Institute for Telecommunication Sciences / July 1957

July 1957: International Geophysical Year Kicks Off

Proposed by a member of the National Academies of Sciences, the International Geophysical Year (IGY) was a global research effort that took place from July 1957 to December 1958. CRPL staff visited the Antarctic early in 1957 to prepare sites for their research. In July, CRPL sent researchers to the Antarctic to map the ionosphere and conduct forward scatter experiments. The IGY was planned to coincide with a time of unusually high solar activity. Sixty-seven countries participated in cooperative scientific studies around the world. International cooperation is important for geophysical research and large research projects often cross political borders. Much of the activity during the IGY took place in the Antarctic; some also took place in the Arctic, and some near the equator. The IGY was notable because of the number of countries working together in the midst of the Cold War. All the cooperating countries agreed to store the data collected in shared data centers located around the world. IGY research included the ionosphere, the auroras, cosmic rays, solar activity, gravity, glaciology, geomagnetism, oceanography, meteorology, rockets, satellites, longitude, and latitude. CRPL’s staff was involved in ionospheric and geomagnetic research in Antarctica, and in work on satellites and rockets in the U.S. CRPL also housed ionospheric and solar activity data after the completion of the IGY. The ionospheric and solar data collected led to improved communication and a better understanding of the atmosphere. Today, ITS staff work closely with the international community through international organizations like ITU, IEEE, and URSI. ITS's researchers still use data about the atmosphere and the sun to understand their effects on telecommunications.