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Polar Gateways Arctic Circle Sunrise

Polar Gateways Arctic Circle Sunrise 2008

Introduction to the Polar Gateways Arctic Circle Sunrise Conference

Barrow Arctic Science Consortium Center

Barrow Arctic Research Center, the conference site

The ongoing activities of the International Polar and Heliophysical Years have offered temporal gateways to our understanding of the icy polar regions of Earth, effects of solar activity and resultant magnetospheric interactions on space and atmospheric weather gloriously manifested by auroral displays in these regions, and how off-world journeys of exploration enable us to arrive where we started in comparing the evolution and present environments of comparable other worlds to those of our home world. How have we arrived at this juncture from the experience of earlier international epochs, beginning with Barrow's historic support of the first IPY expedition of the United States in the 1880's and culminating at the dawn of the space age with the International Geophysical Year (IGY) 1957-1958? What do we really understand from Earth, heliophysics, and planetary science perspectives about the dramatic changes occurring in the Earth-Sun-Heliosphere system as driven by the changing polar and connected heliophysical space environments? And, quo vadis, how are we to proceed towards what we might later call the International Planetary Year 2057-2059 in exploration and eventual human habitation of other polar and icy worlds in the solar system?

Barrow, Alaska's "top of the world" municipal and cultural gateway to the Arctic Ocean, offered a unique venue for the Polar Gateways conference on scientific and educational exploration of these questions. The new Barrow Arctic Research Center (photo above), operated by the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (BASC) in close partnership with Barrow and the North Slope Borough regional community, provided a comfortable modern conference facility connected to remote participants through videoconferencing. This venue also allowed direct access for on-site participants to the rigors and wonders of the shore tundra and sea ice environments just awakening from the darkness of polar winter in this first week of polar sunrise. The location of Barrow directly beneath the quiet-time auroral oval provided an otherwise unexpected vantage point for dramatic auroral displays as we discussed heliophysical connections of the Sun to the magnetospheric and atmospheric environments of Earth and other worlds of the solar system. Finally, our close scientific, educational, and cultural interactions with the local community, sixty percent native Inupiat Eskimo, provided another gateway of understanding to how such communities survive, adapt, and prosper in the kind of extreme and changing environments that will be found on other icy worlds of human exploration and eventual permanent habitation.

Concepts and leadership for this conference originated within the ICESTAR/IHY (Interhemispheric Conjugacy Effects in Solar Terrestrial and Aeronomy Research) international science team of IPY. The conference chair was Dr. John F. Cooper of the Heliospheric Physics Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. ICESTAR/IHY team colleagues at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics at Kiruna, the EISCAT Svalbard Radar Facility at Spitzbergen, Norway, and the Polar Geophysical Institute at Apatity, Russia made possible this unique Arctic circumpolar virtual conference in conjunction with remote conferencing support facilities provided by the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. We gratefully acknowledge the invaluable contributions of other technical support staff at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Arizona. Principal funding for conference logistics at BASC came through NASA Goddard from NASA's Planetary Atmospheres program and was supplemented by travel support from the ICESTAR team of the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) and by community educational outreach support through BASC from the National Science Foundation. BASC logistical support was organized by Dr. Glenn W. Sheehan, Executive Director, and ably provided by other staff of BASC.


Finally, we especially thank all, men and women, of our scientific, educational, and local community participants who responded to a modern version of Sir Ernest Shackleton's famous advertisement above for his epic 1914-1917 Antarctic expedition to explore the icy polar world of Barrow with us during the frigid week of polar sunrise. Our older participants provided the elder knowledge of past to present also much prized in the cultural heritage of the local Inupiat community. Our legacy to the future is the knowledge shared with the younger participants who in turn told of their own ongoing investigations and will carry on in future exploration of Earth and the solar system. As we heard directly from several participants of fifty years ago in IGY, so will some participants hopefully pass on our current exploratory knowledge of polar and icy worlds to the generations of that future world, on Earth and beyond.

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