Jurgen Buchau 1933 - 1993

Jurgen Buchau unexpectedly died on 9 August 1993 as a result of a heart attack. He was born in the Free City of Danzig on 1 July 1933. He attended the University of Freiburg in Southern Germany majoring in physics and graduating with the diploma in 1963. His thesis research on the inverse Seddon technique to measure ionospheric electron density profiles on board a rocket was done under Prof. Karl Rawer at the Ionospheric Institute in Breisach. From there on his professional life was dedicated to ionospheric research. He continued working on ionospheric rocket experiments at the Fraunhofer Institute for Space Research in Freiburg until 1965, when he emigrated with his family to the United States where he joined the ionospheric physics group of Dr. Klaus Bibl at the Lowell Technological Institute in Massachusetts. He began developing innovative sounding techniques for the Airborne Ionospheric Observatory (AIO) of the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory (AFCRL) which he joined in 1967 working in Dr. Georg Gassmann's research branch. For more than 25 years Jurgen influenced and stimulated national and international ionospheric research from his position as an Air Force scientist while the laboratory changed its name from AFCRL to AFGL (Geophysics Laboratory) to PL (Phillips Laboratory, Geophysics Directorate). In this time he remained the technical and scientific leader of the AIO research. It was a sad moment in Jurgen's life, and for all of us associated with the KC 135 No. 55-3131, when the Air Force retired the plane from research duty in 1992.

In his early AIO research, together with his colleagues Jurgen was able to measure the extent and the dynamics of the equatorial bubbles. After years of studying the equatorial ionosphere, he directed an extensive airborne and ground-based investigation of the high latitude ionosphere. This work verified for the first time the existence of the complete auroral oval including the daytime aurora, thus confirming Ya. Feldstein's oval concept.

As part of the auroral research program, Jurgen established the Goose Bay Ionospheric Observatory in 1970 with a Digisonde, magnetometers, satellite beacon receivers, riometers and optical sensors. Recognising the need for high quality automatic data, he sponsored the development of advanced digital sounders and in the eighties, in cooperation with the Air Weather Service, initiated the installation of additional Digisonde stations at Argentia, Narsarssuaq, Sondre Stromfjord and Qaanaaq. This cooperation with the Air Weather Service led to the procurement and deployment of the Digital Ionospheric Sounding System (DISS), the world's only globally operating fully automated ionospheric sounding system that provides ionospheric characteristics in real time to the USAF Space Forecasting Center (AFSFC).

Jurgen's exhaustive studies of the polar cap ionosphere were conducted with his "optical" colleagues, led by his friend Ed Weber, and with members of the academic community in the Boston area and led to the discovery of the F layer polar cap auroral arcs and large scale ionisation patches drifting across the polar cap in anti-sunward direction. Jurgen initiated an international program to measure the convection pattern as a function of the interplanetary magnetic field conditions using the high latitude Digisonde chain, in order to establish the specifications of the high latitude ionosphere required for AFSFC's modelling effort.

Because of Jurgen's extensive knowledge of ionospheric processes and radiowave propagation, he became the Laboratory's representative scientist during the development and operation of the Over-The-Horizon (OTH) backscatter radar system. He recognised the effects of ionospheric variability and dynamics on the radar system performance and advised on the design of mitigation techniques.

As a long time member of URSI, Jurgen has contributed to the success of scientific meetings for many years and has published over 40 scientific papers. One year after his death, I still cannot believe that we no longer have his scientific advice and the excitement he always created with his enthusiasm for solving the mysteries of the ionosphere. I grieve having lost my friend, and I know many share this grief with me. We all extend our sympathy to his family, his wife Christel and the children Susanne, Thomas, Katrina and George.

Contributed by:

Bodo Reinisch

University of Massachusetts


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