Abstracts- 2014 Annual SARA Conference June 29 to July 2

The following papers will be presented at the annual conference at NRAO in Green Bank, WV.  Check back for late additions.


An Overview of the Radio JOVE Project
The Radio Jove Project Team
By: Dr. Chuck Higgins

Abstract:   Radio JOVE is an education and outreach project intended to give students and other interested individuals a hands-on experience in learning radio astronomy. After selling our first kit in 1999, Radio Jove has sold about 1900 radio telescopes in more than 70 countries around the world. Hardware and software has evolved in this time, and the Radio Jove Team will give a complete update and overview of the status of the program as of 2014.

Specifically, we will summarize the latest hardware and software for Radio Jove, include some recent Jupiter and solar observations highlighting the data archive, and discuss some research projects for students. Finally, we will discuss some upcoming projects for Radio Jove and highlight some advanced equipment, software, and results.

SETI's New Horizons

by Prof. H. Paul Shuch, N6TX
Executive Director Emeritus, The SETI League, Inc.

Abstract:  The author and his colleagues have proposed to NASA the creation and uploading of a message into the New Horizons spacecraft's memory, following a successful Pluto encounter in 2015. In the tradition of the Voyager Records now traveling through interstellar space, this message will be a self-portrait of our planet and species, to be shared with all humanity, and potentially with intelligent species elsewhere. The message contents are being crowd-sourced by people worldwide, and thus represent our planet as a whole. An international board of expert space scientists and engineers has determined this proposal to be technically feasible, and is currently managing all technical details. Programs for K-12 students will also increase interest in the New Horizons interplanetary probe mission, as well as showing students how they may share in this rare chance to help make a message that will soar among the stars.


Production Manufacturing Plan for the RASDR2 Appliance

By: Bogdan Vacaluic 

Authors: Bogdan Vacaliuc, David Fields, Paul Oxley, Stan Kurtz, Carl Lyster, Ricardas Vadoklis and Zydrunas Tamosevicius.

Abstract: For the last three years, SARA members have worked to construct a low cost hardware to enable radio astronomy using software defined radio (SDR) techniques.  With significant contributions from Lime Microsystems, Ltd. and members of the worldwide community, the team are able to offer to SARA members a high performance receiver appliance specifically tuned for radio frequency measurement.  The presentation will describe the appliance, its bill of materials and construction as well as the plan to manufacture and distribute it to radio astronomers and educational institutions.




RASDR2 Control and Analysis Software

By: Paul Oxley, David Fields, Stan Kurtz, Steve Berl

Abstract: The Radio Astronomy Software Defined Receiver (RASDR) is a system that provides a receiver that is optimized for Radio Astronomy. RASDR2 is the current hardware that is in testing with a planned general release at this conference. See multiple other presentations at this conference as well as previous SARA Journals and Proceedings publications for the history of this SARA project.


RASDRviewer is the software that controls RASDR2 and presents captured data to the user. It uses a Windows based GUI that is designed for portability to both the Linux and MAC platforms. This portability is mainly based on the use of the wxWidgets development tool that is available as open source freeware. wxWidgets abstracts most of the common graphical window objects to a common language that is applicable across all of the platforms. Thus the look and feel of the user experience is the same regardless of the platform being used.


This paper describes the RASDRviewer software and documents some of the experiences in its implementation. A brief discussion of the Windows Driver and FX3 firmware is also included.


RASDRviewer is an extension of the Lime Microsystems FFTviewer to optimize radio astronomy functionality.  The original FFTviewer presented three charts, I & Q samples vs time, I vs Q for system verification and an output display showing results of a large Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) that operates in near real time.  The FFT is capable of delivering up to 16,384 frequency bins multiple times per second. The control of the system required knowledge of the Lime chip architecture and RF engineering theory.

For RASDRviewer, modifications have been made to customize the software for Radio Astronomy use. This includes optimization of control functions for radio astronomy use, addition of a Power vs Time plot, file outputs and inclusion of a simplified selection of the user options.  In addition, RASDRviewer makes full use of the receive capabilities of the Lime Chip including sample rates up to 32 M Samples / Second and 28 MHz of bandwidth. RASDRviewer is being demonstrated at this conference. The demonstration will include real-time control of RASDR2 to produce three dimensional FFT plots. A copy of the software executable is included in the CD for this meeting.



Measuring the Field Strengths of VLF Stations

By:Tom Hagen

Abstract: This presentation is about an attempt to get calibrated measurements of the magnetic field strengths of the various VLF stations used by the SuperSID program as reference sources to detect sudden ionospheric disturbances (SID’s). Presently, data coming in from the various SuperSID stations around the world is uncalibrated in amplitude. When a SID is detected, there is a measurable change in relative signal strength, but actual field strengths are unknown. Different stations around the world report different SID levels for a given event. Are the causes of these differences loop antennas, preamp gains, sound card settings, sound card gain, or actual differences in field strength levels? And for better system design, the typical range of field strengths would be good to know for improving and standardizing the design of pre-amps and loop antennas.  Finally, a mathematical model is developed and verified for the Helmholtz Coil that was used for test setup calibration.



611 MHz Total Power Radio Telescope-Part 0x02

By: Ken Redcap

Abstract: Part 0x01 of this presentation was given at the SARA 2014 West Conference. Part 0x02 will focus on analyzing the results from an 8-Bay bowtie TV receive antenna, configuring/tuning the C# program SDRSharp.exe, investigating available software plugins for SDR# and testing a second (yagi) antenna. This project is a work in progress and is my first effort on a radio telescope to detect energy in this frequency range. The telescope is being set up at the McMath Hulbert Solar Observatory (MHO) in Lake Angelus, MI. All electronic components and antennas (3) required were purchased from Amazon except for the low noise amplifier. All freeware software components were derived from sites with various versions of SDR# like SDRSharp.Com. Inspiration for the project comes from Kurt Kinghorn's presentation at the 2013 SARA Western Conference on low cost radio telescopes using off theshelf TV receive antennas and an article in the August, 2013 SARA Journal about a low cost HI receiver.



Microwave Antenna Demonstrations

By: Jon Wallace

Abstract: The presenter has had a fascination with non-visual astronomy for over 25 years and has developed and built devices to share this with students and other teachers. After seeing a video of John Kraus giving a demonstration on radio antennas many years ago to the IEEE, the presenter was so inspired that he sought to reproduce as much of it as he could. Many of the ideas were unknown to the presenter and a couple were thought provoking and required exploration. It is hoped that these demonstrations will educate and inspire others to explore as well. The equipment consists of a Gunn diode source with horn antenna and a horn antenna with crystal detector, instrumentation amplifier, and VCO so that changes in intensity will be heard as pitch changes. The demonstrations cover topics which include: beam width, inverse square law, polarization, reflection, refraction, interference, absorption, gain, wave guides, and more.


VSRT Radio Demonstration

By: Jon Wallace

Abstract: After working with the new radio astronomer at Wesleyan University, Meredith Hughes, building the SRT and VSRT, the presenter experimented with the VSRT himself. The VSRT was designed primarily by Alan Rogers of Haystack Observatory in Massachusetts. We visited him and tested equipment and were able to come away with some real insight into the Haystack teaching radio telescopes. The presenter hopes to demonstrate the VSRT and show some of the activities it can do. It is a wonderful way to explore interferometry in a classroom and perhaps beyond.



An Introduction to Black Body Radiation

By: Tom Crowley

Abstract: This is an introduction to Black body Radiation and its importance to radio astronomy.  The discussion will relate temperature to Electro-magnetic Radiation and how to compute what the frequency based on temperature and vice versa.



Radio Astronomy with RASDR2

Authors: D.  Fields, P. Oxley, B. Vacaliuc, S. Kurtz, C. Lyster ,Z. Tamosevicius, C. Sufitchi and S. Berl

By: David Fields

Abstract: The RASDR design team is releasing an initial version of a software-defined receiver (SDR) for radio astronomy entitled RASDR2.  The receiver consists of two high-density circuit boards -- a wide-band femtocell chip on the front end analog interface MyriadRF board linked to a digitization and function control DigiRed board -- coupled to a computer via a USB3 interface.  RASDRViewer software runs in a Windows environment and performs receiver control, FFT analysis, spectrum averaging, power monitoring and other functions. Depending on specific application, RASDR2 is used with an antenna, filter, preamplifier, optional upconversion or system control devices, and external frequency/time reference signals. The team has three RASDR2 units in operation and is working to make units available to SARA members.


RASDR2 software, firmware and hardware are discussed in other conference presentations.  This presentation covers RASDR2 application to solve some common experimental challenges encountered by members of the community of amateur radio astronomers.  Results of operation in several RF spectral bands will be shown and discussed.



SID Monitoring using Raspberry Pi

By: Ciprian “Chip” Sufitchi

Abstract:As technology advances and becomes more and more affordable, research/crowdsourcing projects such as Sudden Ionospheric Disturbance (SID) monitoring could run 24 hours a day on inexpensive devices. Traditionally, a computer (PC) equipped with a good quality sound card is required to receive VLF signals, process them, store and draw data, and report it in a public database. For a continuos operation a PC is not an ideal platform though, being unreliable and expensive. Attempts to use microcontrollers such as Arduino were successfull, as presented at the Annual SARA Conference in 2013 (“Sidruino”) however they generally require an external VLF receiver. Raspberry Pi, a credit-card-sized single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation based on Linux as operating system, could be an attractive alternative – it is inexpensive, fast enough to perform Fast Fourier transform on incoming audio signal from the audio board, can be powered from batteries and it is supported by a large group of open-source enthusiasts around the world. The paper will focus on external hardware able to receive a wide VLF spectrum and a few SID monitoring applications running on Raspberry Pi.


The role of mass produced antennas and feeds on the future of radio astronomy development

" A Survey "

By: Mohammed Q. Hassan

Abstract: The rapid development in modern radio astronomy has led to proposing low cost high production level antennas. While the Allen Telescope array is dependent on 21 ft. offset Gregorian antennas having 42 antennas and the potential of increasing it to the full array of  350 units depending on funding, there is a far more profound project that is better financed internationally with a potential of having 3000 antennas, which is the Square Kilometer Array (SKA).

The SKA will have similar offset Gregorian antenna design except that the antennas will be considerably larger (49 ft. or 15m in diameter), providing lower frequency start-up and ending range from its log periodic feeds. Such a single antenna configuration can make it attractive for university based educational radio astronomy projects, where simultaneous observations over a number of frequencies within the specified range can be made possible.

This review / survey paper will show us the challenges put forward to combine several ground breaking concepts leading to a unified design that could be produced in large numbers. Several institutions are collaborating to bring this into fruition.