The Home Made Radio Telescope. Part 2
Part 2 (even more ways to go crazy)
Last month I talked about how I started this project, and all my mistakes and frustrations just to hear a ping from meteorites as they enter Earth’s atmosphere. That eventual success, modest though it was made me eager to try something new with the various electronic gubbins that I had. What about Jupiter I thought, it's famous among amateur astronomers for having huge storms and pumping out a lot of radio noise.
All this was in the winter when Jupiter was high in the sky, a bold, beautiful planet loved by observers for its incredible cloud formations and sparkly little moons dancing around the planet. It was Galileo's discovery of those moons that lead to the understanding of how the solar system works, the heliocentric system with the Sun at the centre.
I've been looking at Jupiter through a telescope on and off for over 50 years, so I thought doing the same thing with my radio telescope should be easy. I was wrong, very wrong. The first problem is the antenna, to work properly and receive the weak signal an antenna had to be precisely made to work only at the frequency of Jupiter's storms, that's about 20mhz. There are several ways to do this, but it boils down to very expensive, or home made but huge. I'm a Yorkshire man so obviously the expensive option is out and I haven't been able to make the huge one yet. The only option was to cheat so after copious reading I carefully modified an old tv aerial following advice from someone who's already done this. By this time it was March and Jupiter was almost on the horizon at night and almost impossible to get a signal from. I'll have to wait until October for Jupiter to rise again in the night sky, or invest in a good tracking mount so it can be found in the daytime.
What's next? There's a very prominent thing in radio astronomy called the Hydrogen line, sounds boring doesn't it? If I can get a signal from that I can have a go at mapping part of the Milky Way, our galaxy and I'll really enjoy doing it.
This whole project is going to be a long term thing, and like most pastimes is only for the fun of doing it but I'm learning so much in the process and I'm getting an even greater sense of wonder at our universe. I'll return to radio astronomy later in the year and no doubt with another list of mistakes and bloopers.
Lastly, I've often been asked to recommend a book about starting observing with a telescope so here is my choice. 'Turn left at Orion', published by Cambridge university press. It's a good easy to follow guide.
Next month I'll be giving an update on what's happening in space exploration, there's a lot happening at the moment.
Charles Oates, Vega Baja Astronomy Group.