Deep Space Exploration Society Science Meeting – May 25, 2020

Hosted online by Dr. Richard Russel.

The slides for the meeting are available here on PDF:

The link to the video of the meeting is at the end of this page.


Notes of the May 25, 2020 Science Meeting are by Bill Miller:

We had 12 participants in the virtual science meeting:

Dr. Rich Russel, Ray Uberecken, Myron Babcock, Ted Cline, Jon Richardson KU4PEH, Ed Corn, Gary Agranat, Bob Haggart, Jim Madsen K3ILC, Dave Molter, Bill Miller


Rich thinks we need Internet service at the site for some of the experiments.

When Rich and Ray went down this last weekend the transformer at the gate had blown and they had to call in the power company to come fix it so didn’t get anything else done.   The power company came down, worked on it, and got it fixed.

Bill, we need to mention that everyone should read our policy on meeting and going to the site on the webpage.  If you have had the virus or have had symptoms or been exposed to a positive person you should self-isolate from the group and others for 14 days and not meet of go to the site.

Rich is the SARA east conference coordinator. The August conference is virtual and is $20 to participate.

We were placed on the Neutron star group for the pulsar observation that Rich, Ray and Bob made several weeks ago. Rich thanks the rest of the group for all the hard work that got us to this point.

Rich’s presentation:

Rich gave his presentation on Pulsar B0329+54 observation, software setup and capture.

  • We had a lot of help from Steve Plock and Dr. Joe Martin (K5SO) to set up the SDR.
  • All the team members have put in a great deal of time and travel into the observatory to set up the feeds, cabling, power and control system to do this.
  • Ray, Bob and Rich were there for the first pulsar capture but everyone contributed.
  • Used the Ettus Research USRP N210 receiver.
  • Used a specially configured Laptop with a 1TB drive, Linux and Presto SW.
  • Used the GNU SW by Dr. Joe Martin (K5SO).

The Presto SW  builds a .FIL file with the data and time stamp.

Initial trial runs in Feb and May had the gain set too high and was saturating the receiver.

The first thing to check is the signal level of the feed and amps on a spectrum analyzer.

The site has a lot of RFI at 408 MHz right where we would like to observe so have to move up from this.

Ray added a 20dB preamp at the trailer end of the feed line.

Will move this preamp to the antenna end to compensate for the coax loss and reduce noise.

Single frequency RFI signals are filtered out by the SW.

The manual tracking works really well.

The tracking is run on the control Laptop and the Presto SW is run on the Linux Laptop.

The Initial  .FIL file gave a 2 pulse display after folding the signal from several hours of data.

The Presto SW is at

The SW needs input of a very accurate pulsar period.  The doppler error in the period due to the rotation of the earth and its orbital velocity  and position in orbit, also modifies the perceived pulsar period. Need to have the pulsar period set out to 4 or 5 decimals for the SW to fold/stack the signals to a usable observation.

The new SW takes the data, time tags it with the GPS data and creates the .FIL file.

The data from the Presto program will give a signal strength vs time for a single pulse that can be plotted using excel.  This Pulsar has a W50, 50% of pulse height with width of 6.6 mSec

This pulsar is circumpolar so it can be acquired at any time of day.  We need to change the mount limits to better enable this tracking without having to stop and unwrap 360 degrees if near the stop.

Most of the other available pulsars are in the Milky Way and only visible at night at this time of year.

The Murmur SW  is a good tool to find the pulsars

For low horizon pulsars with little access time, perhaps you could add the sample files from several days together to get more data and stacking strength to acquire the signal.

Scintillation is a problem that distorts the signal through the atmosphere so we need observations that are high in elevation and at the best times of day and night for atmospheric stability.

The next observing session is planned for coming Friday night or through Saturday.

We need to get at least 5 pulsars to get on the top of the neutron star list.

Jon asked,  “Where is the pulsar capability going?”

                Badge of honor and accomplishment.

                One of the difficult things we have the facility to do.

Finding a glitch in the pulsar.

There are guys that process pulsars daily and look for anomalies.

Ray has his new quick change feed on the dish.

We can do pulsars for several months and then do EME or can receive the beacon from the moon.

With Rays quick change feed, we can switch back and forth.

We can do Skips SETI observations in between other work with simple change out of the feeds.

We need a group calendar or way to communicate on the web site to schedule site trips and who is going.  Need to find a way to do this.

The Zoom Meeting Recording can be found on my Drop Box link at: 

Please forgive the first 5 minutes of setting up Zoom.

May 11, 2020 DSES Engineering and Operations Meeting Notes

by Bill Miller 5/11/2020

We had 17 participants in the virtual engineering meeting today:  Most ever! Thanks everyone for joining.

Participants: Dr. Rich Russel, Ray Uberecken, Myron Babcock, Ted Cline, Bob Sayers, Jonathan Ayers, Xander Duvall, Tony Bigbee, Ed Corn, Gary Agranat, Skip Crilly Don Latham, Glenn Davis, Floyd Glick, Matt Mathews, Bob Haggart, Bill Miller

Agenda and notes:

  1. Check in. How is everyone doing with the stay at home/safer at home situation.  Is anyone experienced or known someone experiencing the virus? Anything we can do for them?
    • We have had one core member contract and recover from the virus that we know of.
    • We cancelled in person meetings in March and went to virtual meetings to protect members.
  2. Myron’s Treasure’s update:
    • Checking $2440.40 
    • Savings $5741.85
    • Upcoming Insurance $290 to $310 
    • Board to approve reimburse to Steve for New Mexico mileage to set up the Ettus pulsar receiver with Joe Martin.
    • Membership
      1. 30 Voting members including 5 lifers  and 12 nonvoting. Myron checking with others as yet unpaid.
  3. Pulsar detection congratulations to Team and further work from Rich Russel
    • On the attempt on Feb 15th,  the gains were set too high and saturating the Ettus Research SDR receiver. Need to tune this front end gain into proper range for the input of the SDR.
    • Last Week on May 2, B0329 +54 pulsar got it on the fourth try for a ½ hour run with manual tracking.
    • This week on May 9 , got the B0329 +54 pulsar on 420Mhz+/-5 Mhz. which is the  second brightest pulsar and tried three others and didn’t see them.  All the others were low in the horizon. Joe Martin took 12 hours to get one of them at his site but the DSES team didn’t get any of the others yet.
    • Would like to be able to do the Crab Nebula Pulsar. Joe Martin has not gotten that one yet.
  4. Additional engineering needed for pulsar work.
    • Automatic tracking
    • Intermittent a/b switches on the encoders is causing a problem. Rich wants to take them out. Bill says they are not inherently intermittent but dirty.  Ray said that exercising them solved the immediate problem but if taking them out will improve the process, Bill’s OKAY with that.
    • Pulsar software used is Presto. Scott Ransom in Charlottesville is author and Skip can connect you if having issues or feedback.
    • Tony sites “Murmur SW is a predictive program to help set up for Pulsar observation.
    • Ray added 20dB amp in the comm trailer.  Steve has a preamp with better noise figure that can be added at the feed.
    • Each pulsar will take a minimum of about an hour of collection time.
    • Steve and Paul Berge need to reset the electric azimuth drive stops so that the system will track the circumpolar pulsars continuously without wrapping back around. Currently can only go 15 degrees past north and need to be set up for 90 degrees from north.
    • Tropospheric observations need a different stop.
    • Ray says the pulsars observed lately are circumpolar, near the north star so need to be able to go to the 90 degree mark on either side.  Paul Berge could do the adjustment on the limit switches.
    • Manual tracking  is boring and automatic tracking would be better. 
  5. Ray: Feed work and change out capability
    • Ray has another 1420 MHz feed that we would like to try
    • Steve located his electronics box in the same spot where Ray was planning for his box so need to reconcile this positioning with Steve.
    • Ray has a 1296 MHz feed available to do moon bounce and tropospheric scatter work.
    • Ray has installed rotating swivel joints in the coax.
    • The coaxes pull up through the center when moving the elevation to the horizon.  Currently the coax swivels are only a few feet below the tube and one broke when moving the elevation to 90 degrees so Ray will mitigate that with some extra flexible coax.
    • Skip asks about the bandwidth of the 1420 MHz feed.  Skip used 1390 – 1460 Mhz and this is the same specification  of the preamp that Ray used.
  6. SETI project with Skip. 
    • Skip will not be able to go to Greenbank with travel restrictions but will be able to do observation from his New Hampshire observatory. 
    • Skip’s dish is running 24/7 with 6 computers. Doing a lot of post processing of the data he is collecting.
    • Skip says there is no real urgency for simultaneous observations because of this and not to risk anything for his sake at this time.
  7. Tracking System 1 update;
    • System 1. Lewis Putman completed the HW design and will connect with Jones plug in the back of the rack. 
    • The control SW is updated, and Glenn will do some testing and give it to Lewis.
    • Glenn will set up a design review with Lewis, Dave, Bill and Ray to discuss the electrical interface plans.
  8. Summer site work?
    • Bunker bunk room.
    • AC up to feed point needs conduit
    • Water heater in the
    • Two 30 Amp 240 volt outlets in generator shed.
    • Top door for the doghouse. Need steel 32 inch door.
  9. Ham radio
    • Looks good
    • Need some cross bolts in the Yagi beam.
    • Addition antennas?
  10. Eastern SARA August Conference, August 2-5, 2020 Green Bank Observatory WV.
  11. Open House? 
    • Need to wait till late June for a decision on announcement due to uncertainty of the virus situation.
    • Gary and Bill will check for best calendar dates considering the Moon, other events and Ham activities.

Open Floor

  1. Bob Haggart, 
    • The back door of the trailer opened up a little crack and allowed the dirt to blow in.
    • Sealed up the AC units and other openings but must clean out the dirt.
    • The back air conditioner needs replacing. Bill has one he will donate.
    • The Heater was removed to make room for the back workbench
    • Bob working on the battery room as a storage room.  The tower inverter power is running off the railroad batteries in the comm. trailer so Bill doesn’t see any reason to replace the old wet cell batteries in the battery shack and we should recycle them.
  2. Gary Agranat
    • Gary has an upcoming MIT class reunion that has been moved to a virtual reunion. 
    • He has been asked by the class committee to make a class presentation on the Plishner Observatory and what we are doing in a Ted talk format.
    • This will be a great networking and familiarization opportunity with the 1985 MIT class.

Bill recorded the meeting on Zoom. It is in two parts, due to a gap in Internet coverage:


New work area in the science trailer, built by Bob Haggart

Bob Haggart (N0CTV) has been steadily improving the workspace of the science trailer at the Plishner radio telescope site. During the pulsar observation work on May 2, 2020, he completed building his latest enhancement: a partitioned work space at the east side of the science trailer. There is desktop space, which can be used for electronics building and testing. And there is additional shelf space, for better organization and storage.

Thank you Bob!

The new partitioned work area, seen from the middle of the science trailer.
New desktop workspace, with room for building and testing. There is also close access to test equipment, references, and technical documentation.
The work space in use during the pulsar observations on May 2, 2020.

DSES Science Meeting, April 27, 2020

Meeting notes by Bill Miller, April 29, 2020.

We had 13 participants in the virtual science meeting:

Dr. Rich Russel, Ray Uberecken, Myron Babcock, Ted Cline, Bob Sayers, Jon Richardson, Jonathan Ayers, John R Kucypeh (sp), Xander Duvall, Tony Bigbee, Ed Corn, Gary Agranat, Bill Miller.

Ray gave a discussion of feed system modifications and plans fix the feed to enable Pulsar work.

Bill said we have to hold a virtual board meeting and elect officers from the board.  We also need to call the annual all members meeting.

Rich gave a presentation with slides (see below) on reduction and graphing of data sets from the  national observatories and Pulsar observations. He also discussed the data from his 9 foot dish and about how to understand the Hubble Galaxy and object classification nomenclature, such as MG0424+0435  where 0424 in the right ascension and +0435 is the declination.  He also discussed the gravitational lensing effect given by the gravity well of a foreground object bending the light  and radio emissions of a background object around it.  Prime examples of this are; and  the Einstein Cross.  Rich gave data and discussion of the Betelgeuse dimming phenomenon and whether this may be preamble to the star going supernova.  While a supernova may be preceded by a few hours by an early warning detector of Neutrinos as Gary has outlined, it is unlikely that this is the cause of the dimming and Rich gave a discussion of his theory and simulation of a passing object shading Betelgeuse.

Xander Duval was in attendance and said that he had been invited to go to the state science fair when others dropped out.  At the Fair he won an award from Nasa on earth science systems and submitted his research paper to the Junior Humanities and Science symposium and scored another award in physical sciences there. We are happy that this worked out well and hope to help him with future work.

Bob Sayers has a 4 ft PVC Mag Loop antenna that he would like to give away.  This can be configured for use with a SuperSID setup.

Rich said that it can be used as part of the Astronomy League’s Silver/Gold certification for radio astronomy.  You need 5 projects, 2 of which you need to build yourself. Available projects are:

  1. SuperSID Monitor
  2. Radio Jupiter or Radio Jove
  3. Neutral Hydrogen (Hi) Measurement
  4. Meteor Scatter
  5. Itty-bitty Telescope

Jonathan Ayers has a paper up on the SARA Western Conference Proceedings.  Gary Agranat says check it out at [Python Program for Mitigating Radio Frequency Interference Observed in SpectraCyber Receiver Drift Scan Data Files, by J. Ayres]

Here is a drop box link to the meeting recording missing the first 10 minutes before I logged in.

These are the slides from our DSES Science Meeting, Monday evening April 27, 2020. Presented by Dr. Rich Russel. In PDF format.

DSES Science Meeting, April 27, 2020

System 1 antenna control system update April 13, 2020

By Glenn Davis

I thought I would put out a System 1 status, so you can see what we’ve been working on the past couple of months.  To quickly summarize:  Lewis Putnam has been concentrating on the System 1 hardware design (Please see the hardware diagram below) to support automatic tracking of the Haswell Mount.  Additionally he has been looking at the individual mount axis characteristics to see how well they can support sidereal tracking (See detail text below). 

Phil Gage has supported myself looking at an Elevation axis movement issue we had seen at the site.  We found a loose cable on our March 1 trip which appeared to be causing the elevation axis issues.  Additionally, Phil has been working on the hardware/software interface for the Labjack hardware (Please see the hardware diagram below).  The Labjack hardware, the U3 and JTick-DAC components, will be used to control the mount axis rates.

I have been updating the System 1 Hardware Simulator to support the Numato Relay Board and Labjack U3/JTick-DAC hardware devices.  Additionally, I’ve been working on the hardware/software interface to the Numato Relay board.  This device will be used to enable the drive controllers and control the direction of the Elevation Axis.  Using the work completed by Phil and the Simulator modifications, I’ve been able to test and debug most of the automatic tracking software modifications and simulate the System 1 tracking celestial objects over large periods of time (hours).    

Here is a more detail summary of the past work and future work on the System 1 team (Before site modifications are performed, we will present our design work to the DSES Engineering Team):

March 12 2020 Trip

  • Purpose: Determine relationship between Az / El drive command voltages and rate resulting from command voltages
  • Approach:
    • Made measurements to calibrate mount Az and El drives (Rate as function of applied voltage)
    • Took measurements separately for Azimuth and Elevation
    • Measured both CW and CCW rates for Az and Up/Down rates for Elevation 
    • Varied voltage via Trailer Control Panel Az and El rate potentiometers from 0 to 5 volts (.2-volt increments for voltages below a volt and 1-volt increments from 1 volt to 5 volts.)
    • Logged axis position data in System 1 software
    • Captured measurements in Excel spreadsheet and plotted
  • Findings:
    • Plotted results indicate linear relationship between voltage and rate for both positive and negative rates for both axes.
    • Performed linear fit to determine slope and intercept values that can be used to convert an axis rate into a command voltage.
    • Unique Slope and intercept parameters will be used in System 1 software
    • Slowest drive rates are .02 deg/sec for Az and .06 deg/sec for Elevation; lowest rates were consistent between positive and negative rates
      • Rates needed for sidereal track are about an order of magnitude lower
      • Will have to cycle axis drives on / off to achieve sidereal track rates
    • Elevation Potentiometer voltage will not go to zero
      • Lowest voltage is somewhat less than .2 volts
      • Cause is unknown but potentiometer is most likely candidate
    • Measurements for Elevation similar to results from August 2019 but measurements for Az significantly different from August results, unknown cause
    • Measurements in March were more extensive and disciplined. Will use calibration from these measurements in the implementation of the software.

System 1 Mount Drive Interface Hardware Design/Implementation

  • Progress:
    • Completed hardware circuit design
      • Interfaces to the tower drive electronics via the Jones Plug
      • Uses a Labjack U3 device / TickDAC that provides two +-10-volt Digital Analog Convertors to enable setting Az / El axes control voltages
        • Labjack has necessary digital I/O to interface to the axes encoders so downstream can be used to replace the now obsolete Integrity Systems digital I/O board
      • Uses Numato 8 Relay Board to enable the drive controllers and control direction in the Elevation Axis
    • Developed an approach to integrating circuit into the trailer rack
      • Mount components on a small rack shelf about 6” deep
      • Mount shelf on back rails of the Trailer Rack
      • Move Jones cable from Manual control panel to System 1 Drive Control when using System 1 for drive control
    • Acquired major components and some minor components – Numato 8 Relay Board, Labjack interface device, Jones plug and wire
  • Next Steps:
    • Colorado Springs
      • Acquire remaining additional components – Switch, LEDs, resistors, rack shelf/panel
      • Mount components on rack shelf and wire components together
      • Integrate / test software with drive control assembly
    • Site
      • Install rack shelf / panel
      • Install updated software
      • Test / debug automated drive control

Please pass this on to other individuals who may be interested.

Thank you.
Glenn Davis

Synchronized Multiple Radio Telescope Microwave SETI

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 paper is available as a PDF file. Please click to read. Synchronized Multiple Radio Telescope Microwave SETI, by Skip Crilly [HamSCI 2020, March 2020]

This updates the previous presentation of February 2, 2020.

A New Map of the Milky Way

A new article appearing in the April 2020 Scientific American is “A New Map of the Milky Way” by astronomers Mark J. Reid and Xin-Wu Zheng.

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.

DSES at 2020 Pikes Peak Regional Science Fair

Written by Gary Agranat. Photos by Tony Bigbee.

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:

  1. How well they framed their problem
  2. The quality of their data, which included quality of their testing and how they conducted their experiments.
  3. The quality of their analysis, which included how thorough their work was and how well they were able to explain it.
  4. 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.

Xander Duvall, a 9th grade student at the Thomas MacLaren School, with his presentation ‘‘Analysis of neutral hydrogen radio emissions in the MilkyWay galactic plane’’. With Gary Agranat and Bill Miller at the Pikes Peak Regional Science Fair.

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. The times in brackets in our above list of the students we interviewed are when they appear with their presentations in the video.

This is 8th grade student Ava Connelly, one of the students we interviewed. Her project was to test the suitability and effectiveness of several heat sources that could provide a small heated space for a baby, independent of the power grid during emergencies. Or these could be used in developing countries. She cited data that the risk of Sudden Infant Death Disease is greater if the baby is not kept at safe temperature. Her result was that of the devices she tested, the USB hand warmer would work best (the power could come from a hand cranked USB power generator).

Radio astronomy observing and antenna repair at the Plishner observatory, February 15, 2020

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:

  1. Attempt at observing a circumpolar pulsar, utilizing the System 1 manual tracking system. (Rich Russel, Glenn Davis, Lewis Putnam).
  2. Complete building and installing shelf space in the Communications (Operations) Trailer (Bob Haggard).
  3. 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.

Science Lead Rich Russel (seated) and System 1 Lead Glenn Davis setting up the pulsar observations.
Bill Miller, Lewis Putnam, Rich Russel, and Glenn Davis in the Communications Operations Trailer during the observation runs.
The display for the System 1 manual tracking. The circles in the black field represent the antenna beam width for different frequencies. The large blue ring represents a 4 degree diameter beam width, and is for the 408 MHz feed currently being used for the pulsar observing. The inner yellow ring is 0.8 degrees in diameter, which is for our HI hydrogen observing at 1.4 GHz. The pink dot represents where the center of the beam is pointing. A star field map is projected on the background black field. The upper part of the display shows azimuth and elevation of the antenna, and its conversion to the celestial coordinates of Right Ascension and Declination at the current time.
The signal strength across the frequency spectrum being observed. For pulsar observing, we cannot detect the pulsar signal itself in real time. We must integrate the signal over at least a half hour of observing. Then we process the signal, with an expected pulsar timing. That process averages out the background noise while adding the actual pulsar signal enough to elevate above the noise floor — in theory.
The 60 foot dish antenna turning to aim at the pulsar.
The 408 MHz antenna feed. Ray Unberecken has designed a base for the antenna feeds so that these can be easily swiveled out for service and changeout. Ray designed and built this feed.

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.

Bob Haggart
New desk and shelf space in the Communications Operations Trailer.
New desk and shelf space in the Communications Operations Trailer. Note the addition of amenities, of microwave oven and coffee pots.

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.

The front element of the 3-band Yagi ham radio antenna on the 40-foot tower rotated askew somehow. Fixing this was our third project undertaken this day.
The tower was rotated down for service.
Bill Miller aligning the front element. Also working on this were Gary and Bob. Bob utilized cable lengths to help ensure actual evenness. We also used squares and levels.
Gary working on the antenna. The ladder was used to access and retighten the center supports at the mast.
While the tower was down for the service, Bill reinforced the structural support for the 2-meter band vertical antenna on a side support from the tower.
Gary raised the tower back up.
The 50-foot tower almost at its vertical position.

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

We discovered that the Communications Trailer phone used for our 2-meter talk-in radio was transmitting but not receiving. Bill started to troubleshoot it.
Bill photographing the dish antenna. Pikes Peak is visible in the distance, over a hundred miles away.
Gary also photographed the dish antenna.
The 60 foot antenna rotating back to its parking position after the observing runs.

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.

DSES February 2020 Science Meeting

Our Deep Space Exploration Society Science Meeting was held on February 22, 2020, at the home of Dr. Richard Russel.

The Science Meeting had three major topics of discussion:

  • Betelgeuse dimming experiment
  • Pulsar Observation status
  • Latest DSES papers and presentation

These are the slides from the meeting, written by Dr. Russel: DSES-Feb-2020-Science-Meeting.pdf

Some additional background and details:

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 [], 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 [] 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.