For years, scientists studying the upper reaches of the atmosphere have turned to a remote Alaskan facility known as the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) for information. One of the world’s most powerful transmitter facilities, the HAARP transmitter array has provided information about some of the most basic natural process that occur at the edge of the atmosphere. But conspiracy theories about its motives have long plagued the facility. Now, in an attempt to dispel some of these wild ideas, the researchers who run the station are holding an open house.
Nestled in the mountains nearly 250 miles south of Fairbanks, the HAARP facility has been blamed for everything from earthquakes to the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia, Hudson Hongo reports for Gizmodo. Some conspiracy theorists say it’s an experimental weapon that can control the weather, while others say it’s a tool for mass mind control.
Photos of HAARP can look a bit spooky. The facility is a massive instrument made up of 180 large antennas sprawling over 33 acres. Add that to its remote location, and that fact that it was built as a joint project involving the U.S. Air Force, Navy and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and you’ve got a recipe for a device that conspiracy theorists can blame just about anything on, according to the Alaska News-Miner.
"We hope that people will be able to see the actual science of it," Sue Mitchell, a spokesperson for University of Alaska—Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute, which currently runs the facility, tells Yereth Rosen for the Alaska Dispatch News. "We hope to show people that it is not capable of mind control and not capable of weather control and all the other things it's been accused of."
HAARP is far from the death ray or weapon of psychic warfare that some people are convinced it is. HAARP was built to study the ionosphere—the upper edge of the atmosphere where phenomena like the Aurora Borealis originate, as well as where radio waves travel from transmitter to receiver. In order to study the atmospheric region, the field of radio antennae fire high-frequency radio waves into the ionosphere, while other sensors on the ground measure its effects, the News-Miner reports.
Without a clear understanding of the science here, it’s understandable that this facility could be imagined to be toying with some elemental force. But it’s essentially a larger, more powerful version of the radio frequency probes that anyone can buy at an electronics store. It’s also one of the only tools scientists have to study the ionosphere, as the region is too high for balloons to reach and too low for satellites to travel through, according to the News-Miner.
Starting at 9 A.M. on August 26, the HAARP facility and antenna array will be open to all, complete with guided tours and science lectures in an attempt to better educate the public. The open house will also include what the researchers are calling an unmanned aircraft “petting zoo” where the public can take a look at different drones the facility uses in their studies, as well as nearby facilities used to study the Alaskan permafrost and seismic activity, Rosen reports. It may not comfort the hardcore believers, but as far as the researchers at HAARP are concerned, it's worth a shot.