As the weather gets colder in Maryland, Bob Benson tells tales of winters he used to know in Minnesota, the South Pole, and Alaska. A five-decade career studying Earth's ionosphere the part of Earth's atmosphere that reflects radio communication waves has taken him to some extreme elatitudes.
Standing in the corner of Bob Benson's office is a microfilm reader. You know, the big, boxy machine that was used to look up archived newspaper articles before such things were an Internet search away. That machine is one of the tools Benson has used to scan decades worth of data throughout his 46 years at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. He studies the ionosphere – the swath of our atmosphere filled with electrons and ions stretching from about 30 to 600 miles above Earth's surface and the data he studied from various ionospheric satellites were displayed on 35-millimeter film.