Federal State Budgetary Scientific Institution
Yu.G. Shafer Institute of Cosmophysical Research and Aeronomy
of Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences

The history of PGO “Tixie”. How it all started

The extract from the book “Cosmophysical research in Yakutia” – Yakutsk: YaF Publishing House, SB RAS. 2001. – 440 p.

1957. In the center: Yu. A. Nadubovich, the first on the right : E. A. Ponamorev

The history of the Polar Geophysical Observatory in Tixie began in 1957 in Kiev, when Professor S.K.Vsekhsvyatsky decided that his concept of relationship of solar phenomena to terrestrial ones should be confirmed by geophysical observations. At that time the Kiev Department of Astronomy was preparing a large number of graduates who didn’t have a ghost of a chance to find a job in the Ukraine, then it was decided that some of them would go to Tixie for the wintering. They were Yu. A. Nadubovich, P. Ya. Sukhoivanenko, V. I. Dzyubenko, N. I. Dzyubenko, N. N. Bliznyuk and I (E.A.Ponomarev).

Before going to work, all these people had to undergo training at the already operating geophysical station under the guidance of Prof. A.I.Lebedinsky. Yu. A. Nadubovich specialized in optical observations, P. Ya.Sukhoivanenko — in spectral observations, N. N. Bliznyuk and I — in radar observations. Besides, it was supposed that I as a Candidate of Science ” in 5 minutes” , would lead the scientific work at the station. In addition to the residents of Kiev, the research staff , namely T. I. Shchuka and E. P. Zubareva, was provided by Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI). So the main scientific staff was formed.

V. I. Dzyubenko

It was planned to get the engineering and laboratory staff at the expense of local resources and the Lena Arctic School and so V. F. Smirnov and Yu. P. Nikitin arrived at Tixie. The bulk of people arrived by airplane, but E.P. Zubareva and V.I. Dzyubenko arrived together with the cargo by the “Kooperatsiya” ship from Murmansk in September. They were sent from there by P.Ya. Sukhoivanenko. All the cargo was unloaded and brought to the courtyard of the laboratory because the room was not yet ready. The location for the station was not very well chosen, it was located to the south of Tixie, the northern horizon was closed by mountains and illuminated by the village of Tixie, which caused the displeasure of our opticians. But nothing could be changed: there were already two log shells and even an operating small diesel power station. During the whole winter the construction of houses went on. The main building, where there would be a dining room then, was ready by the New year, 1958. There lived Mikhail Kozlov, who commanded the diesels and the entire enterprise.

By that time, observations started in the village of Tixie itself. The C-180 cameras were installed, E.P. Zubareva deployed the equipment for registration of short-period oscillations of the Earth’s magnetic field. Ionospheric observations had been carried out before our arrival. On February 19, 1958 I defended my thesis and on March 6, I already was in Tixie. In Leningrad, I managed to get the microphot that P.Ya. Sukhoivanenko needed. Everything was packed and, together with the accumulated cargo, delivered to the special air flight. Together with me, N. I. Fedyakina and Yu.N. Korneyev arrived. We flew safely aboard the LI-2 airplane for 4 days , for that time it was considered to be well. Immediately, on arrival, the lorry was brought to a runway, the plane was unloaded and the cargo was taken to the ”MGG” (the Tixie station). The station was called as the “MGG subject” or simply “MGG” in honour of International Geophysical Year (IGY). It was a clear frosty day. When unloading the lorry, the first thing, which was thrown down , was a rubber mat .The rubber mat shattered, because the temperature was -37° C below zero.

Subject in Tixie . 1962-1964 “MGG” (the Tixie station)

By that time, all the optical equipment , with the exception of spectrographs, had been brought to the station, installed and was already working. A locator was installed and the first observation data were registered on the day of arrival. But there was no normal connection with the world . There was also no transport of its own. To make a trip somewhere, you first had to run on foot to the village of Tixie, to manage somehow to get a transport, and then to bring coal or food to the station. There were a lot of rush jobs at that time but it was more fun than hard. Any physical work was fun. By my arrival, the building for an installation of ionospheric station was ready. Under the leadership of V.I. Dzyubenko, we began to install accessories for radiators for heating ourselves. Later, this local heating system was joined to the central heating system. The house had two rooms : one room was for the “ionosphere”, another one was for the monitor of cosmic rays . Unfortunally, we made a mistake when installating the local heating system, and the monitor was set up so that when it was necessary to change the counters, it was necessary to disassemble everything, because there was no free space to pull out the counters. It was a great inconvenience .In the same house there was the equipment for measurement of telluric currents. The ionospheric station gave a lot of noises during the process of sounding, but it was a defect in the layout that could not be corrected.
The building for the auroral observations was also completed on its own. That house was the best of all because it had an electric boiler heating system, the building was warm and comfortable. All the following services were deployed there: the radar, C-180 camera consoles, and a photo laboratory room. There were also some inconveniences: there was no place to store diesel fuel. Then we made a stand themselves and installed a fuel tank. It significantly improved the energy supply.

Yu. P. Nikitin
From the middle of 1959, we held scientific seminars. By that time, the station had 35 employees. Among them, there were researchers: E.A. Ponomarev, V.I. Dzyubenko, P.Ya. Sukhoivanenko, N. N. Bliznyuk, Yu.A. Nadubovich, E.P. Zubareva, T.I. Shchuka. In the second half of 1959, there were already all kinds of observations, there was a canteen and free food. At that time there was a very strict approach to obtaining data, a certain percentage was given for losses. If the losses were more than acceptable, then the penalty was in the form of deprivation of a bonus. The films from the S-180 camera were sent to the World Data Center in Moscow. There Olga Khorosheva organized the development of films. The radar data were sent to Murmansk. Data of telluric currents were sent to V. A.Troitskaya from the Institute of Physics of the Earth of the USSR Academy of Sciences. The ionospheric data were collected by A. S. Besprozvannaya from AARI, who was very strict about the quality of the obtained set of data. The photometer data remained with Yu. A. Nadubovich.

The “MGG” station was a division of Observatory of Tixie and there was no provision for the position of Head. But when I arrived at the observatory, its Director V. F. Merezhko immediately typed out the order and handed me a copy with the words: “You will be the Head of station. Go and command.” The car was already humming below. Thus, I became the first official Head of “MGG”, but before that, Yu.A. Nadubovich was unofficial. When I was away, V. I. Dzyubenko always remained as the Deputy Head of the station , at that time he was the most active host at “MGG”.

I will briefly focus on the scientific tasks set before us. As I already mentioned, the organizer was Professor S. K. Vsekhsvyatsky, who visited the “MGG” and lived there for some time. He was interested in the problem of estimation of the density of particles in the solar wind. He had the “comet method”, which gave high values of the density and flux of solar wind particles of the order of 1000 particles/cm3. He “forced” me to calculate a model of the solar corona, according to which the flux density of less than 100 particles/cm3 was obtained by stretching a point. However, I got values of less than 10 particles/cm3 at the Earth’s orbit. But he insisted on 1000 particles/cm3 and wanted to find the confirmation of it in the observations of aurorae.

V. F. Smirnov

In those years, there was a popular theory of Stormer, according to that the auroral zones were very well explained and there were attempts to determine the energies of particles invading the Earth’s atmosphere. Although Dr. S.-I.Akasofu has formulated the concept of a substorm much later, Dr. Yu. A. Nadubovich already drew attention to the fact that the activity had an explosive character at that time. We called them “spolokhi” i.e. this term meant sharp activation of aurorae and reflected the explosive nature of substorm. We were all surprised by the very rapid occurrence of phenomena, when 5-10 minutes after calm time, when the sky was dark, suddenly the background luminosity brightened , then auroral arcs appeared. It was also observed by other researchers, which made them to reconsider their ideas, and by the end of the IGY it was clear that Stormer was wrong. And then Dr. M. Bobrov divided the whole territory of the Earth into the polar cap and the auroral zone.
By the end of the IGY period, the concept of substorm was formed, although it was not called like this. It became clear that the ideas of Stormer are not suitable for explanation of this phenomenon, the idea of auroral oval was formed. O. B. Khorosheva played here the decisive role and then Ya I Feldstein, who generalized the idea of oval, with its possible break on the day side. We learned something about the spectrum of particles that caused aurorae. It became clear that these particles had an energy of not MeV or even not hundreds of keV. Those were particles with energies of the solar wind, as it was supposed, it was known very little about that fact at that time. All of that made us to reconsider our plans for the future. The possibilities of satellite methods already appeared by that time, we revised the possibilities of radiophysical methods, and riometers became the operating instruments.

N. I. Fedyakina
Very great hopes were pinned on radars. It was believed that they would allow us to observe auroral arcs during the daytime and cloudy weather. But it turned out that it was not so. However, a new class of phenomena was discovered , namely, radio waves, the existence of which nobody supposed. It turned out that radio aurorae were somehow connected with optical aurorae, but very difficult, indirectly. A new direction was discovered, i.e. spectroscopic observations. In the hydrogen emission, a shift towards the violet area was revealed, which indicated that protons flew at us, and the energies of particles were estimated by that shift, and it turned out that those particles were of keV energies. Gradually, using ionospheric observations, the fluxes and energies of invading electrons were estimated, and it was concluded that electrons of enough moderate energies were responsible for nighttime ionization at high latitudes.

After the IGY period, photographic methods and methods of vertical sounding of the ionosphere came to the fore, while spectrometric and radar methods went into the shadows. Of course, huge hopes were pinned on satellites and rockets. But the main conclusions about the magnetic field and substorm were made on the basis of ground-based observations. It meant that the data obtained should be treated more unfairly, because we obtained data for the IGY period not less than American colleagues did . We had the best network of C-180 cameras all over the world. Nevertheless, it was S.-I. Akasofu who discovered a substorm.