Laser Remote Magnetometry Using Mesospheric Sodium

Thomas J. Kane, Paul D. Hillman, Craig A. Denman, Michael Hart, R. Phillip Scott, Michael E. Purucker, S. J. Potashnik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


We have demonstrated a remote magnetometer based on sodium atoms in the Earth's mesosphere, at a 106-km distance from our instrument. A 1.33-watt laser illuminated the atoms, and the magnetic field was inferred from backscattered light collected by a telescope with a 1.55-m-diameter aperture. We theoretically predict a shot noise limited measurement sensitivity of 19 nT/√Hz. The measured sensitivity was 162 nT/√Hz due to a smaller returned intensity and smaller resonance strength than expected. The value of magnetic field inferred from our measurement is consistent with several models of the Earth's field shape to within a fraction of a percent. Projected improvements in optics, plus the use of advanced lasers or a large telescope, could result in 1-nT/√Hz sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6171-6188
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Kuiper telescope
  • atomic magnetometry
  • laser guide star
  • mesosphere
  • sodium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Geophysics


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