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UAF's Geophysical Institute offers outdoor tour of facilities

 A Black Brant IX sounding rocket stands in the park strip across from the front of the Geophysical Institute. (Jordan Rodenberger/KTVF)
A Black Brant IX sounding rocket stands in the park strip across from the front of the Geophysical Institute. (Jordan Rodenberger/KTVF) (KTVF)
Published: Jul. 10, 2020 at 5:39 PM AKDT
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Like many others, the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Geophysical Institute is adapting to COVID-restrictions by offering an outdoor tour of their research facilities.

The tour features 10 stops along the way, including resources the institute uses such as the Alaska Satellite Facility and the Poker Flats Research Range.

"During normal years, the Geophysical Institute operates a walking tour inside," said Science Writer for the Institute, Fritz Freudenberger. "We had to re-imagine the tour as an outdoor walking tour, still highlighting our facilities, but now you can do the tour and learn about our history at a safe distance, keeping in mind community health."

A popular attraction on the tour is the Black Brant IX rocket that stands on the park strip across from the Geophysical Institute.

"We are home to the only University-owned rocket range in the world," said Freudenberger. "We have launched hundreds of these rockets over the years and we study things low space, superficially aurora phenomenon."

Three large satellite receivers reside on the University's campus, operated by the Alaska Satellite Facility.

"The polar location of Fairbanks makes us a great place to get information and data from polar orbiting satellites, and so that is one of the reasons the Alaska Satellite Facility is in Fairbanks, because of our great location in the polar north." said Freudenberger.

Also along the way, there's a mural representing the different geophysical features of Alaska.

"The Geo-Odyssey Mural was created by Keith Appel in 1993," said Freudenberger. "It involves some of the important geophysical features we have in Alaska, such as volcanoes, earthquakes, the ocean... things like that. The deep red represents the magma beneath the Earth's surface and [shows it] coming up in different features... and we have the sun and the moon, the ocean and different mountain features here in Alaska."

The remainder of the tour features the Elvey Building, corner reflector, an international signpost, the Helga Wilm Dedication, Townsend Point and the Planet Walk. More information of the tour can be found at

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