This paper is an updated presentation by Skip Crilly K7ETI about the continuing SETI observation results we’re doing together. The DSES 60-foot dish antenna in Haswell and the 40-foot dish antenna at the Greenbank Observatory in West Virginia have been making simultaneous observations for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) since November 2017. A third antenna in New Hampshire was added for taking data in December 2019. Simultaneous observing by sites distant from each other helps filter out local radio frequency interference (RFI). Signals observed at each site can then more confidently be identified as non-Earth in origin. This presentation summarizes the results, with additional data from February and March 2020.
The article describes recent parallax studies, using Very Long Base Line Interferometry(VLBI) radio astronomy in Japan and North America, to more accurately determine the spiral structure of our Milky Way galaxy. The studies indicate also that the Sun is closer to the central plane of the Milky Way than previously thought.
These VLBI studies utilize natural MASERs that are produced by molecules of water and methyl alcohol in ionized regions just outside hot stars. Hot stars are always short lived, not lasting more than a few million years, because they rapidly burn through their nuclear fuel at their higher temperatures. They therefore are found close to their original location of birth. They are one of the features that define a galaxy’s spiral arms. And so to map the location of the hot star MASERS is a means to map the spiral structure of the galaxy. Radio astronomy VLBI enables angular position measurements to high resolution. The angular position measurements are used to measure the parallax over the course of a year, and therefore measure distance to more accuracy. The more accurate determination of angular position in the sky and distance therefore enables a more accurate mapping.
Bill Miller, Tony Bigbee, and I (Gary Agranat) served last month as judges at the 2020 Pikes Peak Regional Science Fair. The Fair was held at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs on Saturday February 22nd. Tony served as a general judge, representing the Fair. Bill and I served as special judges representing our radio telescope group, the Deep Space Exploration Society. The Fair is there to encourage students in grades 6 through 12 to explore and develop their interests in science and engineering. The Pikes Peak Regional Fair supports students from Elbert, El Paso, Park, and Teller County counties, whether they are in a school or home schooled.
About $8000 in prizes and special awards are given each year from the Fair and special groups like ours. The Fair prizes are divided into subject area categories, like physical sciences, plant sciences, environment, biomedicine, chemistry, and energy/transportation. There are overall Grand Prizes, and prizes in each of the High School and Junior High School Divisions. Students are also awarded invitations to the State Science Fair.
DSES was one of 43 organizations that sponsored special prizes. This year DSES sponsored 4 awards: 1st prizes and honorable mention awards, for both the Senior and Junior High School student categories. Our 1st prizes included an award of $50. This is our second year judging and sponsoring prizes.
DSES this year also supported a high school student, Xander Duvall, who is interested in astronomy and physics.
The DSES Judging and Prizes
Only about 60 students entered this year’s Science Fair, compared to about a hundred last year. Nonetheless, in our opinions, the projects were generally good and well-motivated. One could see the students’ hearts were in it. A number of projects were motivated with real concern for society. Many of the solutions were often quite innovative and truly pushing what had been done before. Even when the projects were not so far reaching, one could tell the students were trying things and learning from their experiences.
Bill and I decided on a 4-part grading system for judging. We wanted to keep this simple, straight forward and manageable, and meaningful. For each student we interviewed, we assigned a grade of 1 to 5 in each of these major areas:
How well they framed their problem
The quality of their data, which included quality of their testing and how they conducted their experiments.
The quality of their analysis, which included how thorough their work was and how well they were able to explain it.
The value added from their work: the general impact to society and science or engineering, and to their own development. A sub category of #4 included, if possible, the value added to the subject areas relevant to DSES work: i.e., astronomy, especially radio astronomy, and any of the engineering, computer, and science areas that enable that work, like data analysis and experimenting with antennas. Those topics are not necessarily easy to get into, and so we wanted to encourage and help young people get exposure to those topics.
We then used our grades as guides to holistically assess all of the students afterwards. In 5 to 10 minutes of interviewing each student, and looking at their work and presentations, it is a challenge to get an objective view of the full work. The quieter time afterwards gave us time to reflect more fully, and let impressions that were working in the background contribute and give us a fuller answer.
Our goal was to support the young people in developing their quality in all 4 of those areas. I think Bill and I were satisfied with the awards we decided on. There were many excellent projects and several of those were outstanding. We were special judges in our own defined special category. We couldn’t award to everyone that we thought worthy. But in our decisions, we indicated the strengths and qualities we wanted the young people to continue to develop for themselves. We interviewed 7 students in the Junior High School Division and 7 students in the Senior High School Division. We were impressed with and proud of all of the students we interviewed.
We decided on these awards:
Junior Outstanding: Naomi Kruse (6th grade) “I speak for the trees: Tree-ring analysis of pinus ponderosa to learn local climate history” . Naomi took slices from about 30 trees that were damaged in the Black Forest fire a few years ago. She systematically analyzed the tree rings and was able to correlate climate change well back into the 19th century.
Junior Honorable Mention: Sara Wilson (8th grade) “Mind your message”. Sara successfully developed a smart garage door opening system that can be operated simply with a home computer and not requiring a smart phone.
Senior Outstanding: Kathryn Kummel (11th grade) “Investigating the urban heat island phenomenon through modeling, satellite data, and on-site measurements”. Kathryn did a multi-faceted study. She examined LANDSAT data of Colorado Springs to get a broad view. She looked at mathematical modeling of temperature and heat response of different surfaces. She checked with measurements of her own. And she made sample roof surfaces to test which would best mitigate heat generation in an urban environment.
Senior Honorable Mention: Xander Duvall (9th grade) “Analysis of neutral hydrogen radio emissions in the Milky Way galactic plane”.
Xander was the student we supported. He had come to us just earlier this year. We discussed with him his interests and what we were doing. We only had enough time to provide him with some data, to try to analyze and understand. The data we gave him was from a drift scan with our 60-foot dish of the 21 cm HI hydrogen spectral signal, scanning across the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Xander was able to research the background and develop a sharp presentation with some good explanations and illustrations. We hope Xander will continue to explore and develop his experience with astronomy research. He got a good start, and there is potential for lots of good solid work. Meanwhile, Xander earned several other awards at the Fair: the NASA EARTH System Science Award, the Northrop Grumman Special Awards in Science and Engineering (Sr.Div.), and the Senior Division People’s Choice (which is a popular vote by everyone who attends the Fair).
Additional DSES members helped Xander, including Rich Russel in supporting him with the observational data.
These are the students we interviewed.
JA3) Ezra Voth [03:58] Measuring water ﬂow through speciﬁc placements of rocks on varying inclinations to reduce soil attrition.
JA4) Naomi Kruse [03:49] I speak for the trees: Tree-ring analysis of pinus ponderosa to learn local climate history
JC1) Ava Connelly [01:48] ‘‘Electricity free emergency’’
JD1) Sara Wilson [06:06] ‘‘Mind your message’’
JD3) Aditya Gonella [06:50] :‘‘A hiker’s third eye’’
JD5) Shrey Rohilla [02:50] ‘‘Windmill wonders’’
JD7) Phoenix Doyle [02:42] ‘‘Electromagnetism’’
SA6) Hudson Kruse [06:15] ‘‘Searching for blunders: Discovering the relative factors which inﬂuence faulty thought process in chess”
SB5) Jesus Gil [01:21] ‘‘Durability of casein plastic’’
SD1) Steven Lewis [02:20] ‘‘Cyber security engineering for aircraft’’ (Using AI machine learning to counter vulnerability of aircraft ADS-B)
SD2) Gryphon Patlin & Zakery Snider [06:32] ‘‘A device to digitally assist and enhance perception’’
SD4) Xander Duvall [03:17] ‘‘Analysis of neutral hydrogen radio emissions in the Milky Way galactic plane’’
SD5) Axton Hiltion [00:30] ‘‘Mitigating the cost of expensive solar repair by shielding environmental effects’’
SE6) Kathryn Kummel [02:59] ‘‘Investigating the urban heat island phenomenon through modeling, satellite data, and on-site measurements’’
In the near future, Bill and I plan to meet over coffee and assess our lessons learned. We’ll think about how we did, our criteria, and what we want to do going forward for the next science fairs, for supporting the young people in developing their work, and in judging at the fairs.
The Science Fair has a website. Pikes Peak Regional Science Fair. There you can learn more details about the Fair and the awards. They also have a nicely done video that highlights the students with their presentations and the experience of participating in the Fair. https://vimeo.com/393350748 The times in brackets in our above list of the students we interviewed are when they appear with their presentations in the video.
Participants: Rich Russel, Bob Haggart, Glenn Davis, Lewis Putnam, Bill Miller, and Gary Agranat.
Photos by Bill Miller and Gary Agranat.
We worked at the Plishner antenna site in Haswell on Saturday February 15, 2020. We had three projects:
Attempt at observing a circumpolar pulsar, utilizing the System 1 manual tracking system. (Rich Russel, Glenn Davis, Lewis Putnam).
Complete building and installing shelf space in the Communications (Operations) Trailer (Bob Haggard).
Repair of the 3-element Yagi ham radio antenna, to realign the three elements (Gary Agranat, Bill Miller, Bob Haggard).
1. The major task of the day was an attempt at a science observing run of a circumpolar pulsar. This is one of the brighter puslars in the sky. And being circumpolar, it is always above the horizon, though it can still get relatively low to the horizon. The observing technique required continually pointing a the celestial coordinates and integrating the signal for at least a half hour. By integrating over time, the random noise tends to cancel more, leaving the actual radio source signal the time to accumulate and sum to a higher level than the noise floor.
2. Bob Haggart worked on completing the building of desk and shelf space in the Communications Operations Trailer. The additional space is actually important, as that gives us a means to organize and better utilize our work space, and not instead have items pile up randomly.
3. A third project was the repair of the front element of the 3-band Yagi ham radio antenna on the 40-foot tower. The front element had rotated slightly askew.
After the tower was raised back to vertical position, Bill and Gary slightly rearranged the positioning of the 80 meter dipole that is supported from a pulley on the tower. The repositioning separated the dipole with better clearance from other nearby wires
Rich Russel processed the observation data, but the processing did not bring out the pulsar. Troubleshooting is a topic at the February Science Meeting. Meanwhile, the System 1 antenna pointing system worked well.
The group finished up the work well before sunset, so that traveling back with the sun setting was not a significant issue. We had good weather for this trip, for a winter day in February. Our temperature was in the 40s F, which was actually midler than the 30s in Colorado Springs. And our wind was light.
We have been monitoring the news about the apparent magnitude of the star Betelgeuse dimming during the past few months. Betelgeuse is a red supergiant star in its late stages of stellar evolution. As such, it is expected to become a Type II supernova some time within the next 100,000 years. Its recent dimming has piqued interest that perhaps the star may soon become a supernova. If that were to happen, DSES is prepared to observe it immediately. We are keeping aware of notifications from the SNEWS (Supernova Early Warning System) network [https://snews.bnl.gov/], which would send an alert if indicator neutrinos were detected.
However, no current theory of supernova predicts that a star would first dim, as is being observed for Betelgeuse. And meanwhile several other physical factors are known to make Betelgeuse variable, although it has not been observed during historical times to dim as much as is being observed now.
Dr. Russel recognized that another possible physical mechanism that could cause the apparent dimming would be a dust cloud coming between the star and us along our line of sight. The cloud could be interstellar, or it could be a product of the star itself and close to the star. There is evidence for a possible cloud in existing VLA (Very Large Array) observational data, which we have available to analyze. In the imaging data, what could be an imaging artifact nonetheless shows structure, and could instead be an actual physical cloud. In the slides, Dr. Russel showed calculations of how the cloud would be expected to move if it is the culprit of the current dimming. At the meeting we developed a set of observational tests we can conduct to test our hypotheses about if there really is a cloud dimming Betelgeuse.
The second topic of discussion was about troubleshooting our attempted observing of a pulsar with our 60-foot dish antenna the previous weekend. The analysis produced no results. But there can be several possible reasons for the problem.
What we did think did work was the accurate pointing of the dish antenna with the System 1 software, to well within the beam width limits of the 408 MHz antenna feed.
The third topic was about the upcoming Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers Western Conference [http://www.radio-astronomy.org/node/323] in late March in Socorro, NM. DSES will be presenting several papers there.
The Pikes Peak Regional Science Fair was held the previous Saturday at UCCS. Bill Miller and Gary Agranat represented DSES as special judges. Tony Bigbee served as a general judge for the Fair. Bill and Gary awarded Outstanding and Honorable Mention awards in both the Junior and Senior High School categories. Bill presented the awards at the Fair’s awards ceremony, held the evening after the DSES science meeting. The Science Fair and the awards will be a topic of another post.