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Leonid MAC

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flag Dr. Gary R. Swenson,
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Last updated: October 1998
E-Mail: swenson1 [at]

Brief Biographical Information:

Professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbane.
Ph.D. 1975, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Before joining the ECE faculty, Gary Swenson had enjoyed an accomplished 28-year career working for the government and industry. He spent the first 16 years of his career with NASA at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL. One of his major accomplishments was designing and managing part of an artificial aurora and airglow study experiment that flew on a 1983 space shuttle mission. In 1984, he joined Lockheed Missiles and Space Company-now known as Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space-in Palo Alto, CA. Over the next 12 years, he helped design and manage two experiments that were carried out on 1992 and 1994 shuttle missions.


Areas of interest:

  • Remote Sensing
  • Upper Atmospheric Physics
  • Ionospheric Physics
Primarily he performs imaging and spectroscopy experiments using state-of-the-art charge-coupled devices (CCDs) to characterize the aurora and to understand the heating and chemical effects on ouratmosphere. Aurora are formed by electrons flowing from the earth's magnetosphere and interacting with the upper atmosphere. These electrons bring energy into the earth's atmosphere andalter its composition.

Research on Leonid MAC:

For the 1998 Leonid MAC mission, Professor Swenson deployed an all-sky airglow imager onboard the Electra aircraft. The instrument recorded gravity wave patterns as well as bright Leonid fireballs. An example is shown here.

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