SARA 2015 Conference Abstracts

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


Author: Professor Duncan Lorimer

Title: Pulsars, flickers and cosmic flashes: the transient radio universe

Abstract: I will describe a brief history of discovery and some exciting recent developments in the world of pulsars and fast radio bursts. Pulsars, rapidly rotating highly magnetized neutron stars, were discovered in 1967 and continue to surprise and delight astronomers as powerful probes of fundamental physics and astrophysics. Fast radio bursts are millisecond-duration pulses of currently unknown origin that were discovered in 2007. Both pulsars and fast radio bursts have great promise at probing the universe on large scales and in fundamental ways.  I will describe the science opportunities these phenomena present, and discuss the challenges and opportunities presented in their discovery.


Author:  Tom Hagen

Title: Portable VLF Receiver for Making Calibrated Magnetic Field Strength Measurements

Abstract: This presentation is about the author's continuing efforts to get calibrated measurements of the field strengths of the various VLF stations used by the SuperSID program as reference sources to detect sudden ionospheric disturbances (SID’s). Presently, the amplitude of data coming in from the various SuperSID stations around the world is uncalibrated. When a SID is detected, there is a measurable change in relative signal strength, but actual field strengths are unknown. If a portable VLF receiver and loop antenna setup could be developed that is calibrated, then such a setup could be shipped to different sites for calibrated field strength measurements.  Users could even build their own receiver and loop antenna from standard plans. A small loop design and two receiver designs are discussed.  Estimated sensitivities of each receiver design are calculated. Calculations are verified with laboratory tests.



Author: Ken Redcap (KR5ARA)

Title: 611 MHz Total Power Radio Telescope - Part 0x03 (Software)

Abstract: Part 0x02 of this presentation was given at the SARA 2014 East Conference. Parts 0x01 and 0x02 dealt with the hardware (antennas (< $100 each), USB dongle (< $30), etc.) being used for this ongoing project. Part 0x03 will focus on the programs available on the website SDRSharp.Com and how to make modifications. Other topics will include Visual Studio (Microsoft) used to build the application SDRSharp and an introduction to the new hardware (AIRSPY ($200)) available on the same website that is compatible with SDRSharp. 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 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 Curt Kinghorn's presentation at the 2013 SARA Western Conference on low cost radio telescopes using off-the-shelf TV receive antennas and an article in the August, 2013 SARA Journal about a low cost HI receiver.



Authors: Dr. J. Wayne McCain, Professor and Kevin Keenan, Student

Title: SARA/JOVE Activities In A College‐Level, Management Of Technology (MOT) Curriculum

Abstract: The Management of Technology BS degree program within Athens State University’s College of Business is a specialized management degree with particular emphasis on technical risk management,technology innovation management, and overall assessment, identification, acquisition, and implementation of technology within an organization. Specific case studies are used to illustrate MOT principles and provide students with as many ‘hands‐on’ experiences as possible. One such activity has been the development of the Athens State University Radio JOVE Observatory (ASURJO) which includes not only participation in the NASA‐Sponsored and SARA‐supported Jupiter decameter emissions monitoring program (Project JOVE), but also the Stanford Solar Center/SARA Super‐SID solar disturbance monitoring program, and general amateur radio astronomy observing. Student activities have included receiving hardware and antenna construction/installation; monitoring/recording/reporting software implementation; general facility design, construction, and maintenance; along with development of related research paper topics and open student ‘star parties’. This paper gives an overview of faculty and student activities with examples of student work accomplishments which might serve as guidelines or inspiration for other college‐level, radio astronomy‐based involvement.




Author:  Paul Oxley

Title: RASDRviewer Pulsar Feature Update

Abstract: The author published a paper in the SARA Journal  titled “RASDRviewer PULSAR FEATURE DESCRIPTION”.  This paper summarizes the Journal Article and enhances the content based on the learning that has occurred since its publication. The major enhancements are in the processing capabilities available in RASDRviewer, the addition of a simulator and the addition of references to the TEMPO  program that can be used to aid in establishing the Pulse Period range. Changes to the original Journal text have also been included based on questions and comments received since its publication.
The Journal Published document described the proposed process for capturing a pulse from a Pulsar. The objective of the process is to be able to display and record the pulse profile  during the period when the Pulsar is within the beam width of the antenna. The process works in near real time on a high end Windows PC. The process uses In phase and Quadrature (I & Q) samples that are presented to a Fast Fourier Transform (FFT). The FFT output is entered into an accumulation matrix of time verses frequency bins. The accumulated values are coherently integrated to improve the Signal to Noise Ratio (S/N). The Time difference between each FFT is varied to allow the selection of the appropriate slope (DT/DF) that will cancel the dispersion present in the Pulsar data.
Further processing is accomplished using a lower frequency clock rate to identify both the fundamental frequency of the pulse and its phase. The low frequency clock is locked to this phase to allow further coherent integration (Folding).


Author:  Carl Lyster

Title:  Field Demonstration of the Radio Astronomy Supplies SpectaCyber Radio Astronomy Receiver

Abstract: The Spectracyber has been in continuous production since the early 90’s. It has evolved as the electronics industry has changed over the decades but still retains the same basic analog design and is the culmination of the inventor’s dreams since age 15!  The unit is optimized to deliver very impressive Hydrogen Spectra from a simple 10 foot TVRO dish and can give very good results with as little as a 3 foot horn. The lowest noise figure components commercially available are used in the front-end along with custom manufactured RF filters in all of the necessary places. The triple conversion design uses a unique single quartz crystal for both first and second local oscillator injection. A simple stepped PLL oscillator performs the third conversion to the final IF for amplification and detection. A true square-law detector feeding adjustable DC gain and integration stages is digitized by a 12 bit A/D converter and sent out over RS-232 data lines at 2400 baud. A typical 400 point spectrum can be gathered in less than 1 minute with a measurement accuracy of 1 km/second. The maximum scanning range is +/- 400 km/second from hydrogen rest. Red and blue shifted spectra are displayed on a color graph in real time and can be saved and played back in fast motion to present a “movie” of the passage of Hydrogen clouds through the beam of the antenna. Remote site operation of the software is possible through several commercial programs such as “Go To PC” etc. Each Spectracyber is hand built from hundreds of surface mount components and represents approximately 100 hours of construction and testing time per unit.


Author:  Ciprian Sufitchi

Title:  Detecting meteor radio echoes using the RTL/SDR USB dongle

Abstract: The Software Defined Radio (SDR) has become a popular concept for radio astronomers and radio amateurs. Inexpensive implementations allow hobbyists to dedicate SDR devices for various experiments such as monitoring radio echoes originating from meteors, as they enter the atmosphere. In particular, the "RTL-SDR USB receiver" is a very affordable SDR that uses a DVB-T TV tuner dongle based on the RTL2832U chipset. Priced of $15 per unit (approximately), this entry level SDR, when connected to a standard computer, represents an interesting option for monitoring meteor scatter activity 24 hours a day. This paper describes a practical method to receive meteor radio echoes and explains how the web site works.


Author:  Skip Crilly

Title:  Shannon Entropy Measurements of Radio Telescope Signals

Abstract: A two-element 5.4 m dish interferometer system is described. The telescope system is used to observe celestial objects at 1405 to1452 MHz using a software-cross-correlator, and is used for SETI.  Observation of the Crab Nebula is presented. One dish measures potential short duration frequency-variable modulated pulses, hypothetically of ETI origin. A speculative pulse decoder has been programmed into the twelve million channel, 3.7 Hz bin receiver. SNR and Shannon Entropy are calculated for each decoded symbol. This paper will describe the radio telescope and some unexpected low probability events that imply a requirement for further analysis and


Author:  Steve Tzikas

Title:  New SARA Sections

Abstract: The Introduction to SARA Sections has the goal of providing a vision and process to help SARA enhance itself in the near, intermediate, and long-term future. It is proposed that by incorporating a sectional basis to the activities performed by SARA, that many organizational pursuits will have a structure to fulfill themselves. Goals include, but are not limited to, strategic planning, standardized data collection, methodologies and protocols, and member empowerment via section coordinators and assistant coordinators. This presentation will involved a discussion centered around the recently posted SARA sections and how they can be used to transformed SARA by bench-marking opportunities with organizational structures from other well established amateur astronomical organizations.


Author:  Bascombe J. Wilson

Title:  Developing a Radio Astronomy Program For Community Observatories

Abstract: This paper aims to share the experiences of the Little Thompson Observatory (LTO) of Berthoud, Colorado, as the facility added radio telescopes to its robust program of astronomy education and hands-on experience for students, their families and the community. The experience at LTO may be helpful to other observatories and community science centers that may be considering the implementation of a radio astronomy program. The paper focuses less on the technical aspects and more on the programmatic and management issues of such an undertaking because as a rule the technology can be bought off-the-shelf or built rather directly, but creating a program from scratch, attracting support, and demonstrating success requires much more than antenna dishes and radios. The hardest challenges in getting started aren’t technical—Maxwell worked most of the technical stuff out (OK, he was helped a little by Jansky, Reber, Kraus and some others) —but organizational, budgetary, interpersonal and operational considerations enter into every single scientific undertaking, and often they are the toughest part of the equation.


Author:  The RASDR team. David  Fields , Presenter

Title:  Small-Antenna Radio Astronomy with RASDR2

Abstract: The RASDR design team and beta testers have been exercising RASDR2 , a software-defined receiver (SDR) for radio astronomy.  The receiver consists of two high-density circuit boards; a wide-band analog front-end board using a single-chip transceiver ,  linked to a function control board that connects to a computer via a USB3 interface.  RASDRviewer software runs in a Windows environment and performs receiver control, FFT analysis, multi-frame averaging, power monitoring and other functions. RASDR2 is used with an antenna, filter, preamplifier, optional upconversion or system control devices, and external frequency/time reference signals.
The results of beta-testing, integration with several installations and the features of the device will be discussed. Availability of RASDR as a product is presented, and several packaged units are available for evaluation at the conference.
RASDR2 has applications with smaller antennas commonly used by the community of amateur radio astronomers. Visualization is done with RASDRviewer, Excel, and Python. Use of these tools and the observations made so far are highlighted in the talk.


Author:  Charles Osborne

Title:  The Biggest Offset Dish In the World. The NRAO 100 Meter

Abstract: At the time of pouring the foundation for the Green Bank Telescope in 1992 the largest offset dish in the world was 20meters. Such a leap in size to 100meters was an impressive gamble that needed technologies would be discovered in time to successfully achieve the 290 MHz to 90 GHz operational goals in four years. This paper discusses the GBT from 1987  collapse of its predecessor the 300 foot dish, four years of engineering, to ground breaking in May 1991, and on through ten years of construction to  first light  August 22nd 2000. Two years of commissioning tests and preliminary observations followed. Today the Telescope has been operational for a decade and sees a full load of about 3000 observing hours per year. It continues to be upgraded with new receivers and observing technology as it becomes available. The paper also delves into the system block diagrams with an intent at showing the basic similarity to even SARA member small dish receive systems.  


Author:  Various

Title:  Open Mic Session

 This speaker’s slot will be reserved for shorter presentations (~10 minutes or less) for partially completed projects, general questions to the SARA audience, or other humorous or entertaining topics.  This was a successful format at the 2015 West conference in Palo Alto CA.