2019 SARA Annual Conference – Paper Abstracts

2019 SARA Annual Conference – Paper abstracts 


Patrick Taylor;    Keynote speaker: Radar Observations of Solar System ObjectsAbstract: Planetary radar is one of the most unique and powerful methods of studying solid bodies in the Solar System from Mercury out to Saturn.  The most common targets of planetary radar observations, though, are near-Earth asteroids.  Radar is an incredibly useful technique for determining the orbits of asteroids as well as constraining their sizes, shapes, rotation rates, compositions, masses, densities, and binarity (whether they have their own small moons).  This information is invaluable for planetary defense, both in determining if an asteroid presents an impact hazard to Earth, either now or in the future, and for informing spacecraft development should impact mitigation ever be necessary.

Drew Wilkerson;    Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design of a Radio Telescope

Abstract: Recently York College of Pennsylvania has started including Engineering capstone design projects that are community or service based. Prior to this most students would participate in a capstone design that built a car for competition in the Baja or Formula collegiate programs. However, one of this year’s programs was to design and build a mount for a 15-foot radio telescope that was to be placed at the John C. Rudy Park, in York County Pennsylvania. The project served the York County Astronomical Society and the greater community. The mount was to include both azimuth and elevation tracking with remote control from a website. The park service was to handle the details surrounding the foundation, fencing, control room, and power. However, the students needed to engineer a solution for the rotating parts and build the telescope so that it would service the greater York community for years to come. In other words, the design needed to be robust and durable capable of surviving the outside elements while being economically sustainable.


Tom Hagen / Ken Redcap;    STEM Project With CircuitPython


Kerry Smith;    A 4.5 Meter Radio Telescope for Educational Outreach

Abstract: This paper presents an overview of the history of this project by Kerry Smith. The current development and intended goals will be discussed by Todd Ullery. This is our story of a 4.5 meter radio telescope that will be used for radio astronomy education and research at the York County Astronomical Society's observatory located at John C. Rudy Park in York PA.


Skip Crilly;    Geographically spaced Synchronized Signal Detection System

Abstract: Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) is a confounding problem in radio SETI, as false positives are introduced into receiver signals. Various methods exist to attempt to excise suspected RFI, with a possibility that true positives are rejected, and that un-excised RFI remain as false positives. Uncertain far side-lobe antenna patterns add to the uncertainty. To ameliorate the RFI problem, a system having geographically-spaced simultaneous and synchronized pulse reception has been implemented. A radio telescope at the Green Bank Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia has been combined with a radio telescope of the Deep Space Exploration Society, near Haswell, Colorado to implement a spatial filter having a thrice-Moon-distance transmitter rejection. Approximately 135 hours of simultaneous synchronized pulse observations have been captured from November 2017 through February 2019 and another 45 hours captured in April 2019. This presentation describes the problem, observation system, observed results and proposed hypotheses to be subjected to attempts at refutation and relative inference, through further experimentation, and RFI and ETI transmitter signal model development.


Rich Russel;    Galactic Navigation using the Pioneer Spacecraft Pulsar Map


Charles Osborne;    Arecibo, A Top to Bottom Look at the 305m Antenna

Abstract: In 2004 SARA members met at the Arecibo Observatory and were treated to a hands on opportunity to learn how to observe with the antenna. This is an updated version of slides from that trip showing some of the last 15 years changes and hurricane damage. With budget cuts instituted a few years ago at most of the older observatories, they remain in the cross hairs when funding is needed for newer facilities. For members who may never visit the actual observatory my presentation hopefully will answer your questions about how Arecibo works.


Bruce Randall;    Arduino Based Itty Bitty Telescope IF Processer

Abstract: The Itty Bitty Telescope (IBT) is a demonstration radio telescope built from Ku band satellite receiver parts.  This paper addresses a replacement (Figure 1) for the satellite finders used for previous IBTs.Also addressed is the possibility of improved performance over that available with satellite finders.  Looking at the radiometer equation shows that the performance limit of the IBT is not the noise temperature of the Low Noise Block Converter (LNB).


Kerry Smith;    The Itty Bitty Telescope; Past, Present & Future


Jay Wilson;    Radio Astronomy to the Blind and Visually Impaired

Abstract: Several well-known astrophysicists have been blind or visually-impaired. Within the field of radio astronomy itself, two outstanding researchers are blind: Dr. Wanda Diaz-Merced, a specialist in Magnetars and Gamma Ray Bursts, and Dr. Kent Cullers, a leading SETI researcher who was depicted in Contact by the character Dr. Kent Clark. While these individuals have overcome difficult challenges to make names for themselves in what is an otherwise visually-dependent field, there are few materials readily available to aid in the presentation of radio astronomy to blind students and those interested in becoming amateur or professional radio astronomers. Because the Little Thompson Observatory works with several blind amateurs, we were motivated to find ways of making radio astronomy more accessible. We have identified numerous tools and materials that anyone can use in their presentations to blind students to help convey the science of radio astronomy as well as the beauty of the sky, descriptions of signal characteristics, and concepts such as Doppler shift, spectral and continuum electromagnetic readings, waveforms and schematics of radio receiver systems. Some of these tools are simple audio outputs from signal processing which Dr. Diaz-Merced describes in her inspiring TED Talk entitled “Listen to the Stars,” but tactile products can also provide extensive technical detail and allow for in-depth study by the blind researcher. For all but the largest research institutions the problem has been the cost of producing tactile materials. For example, a low-end Braille text-only printer can cost $4,000 or more, with tactile graphics printers often in the $20,000 range. Looking for affordable solutions, we contacted Yerkes Observatory, the American Federation for the Blind and the educational outreach staff at NASA, and have compiled a short catalog of resources and a how-to tips on producing low-cost, yet high quality radio astronomy audio, charts, graphs and images in tactile format. Some of the methods include: Text to audio applications to read out raw data, tables, formulae, journal papers, etc. Braille text printers—some sources for discount equipment Tactile graphics printers—how to use a Braille text printer to produce tactile images 

Embossed plastics Engraved plastics 

Thermo-embossing using special paper, an ordinary printer and a toaster oven

Hand-made images using aluminum foil, craft supplies and items from the hardware store

With minimal cost, any radio astronomer on a budget can share the excitement of this exciting science with blind or visually impaired individuals..

Tom Hagen / Ed Harfmann    Pulsar detection on a budget.