, the ionosphere, longitude and latitude
determinations, meteorology, oceanography, seismology, and solar activity.
It was during this period that the USSR launched Sputnik and the Van
Allen radiation belts were discovered. This article reports on the radio-communications-related
IGY activities of the U.S. National Bureau of Standards (NBS, now the
National Institute of Standards and Technology - NIST).
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National Bureau of Standards' Role
One of two radio telescopes near Boulder, Colorado, operated
by National Bureau of Standards.
will provide valuable information in fields of meteorology and radio
The National Bureau of Standards is playing
an active, many-faceted role in the International Geophysical Year of
1957-58. From observation stations widely scattered over the globe,
the Bureau is collecting and analyzing data on many phases of upper
atmospheric physics and radio propagation. Centered in the Boulder Laboratories
(Colorado) where most NBS radio propagation research is carried on,
the Bureau's part in the program includes studies of the ionosphere,
forward scatter propagation, various kinds of radio noise, airglow,
and related phenomena.
The greatest part of the Bureau's effort
will be concerned with variations in the ionosphere. Because of its
extensive studies along these lines, the Bureau has been given responsibility
for the ionospheric data program in the Western Hemisphere. As part
of this phase, the study of sporadic-E propagation will be intensified
through the operation of controlled circuits.
with several South American laboratories, research will be conducted
into ionospheric forward scatter in the equatorial region. Further investigation
of scatter will be made in the Caribbean in cooperation with the Navy
and in the Far East in conjunction with the "Voice of America" and the
Japanese Radio Research Labs.
The Bureau is also expected to
learn more about radio interference and propagation through a study
of radio noise. Sixteen worldwide noise-observation stations have been
In addition, a systematic recording and study of airglow,
a faint night-sky luminescence, will be undertaken with telescopic photometers.
Two airglow observing stations have been set up and photometers have
been supplied to others in the American chain of 13 stations.
Focal point of the day-to-day system for observation coordination
is the Bureau's radio forecasting center near Washington. From this
nerve center, warnings are flashed to scientists throughout the world
for special conditions of observation.
Posted December 17,
Sensitive photoelectric photometer used to observe airglow.
Special sounding stations set up for the IGY observations.