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Leonid MAC

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flag Chester S. Gardner,
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Last updated: October 2000
E-Mail: cgardner [at]

Brief Biographical Information:

Professor Gardner has conducted both theoretical and experimental research in satellite laser ranging, laser altimetry, laser remote sensing and laser guide star adaptive imaging. Since joining the factulty of the University of Illinois in 1973, he has served as the thesis advisor for more than 50 Master's and 25 Doctoral candidates. Four of his Ph.D. students have won the Allen Prize of the Optical Society of America in recognition o their dissertation research. Dr. Gardner is Associate Dean and Director, Engineering Experiment Station.


During the past 15 years, much of his work has focused on Rayleigh and resonance fluorescence lidar studies of the middle atmosphere.

Research on Leonid MAC:

For the 1998 Leonid MAC mission, Professor Gardner headed the deployment of a two-beam Iron Boltzmann Lidar. The Lidar performed accurate measurements of the background neutral Fe debris layer densities, winds, and temperature. The Lidar also measured the neutral iron atom debris trails of leonid meteors that drifted by the lidar beam. Objectives were to measure the impact of meteoric flux on the iron layer structure, to study the relationship between meteor trail density and visual brightness, and to measure the Rayleigh cross-section of meteor dust and smoke. This NSF sponsored instrument occupied most of the middle section of the Electra aircraft. In this mission, Dr. Gardner acted as NSF's principal investigator for the deployment of Electra in this two-aircraft mission.

lidar lidar operators group photo

The main instrument onboard the Electra aircraft: the two-beam Iron Bolzmann Lidar of the University of Illinois at Urbana. This instrument consists of two lasers that send light pulses up to the meteor layer at two different wavelengths. Two large telescopes watch the tip of the laser beams and record when the light is absorbed and re-emitted by iron atoms, or scattered by dust. The time it takes the light pulse to go up and down determines the distance to the absorbing iron atoms or scattering dust. This technique allows the detection of meteor atom debris trails and the background iron debris layer. The instrument is used to weigh meteors and measure the chemical and physical timescale on which iron atoms react with the atmosphere or are otherwise removed from the trails and the debris layer. The images show Xinzhao Chu and Weilin Pan of the University of Illinois tuning the lidar. The 5 person strong team of the University of Illinois (right) took pride in their participation.

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