Plishner work site trip, June 16 & 17, 2018

Trip report by Bill Miller, with editing and photos by Gary Agranat. 

This is a report of our work at the Plishner radio telescope antenna site during the weekend of June 16 & 17, 2018.

Attendance: Gary Agranat, Paul Berge, Ed Corn, Michael Lowe, Bill Miller, Dave Molter, Steve Plock.

Vertical Multi-band Antenna Radials: Gary performed a set of SWR (Standing Wave Ratio) measurements with an antenna analyzer on the vertical multi-band antenna, which was installed last April for the ham radio station at the bunker. He then installed 17 radials at the antenna base.  On the next trip he plans to retake antenna analyzer measurements, and also do some digital radio operating, to compare characteristics before the radials were installed.

New Rest Room:  Steve Plock and Ed Corn continued work on the new rest room/out house.  This is a refit of one of the rail road buildings previously used for storage.  They added tie down cables to prevent it from succumbing to the winds.  It will be fit with a chemical toilet and there is a waste receptacle behind the building for easy dumping access.  This will greatly improve our facility for public visits such as the open house on August 11th.

Synchro Installation: Bill worked on the dish Az/El Synchro installation as a simple backup pointing system for the dish. On the previous trip Bill and Steve installed an additional 2” conduit from the Comm Trailer to the pedestal.  Myron had helped pull in the 15-conductor cable.  On this trip Ed Corn helped finish off the conduit and drilled 2” access holes in the trailer floor and pedestal.  Bill installed the cable up the pedestal structure and terminated it in the terminal box above the control deck.  He also terminated the other end on the synchro panel in the comm trailer.  The azimuth synchros were hooked up and they worked.  One problem remains with the fine azimuth synchro.  The Elevation synchro connection on the dish will be made in a future trip.

Pointing System 1: Bill and Dave examined what would be needed to complete system 1.  Bill has a linear power supply in the works to replace the noisy switcher.  He also has an amplifier and watch dog circuit for the control function in progress. Dave suggested removing the system 1 box on the next trip and bring it back to Colorado Springs to install these and other software modifications for Glenn to test.  Currently system 1 only has position feedback and no direct control.

Pointing System 2: System 2 currently has all the circuitry for full position reporting and tracking control. As reported last time, Bill is working to transfer programs between computers and working on the system 1 at home and will reinstall on the next trip.

Dish Restoration and Maintenance: Paul Berge came down Saturday afternoon and stayed for work Sunday. Paul checked our Synchro system and made some valuable suggestions. He worked on other maintenance items on the dish including making a rubber bellows and seal to keep the water and birds out of the multiple cables feeding down through the center of the azimuth axes.  He also started working on wiring and setting up the Elevation and Azimuth limit switches.

Other Items: Dave Molter finished the tear out of the 12-foot fiberglass dish and support concrete from Sue’s yard in Sugar City.  He transported it down to the site on his trailer and unloaded it for future use.   Bill and Dave pulled a vertical antenna and base insulator out of the pedestal and loaded it on Dave’s trailer.  Dave returned the antenna to Michael Lowe in Pueblo who originally brought it to the site.

 

The vertical 5-band antenna for the bunker ham radio station, with the radials installed.
Close-up of the radials for the vertical ham antenna.
The rest room after securing with guy wires.
Ed Corn preparing to install PVC drainage pipe at the new rest room.
The rest room with the drainage pipe installed.
The rest room with the drainage pipe installed. The effluent and chemical will drain to this excavated hole, which is now covered by railroad ties for safety. With Ed Corn and Steve Plock.
Inside the rest room, a repurposed railroad shed, after it was cleared out.
Looking up, inside from the base of the pedestal, to the third working level.
Bill Miller showing the terminal box at the third level of the pedestal.
Bill Miller with another junction at the third level of the pedestal.
Dave Molter bringing the pieces of the 12 foot satellite dish from Sugar City.
Bill Miller manually steering the 60-foot dish antenna, while Dave Molter monitors the position feedback.
Bill Miller manually steering the 60-foot dish antenna, while Dave Molter monitors the position feedback on the synchro panel.
Close-up of the synchro panel. It is designed to show the course & fine positions of the antenna elevation and azimuth.
Comm Trailer

While we worked on Saturday, there was harvesting in the surrounding fields.

 

The vertical ham antenna by the bunker, at the end of the work day Saturday.
Some rain passed through during the late afternoon Saturday.


 

Plishner Antenna Site Work Trip Report for May 18 – 20, 2018

We worked at the antenna site in Haswell from Friday May 18 through Sunday May 20, 2018.  We essentially worked in two teams.  The first team was at the site from Friday afternoon through Sunday morning, with some in that team just coming on Saturday. The second team worked Sunday afternoon.

Accomplishments for this work trip:

  • Beginning of work on a new toilet facility “outhouse” in the southwest corner of the site.
  • Aaron Reid brought his tractor. He excavated a large 5 1/2 foot hole, which will eventually be used to properly dispose the effluent from the outhouse. He also completed covering of the 600-foot trench that had been dug earlier to install the power line in the site. And he also excavated a new trench from the pedestal to the Comm. Trailer, to be used to lay control lines for our antenna pointing systems.
  • Initial checkout of the 5-band trap vertical antenna for ham radio at the bunker.
  • Removal of a 10-foot satellite dish antenna in Sugar City.
  • Continuing work on the dish antenna pointing control systems.

Contributors to this post are Steve Plock, Bill Miller, and Dave Molter, with additional writing and editing by Gary Agranat. Photos by Bill Miller, Gary Agranat, and Steve Plock.  Working on this trip also were Aaron Reid, Paul Berge, and Floyd Glick.

Thanks to everyone who helped on this trip.

Trip report by Steve Plock

I arrived Friday afternoon. Paul Berge arrived shortly after and Aaron Reid not long after that. We ate a little  dinner and turned in. Right around sundown it started raining. It rained most of the night and stopped around sunrise. Because it had rained all night it was pretty muddy outside. We helped Aaron unload his tractor off of his trailer.  We then started cleaning debris out of the 600′ trench ahead of the tractor that was pushing the low side hill made by the ditch witch down into the trench. We then placed the barrier tape into the trench ahead of the tractor which pushed the high side berm into the trench as well. We tromped through a lot of mud that morning.

Next we cleaned out the building that would become the new outhouse.

Then Steve and Paul ran an 85′ coax cable from the new vertical into the bunker. When Gary arrived he checked the antenna out using Ray’s Intellituner as a crude analyzer. It checked out OK on 80-40-20-15 and 10   meter phone portions of these bands.

Floyd Glick showed up and started helping out to get the outhouse up on the old platform that had the battery box building on it. We used a couple of  chains and the tractor and some boards to accomplish this. Next I marked the spot the Ed had wished the pit to be placed and Aaron dug it to a depth of about 5 ½’. All three of us worked together to cover the pit with railroad ties.

Next I marked the 2nd trench, from the pedestal to the Comm. trailer, after consulting with Paul to stay clear of the existing conduit. By that time everyone was pretty tired and turned in for another, night. Sunday morning everyone left before noon. I led Aaron north on County Road 20 until we hit CO Highway 96 up in Haswell. Told him to pick up Highway 287 north in Eads.

-Steve Plock

 

Site of our new toilet facility “outhouse”. We are repurposing a railroad shed. Aaron Reid excavated a 5 1/2 foot deep hole with his tractor behind the shed, where the effluent will properly be disposed. We plan to have the “outhouse’ in service by the time of our annual Open House in August. Our plans include installing electric light and heat.
The 5 1/2 foot deep hole excavated by Aaron Reid with his tractor. Old railroad ties were placed over the hole afterwards for safety.
We are cleaning out this former railroad shed for use as our new outhouse on the site. It had railroad electrical components and some debris accumulated over time. In the photo is Floyd Glick helping with the cleanup.
Steve Plock and Aaron Reid inspected the route for excavating a second trench, for the dish antenna pointing system Syncro wiring.
Ham Radio Vertical Antenna Check, by Gary Agranat

On our last trip we installed a donated 5-band trap vertical antenna for our ham radio station at the bunker. Although we had radial wires with the donation, we didn’t yet have time to install those.

Before I arrived on this trip, Steve Plock installed an 85 foot coax cable from the antenna base, through the doghouse, to the ham station in the bunker. Although he didn’t try to make any contacts, he reported good signal reception using the IC 706 on 40 and 20 meters, including DX from Europe. The IC 706 has an attached automatic antenna tuner, and he reported there was good tuning on all of the bands.

I decided to hold off installing the antenna radial wires, and instead check how well we could operate in the current set-up. I systematically checked the SWR and the ability to tune on all 5 wavelength bands of the vertical (80, 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters).  I confirmed we could tune well enough on all of the band spectrum except for the 20 meter Morse Code segment. I tried making some phone contacts but succeeded only with one. And for the IC 706 I didn’t have the right connector for my CW key.  I therefore instead set up a Yaesu FT-950 with a SignaLink digital interface matched for it.  With that I succeeded in making 30 FT-8 digital contacts, most on 40 and a few on 20 meters. I was able to do some DX (distance contacts) on 40 meters: IU8CNE (Italy) and LU5VV (Argentina). Plus we made one New Zealand contact, with ZL2IFB, on 15 meters, but otherwise DX conditions were poor. The other contacts were across the U.S. and to northeast Canada.  I also had one traditional Morse Code CW chat on 40 meters with K3WAS in Kansas.  And so the vertical antenna without the radials does work, and we do get out at least domestically.  The somewhat poor FT-8 DX suggests radials may be worth installing still, although I cannot rule out that we had poor band conditions.

-Gary Agranat

Gary Agranat WA2JQZ operating FT-8 at the K0PRT station in the bunker. Photo by Steve Plock from his smartphone.
The vertical antenna set up by the bunker, with coax feed from the doghouse.

Log of contacts:
K5BZI 20m SSB TX
K4SHA 40m FT8 AL
W6GRD 20m FT8 CA
K9ZJ 20m FT8 WI
VA3HP 40m FT8 ON, Canada
K2PS 40m FT8 FL
KG7RZD 40m FT8 WA
K3WAS 40m CW KS
K0CHW 20m FT8 SD
N9RS 40m FT8 WI
AB1HL 40m FT8 MA
K6SJT 40m FT8 CA
K7ZYV 40m FT8 MS
NA8N 40m FT8 OH
K6KHB 40m FT8 CA
WA6PHR 40m FT8 CA
AE8S 40m FT8 OH
N4RLG 40m FT8 KY
KB7ZDM 40m FT8 OR
KC1GWX 40m FT8 MA
WA2HIP 20m FT8 ME
VA3CTX 20m FT8 ON, Canada
ZL2IFB 15m FT8 New Zealand
VE2GYA 40m FT8 QC, Canada
N4ZI 40m FT8 TN
KB5DXO 40m FT8 MS
LU5VV 40m FT8 Argentina
N8NXG 40m FT8 FL
K4RGN 40m FT8 NC
WY7CDL 40m FT8 WY
IU8CNE 40m FT8 Italy
K9QVB 20m FT8 IL
AB5CA 40m FT8 TX

A benefit of using a digital mode like FT-8 is you can see feedback of where you are received, on the PSK Reporter website. This screenshot displays reports by other hams of where we were received for the previous 3 hours, at about 7:25 pm local time on Saturday (0125 GMT). The blues are for the 40 meter band, the yellow for 20, and the brown for 15 meters.
Trip Report by Dave Molter, for Sunday May 20, 2018

On Sunday I met Bill Miller in Sugar City, and tore down a 10 foot dish that was donated to DSES. The dish was left at the residence until a trailer can be provided to remove the parts. The base post was not removed from the concrete and will need to be done on a future trip. This effort also led to 3 more fiberglass 10 foot antennas identified which will be donated and obtained at a future date.

When we got to the site we energized the dish drives and observed noise on the elevation encoder lines shown by the LEDs flickering and watching the position signal on an Oscilloscope. Ferrite beads were installed around the elevation encoder lines. There was no change to the amount of noise present on the wires. The elevation readout cover was removed and the cable was removed from the encoder. The connector was opened to allow inspection of the wiring. The cable shield drain wire was temporarily jumpered to the frame ground. The signal noise was reduced.  The cable drain wire was connected to pin S of the encoder (Frame Ground). A jumper wire was also attached to the drain wire and connected to the encoder body. The mount was run in elevation and azimuth and the readout was stable, the LED did not flicker.   The dish control was transferred to the trailer.  The control panel was used to move the mount in azimuth and elevation. The readout computer was energized and the remainder of the day was spent looking for the paper that contained the logon to the portable computer.

It was observed that the electrical trench was backfilled. The trench between the tower and trailer was dug out. The ramp has a good sized amount of tumble weeds in residence.

– Dave Molter

Additional Details from Bill Miller, Sunday May 20, 2018

I arrived at Sugar City at 9 AM and met with Dave about 10:30.  We went to Sugar City contact’s (Sue) house and proceeded to disassemble the 10ft Fiber glass satellite antenna and mount in the back yard.  This took about 3 1/2 hours and we didn’t complete digging up the concrete foundation but got a good start on it.  This will be completed and the dish will be transported in a future trip.  Sue gave us contacts for a 10 ft mesh dish in Sugar City and for her daughter’s perforated dish in Rocky Ford.  Dave made contacts for 2 more fiberglass dishes in Sugar City.  Seems we can have all of these that we want for the asking and labor.

We didn’t get to the Plishner site until about 3:00 on Sunday and by then the previous crew of Aaron Reid, Steve Plock, Gary Agranat, Paul Berge and others had left the facility.

Dave and I set up to determine the cause and fix for the elevation encoder noise that we have been fighting for the last five months.  We took a methodical trouble shooting approach with scope and meter instrumentation.  We verified that the elevation encoder circuit was much more susceptible to the motor controller noise than the azimuth encoder circuit.  It was even susceptible to the Azimuth motor drive but to a lesser degree than to the elevation drive.  After trying several things we discovered by continuity checking that the Azimuth encoder wiring shield was grounded to the telescope structure at the encoder end but the elevation encoder wiring shield was open. We opened the elevation encoder box in the upper deck and attached the shield drain wire to the chassis ground with a clip lead.   This had a dramatic effect on the noise as seen by the scope and the 12 bit LEDs indicating the input signal state on system 1.  Seeing this, we permanently attached the shield drain wire to Pin “S” (Case GND) of the encoder connector and to the attachment screw on the encoder with a flying lead.  This substantially reduced the motor drive noise problem on the elevation encoder circuit and should provide much cleaner encoder signals to both system 1 and 2.  Of note: There is still a lot of HF noise on the system 1 electronics as indicated on the scope.  It appears to be from the small switch mode power supply in the box and the motor drives.  It may be wise to change out the small PS with one that is less noisy.  We were unable to check the Laptop program operation with System 1 due to a missing password.

We saw the trench that Aaron Reid had dug for the syncro cabling.  Thanks to Aaron for that.  I brought down a 350 foot spool of 15 conductor x 18awg wire for the syncro connection.  Unfortunately we had no suitable conduit to install in the trench so we will have to do that on a separate trip.  I left the spool of wire in the locked pedestal for when it can be installed.  The deal with OEM Electronics is to use what we need and return the rest for credit as soon as possible.  The approximately 160 ft of wire needed will be charged to Michael Lowe’s OEM credit that he established several years ago.

Two curious boys from Los Animus HS stopped by while we were working in the pedestal and we told them about the Dish, but not knowing them didn’t offer a tour.  Bill took their names and Email addresses for future contact.

Several spools of RG59u and a 4KW generator were left in the open after the clean out of the RR shed to be used for the outhouse. We moved the wire to the locked pedestal and Dave took the generator back to Springs to see if he could get it running.   We put food in the bunker away, locked up the site and left about 7:30PM.

-Bill Miller

12 Ft Fiberglass Dish in Sugar City
Dave Molter, 12 ft Dish Tear Down
Dave Molter, 12 ft Dish Tear Down
Dave and Sue at the 10ft Mesh Dish
Exposed Elevation Encoder and Syncro’s in the upper deck of the pedestal (Level 4).
Aaron’s Syncro Wiring Trench

Plishner Antenna Site Work Trip Report for April 22, 2018

The following is the report of our work trip to the Plishner antenna site in Haswell, Colorado on Sunday April 22, 2018.  This was written by Ed Corn KC0TBE, with additional contribution by Dave Molter AD0QD, and with editing and photos by Gary Agranat WA2JQZ.

* * *

Steve Plock (KL7IZW), Ed Corn, and Gary Agranat left the Ellicott Fire Station about 7:30 AM, and arrived around 9:30.  Dave arrived just a bit later. We met Paul Berge (K0DJV) at the site, who had traveled down on Saturday from Lyons and stayed overnight. Paul had done some clean-up in the bunker. And he cleaned out the pile-up of tumble weeds from the bunker ramp.

Steve worked on the locking system for the box with the azimuth/elevation hardware in the pedestal. He reports moving the dish antenna down to 0° elevation and back up to zenith with no read-out errors. The lock holds the door securely shut to form a good shield from motor EMI (interference).

Ed installed a stronger fence at the bunker ramp entrance.

Ed built a more robust gate for the bunker ramp. The strong winds at the site had unhooked the previous gate, which then allowed tumbleweeds to pile down the ramp again. Ed dragged two farm gates from west of the Communications Trailer to the bunker ramp. He set up the hinge pins for the gate, and Gary helped hang the gate.

 

We then covered the gates with field wire (in the gaps and along the bottom) to keep the tumble weeds from getting into the ramp area.

Ed then installed a VHF base antenna on the bunker dog house for the talk-in radio. The talk-in radio, K0PRT 146.460 MHz, is now up and working, with desk remote controls in the bunker and communications trailer.  Please note the desk remote control in the comm. trailer must be plugged into an outlet and powered on to operate. This arrangement keeps the RF at the bunker, and gives access to talk-in radio at the comm. trailer as well, without RF emissions near the 60-foot dish.

Ed installed a talk-in VHF radio system for the site. The remote control phones for the talk-in radio system are at the communications trailer (pictured) and in the bunker. The power plug-in for the comm. trailer phone is right next to it.

Gary continued work on the Hustler 5-BTV HF vertical antenna for the club station at the bunker. By the end of the day Gary had the vertical assembled and mounted on an anchor pole he installed with Dave’s help. The vertical is in place with non metallic guys for stability in the Plishner winds.

Gary doing final assembly of the vertical HF antenna.

Gary added these comments: “I assembled the antenna with lengths used by the previous owner, but noted the originally specified lengths from the manual. Some worn parts were replaced with parts provided by Dave, and some machine screws were replaced with stainless steel ones. We salvaged a conduit pipe for a base mount, and Dave drove it into the ground (a few feet deep) northwest of the dog house, at a distance of more than 20 feet from nearest obstacles. Dave and I then mounted the antenna on the base…”

The Hustler 5 Band Vertical Trap Antenna mounted to the base post near the bunker.

“… One of the two leads of the pigtail connection to the antenna at the base came loose. With Steve’s help we removed the pigtail, and I soldered a new lug connector, and reconnected the pigtail.  I then used Dave’s antenna analyzer to map the SWR – frequency response of the antenna.  That was just an initial check, as we have not yet installed the radials. With the current lengths, the antenna is resonant in the 80 and 40 meter bands, but not the 20, 15, and 10 meter bands. At the end of the day, the whole team present helped install non-conducting guy ropes. Those will provide the lateral structural support against the expected winds.”

The team set up the HF vertical ham antenna with non-conductive guy ropes northwest of the bunker. The antenna will add 10, 15, 20, and 40 meter band capability to the bunker ham radio station. The bunker already has 80 and 160 meter dipole antennas. L to R: Dave, Ed, Steve, and Paul.

Dave unloaded a truck full of concrete blocks,  bagged cement, and mortar mix for use in the retainer wall extension at the bunker.  Then Dave and Paul used the rest of the day to work on the antenna dish controls. They also lowered the 2 old drive motors from the pedestal control deck to the floor in preparation for removal from the site to salvage.

Dave walking back to the pedestal of the dish antenna.

Dave added these comments: “I delivered 22 concrete blocks, 2 bags of type S mortar mix, and 6 bags of concrete mix. That makes a total of about 65 blocks to use when we resume the wall building. Paul Berge was at the site, and we discussed the installation of the VFD for the elevation axis drive. His insight answered many questions I had and had never gotten answers to. We stepped through the wiring of the VFD and cabinet wiring, and how the remote unit in the trailer and hand paddle were wired to the cabinet. We soldered permanent ground wires with terminal lugs onto the shields of the Az and El brake cables, and onto the shield to the elevation motor drive. All shields were terminated to the main cabinet ground connection. There appeared to be no change in the observed noise present on the LEDs while no signal was present.”

“Paul and I lowered the two motors that were on the 03 (top) level of the pedestal to the ground level. There is one more motor on the 02 level that Paul believes is a spare for the installed motor.”

“A mounting post was driven in the ground about 35 feet west of the main support for the for 80 meter dipole. Gary had assembled the 5 BTV vertical antenna, and the group mounted the antenna to the post, and installed 3 guy lines.”

 * *

Ed and Steve talking in the Com Trailer, at the end of the day. Steve created a chart map of astronomical radio sources, which he placed in the Com Trailer (the white chart behind the remote call-in phone).
The commercial power feed at the site entrance on County Road 20, installed earlier this year.
The completed, more robust, fence at the bunker.

Paul stayed over Sunday and Monday nights, traveling home on Tuesday. He spent Monday doing routine maintenance and clean-up on the dish drive systems, which had been delayed and was past due.

Thanks to everyone for a very productive work weekend at the site.

Ed KC0TBE

 

 

 

Fiber Cable Installation

These are photos, shared by Steve Plock, from the installation of the 100 meter fiber optic cable during the first week of March. The new cable runs from the antenna feed to the com trailer, and replaces a coax cable. A 50-foot lift was rented, to run the cable to the antenna feed. Ed Corn worked from the lift bucket.

The installation was originally scheduled for Monday March 5th, but the winds were too strong. The winds were not as strong the next day, though still a challenge, and they did the installation then.

The fiber optic cable enables a higher data rate, and also eliminates a significant source of noise.

Skip Crilly, Monday March 5, 2018.
Ed Corn working from the bucket. Tuesday March 6, 2018.
Ed working from the bucket, with Floyd Glick and Bill Miller watching on the ground. Tuesday March 6, 2018. Also present were Glenn Davis and Paul Berge.

 

Plishner Site Report March 17, 2018, and other Updates

By Gary Agranat, March 27, 2018.
Updated March 29, 2018 0200 GMT: 1) Skip Crilly’s slides were updated, and 2) the supernova remnant detected was NRAO 5690.

On Saturday March 17, four of us were at the Plishner antenna site: Steve Plock, Ed Corn, David Molter, and I (Gary Agranat).

And before I say anything more, I want to point out that the site has had much activity over the past few months. Full commercial power was installed and the site now operates using that. A number of simultaneous observing runs were made with Skip Crilly at the 40 foot dish of Greenbank Observatory in West Virginia, 1257 miles distant. More about that later.

Plus, a number of equipment upgrades to the site were made. Many of those enable the joint observations, yet also enhance our ability for observations on our own. For example, a few weeks ago a 100 meter long fiber optic cable was installed from the antenna feed (at the focus of the dish) to the receiver at the communications trailer. In order to install it, a 50-foot lift was rented. However, the installation had to be delayed a day because the originally planned day was too windy. Replacing the coax with fiber optic cable eliminates a significant source of electrical noise to the receiver. This is very important for radio astronomy observing.

Effort has been ongoing as well to troubleshoot and make work our two independent antenna pointing control systems. One system was designed by Glenn Davis and David Molter, the other by Ray Uberbecken and Ed Johnson. Both seem to be good workable solutions, and we will have one back up the other. An ongoing problem we have been troubleshooting is electrical noise.

Meanwhile, Rich Russel and Skip Crilly traveled to the Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers Western Conference at Stanford University in California, to give talks based on papers they wrote. More detailed information about these other activities are already, or will be, posted on our website.  And so we have been very busy, and doing much. Today’s activities are a moment in a bigger story.

* *

This is our connection to commercial power at the entrance to our site. New utility poles and a power line were erected, which connect to an existing power line about a mile to the north.

On this trip, Ed brought an additional roll of fencing. David Molter and I (Gary) then completed fencing the periphery of the bunker entrance ramp. The bunker when it was originally built in the 1950s had a fence, but it deteriorated away since. Without a fence, tumbleweed accumulate in the ramp when the winds are strong enough. And it is a chronic, time consuming task to clear our the entrance. The fence is a worthwhile accomplishment.

David Molter completing the last section of fence.
David Molter completing the last section of fence.

The last part of the fencing job was to create a moveable gate across the ramp entrance. Ed, Steve and David created an improvised gate with the fencing, and with spare re-bars (steel bars for reinforcing concrete), and hooks.

A used Hustler 5-BTV vertical ham radio antenna was donated to us. We plan to erect it near the bunker. Its coverage is the 10, 15, 20, 40, and 80 ham radio bands. I inspected the parts, and found we just needed a few “spider” radial parts for near the top of the antenna, to replace worn or missing parts. As of this writing, David got us replacement parts, and we are ready for the next steps for installation. An existing pipe in the ground might be used to mount it, or we may put in a new one. Given the wind conditions, we will guy the antenna with non-conducting cable.

Ed has been installing an internal phone system on the site. Phones are being installed at the pedestal, com trailer, and bunker. Dialing a number will ring an individual phone. On future trips, Ed will also install a VHF radio, connected to the phone system, so that one can “call in” from outside using the ham VHF 2 meter band.

David Molter
Ed Corn

**

Steve and David worked on the pointing control system. David wrote these details for us:

For the elevation/azimuth work that I did last weekend:  I used a bubble level to set a horizontal line, then zeroed the bubble level/inclinometer that I brought. Steve and I moved the mount to as close to 0 degrees elevation using the vertical part of the inclinometer by lining up the edges of the dish and sighting across them until they showed vertical from where we were standing on the ground.  The readout on the computer was minus 0.1 degree. I then took the digital inclinometer and zeroed it on the same bubble level. I took it up to the back of the dish and measured the elevation axles. The left axle measured minus 0.1  degrees and the right axle measured plus 0.4 degrees.  I then measured the horizontal beam on the left side as you are looking out the dish it measured 0.1 degree. I can’t remember if it was plus or minus. The same beam on the right side measured minus 0.7 degrees.  Steve then rotated the dish to point to the Haswell grain elevator He moved the dish until the feedhorn blocked the view of the elevator as I was looking through the bottom of the reflector.  I then checked the seam of the azimuth electronics box and it was lined up with the tower part of the elevator. Steve knows what the reading was. I didn’t observe the elevation lights when the dish was moving. I did observe that the 3/4 inch ‘liquid tight’ sealable conduit was secure at the elevation electronics box, and it ends about 3 feet into the tube where the wires go into the upper mount level.

I then started helping Ed troubleshoot the phone system.

Before I did the elevation observations, Gary and I put up the fence that Ed had brought down. We completed the run along the North East side to the end of the ramp. After lunch, Ed, Gary, Steve and I  built (designed, created, hodge podged, jury rigged, slapped together) a gate out of the same fence material. Now the ramp is surrounded by a ring of steel (fence that is).

**

During the day we had two visitors from Las Animas: Sharon Branch and her friend Cheri Martinson. Sharon is a member who joined last November. I gave them a nice tour, with some background of the history and science. Steve then took them up the dish antenna. Cheri later wrote us a delightful letter, and she became a member too.

Views of neighbor farm fields:

Late in the afternoon two photographers came who had arranged to work overnight, in order to photograph the dish with starry background: Mike Cunningham, who has become a member, and a friend.

**

For the past few months we have been doing a series of joint observing runs with Skip Crilly, who uses the 40 foot dish antenna at the Greenbank Observatory in West Virginia. These observations are for SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence). However, a test observation also detected the supernova remnant NRAO 5690. The detection and measurement of NRAO 5690 is probably our first real confirmed detection of an astronomical object with the Plishner 60 foot dish antenna. These joint observations are the subject of Skip’s talk at the SARA Western Conference at Stanford.

Now that he has given the talk, we have posted a recent revision of his slides on our Publications Page on our website, in the Science Section. See: “Geographically-spaced Synchronized Signal Detection System”, by Skip Crilly.

The next set of joint observations are scheduled for April 9. Several members will be at the site to carry out observing, and to also continue site work in between observing runs (which last about 30 minutes).

At this week’s DSES Science meeting, Rich Russel gave us details about the SARA Western Conference, including his paper. Rich also discussed bringing the Jupiter-Io experiment “Radio Jove” back online, now that Jupiter is placed well again for observing. And he discussed a week-long “Synthesis Imaging Workshop” (on radio telescope data imaging) that he will be attending. The dates are May 16-23, and the location is near the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico. He also plans to attend the main SARA conference in Greenbank, West Virginia this summer.

***

Some more news:

  1. Last week the votes for the 2018 DSES Board election were counted. The Board members elected are: Rich Russel, Steve Plock, Myron Babcock, and Gary Agranat. Thanks to Lauren Libby and Bob Sayers who also ran.
  2. With the Board election completed, the Annual membership meeting is now being planned. The scheduled date is April 14, probably at 2 PM. A location is being finalized now.

The DSES Secretary should be sending formal announcements soon.

73,
Gary
WA2JQZ

 

Plishner Site Report – January 25 & 26, 2018

Steve and I arrived at the site about 9:40 AM Thursday. We energized the main line up to the bunker. We than made the necessary voltage checks for each of the branch feeders and energized the entire distribution system. The Plishner site is now on grid power.

All of the battery packs and inverters are still in service. Reminder that any light or plug  sprayed with red paint is an inverter outlet, any plug or light with no paint on the box is grid power. Be sure to turn everything OFF before leaving the site.

Steve worked with Skip Crilly at Greenbank by phone to turn up equipment and point the dish for the data observations. Steve had everything running for the first observation and continued running until 12:50 PM Friday the 26th. We shut down at that time and removed the equipment for shipment back to Skip for maintenance and upgrade. Steve will ship after returning back. All indications are a successful data run.

Between checking equipment, we added wire to the 160M dipole at the bunker. It is better but needs some extra work. Also filled the wire trench in front of the concrete slab at the top end of the ramp to allow driving on to the slab and not having to jump the trench going in to and out of the bunker. This leaves about 500 feet of trench to fill; We will need some help with this in February.

I also installed a dedicated outlet in the generator shed to feed the LAN switch that is necessary to provide cat 5 Ethernet from the Comm Trailer to the bunker. The last item we covered was moving the WIFI hot spot to the bunker. There is now wireless internet in the bunker. We did not have the manual for the converter from wireless to cat 5 with us to configure the unit. This will be completed next trip to provide internet on cat 5 cable end to end at Plishner. This relocate removed the RF from the hot spot in the Comm Trailer during observation times.

Note: The sump pump in the battery room is on grid power and the front entry way sump pump is on inverter. I will change over to grid power after a wiring change. This will be first order of business next trip.

We secured the site and left about 1:30 PM Friday.

Ed and Steve

DSES Commercial Power Installation Update

Posted by Myron Babcock, DSES Treasurer.  Photos by Steve Plock, DSES Vice President.

Thanks to Skip Crilly for his $37K donation and to Steve Plock and Ed Corn for leading this effort to fulfill the dream of connecting the DSES Plishner Site to the AC Power Grid. Steve reported on Saturday December 9 that approximately 22 power poles, almost 5000 feet of wire, and a 25KVA transformer were installed last week. The Colorado Southeast Power Association worked 5 days in accomplishing this task. Saturday December 9, Steve Plock, Ed Corn, and Glenn Davis spent the day assisting local resident, Mark Nelson, from Haswell, CO in the trenching of approximately 600 feet of ground from the transformer pole area to the Southwest corner of the bunker area. Number 4/0 3 wire URD/with reduced neutral wire is now in the trench and once inspected by a Southeast Power Association representative the trench will be filled back in. Ed Corn has the necessary supplies for final connection to the bunker power panel. Once completed DSES will have 220 VAC 100 amp service in the communications trailer and 220 VAC 100 amp service in the bunker. Currently the plan is for the existing 30+KW propane generator to be disconnected. A decision will be made at a later date as to the disposition of this generator. Existing solar panels and batteries will continue to be used until such time as it is deemed the continuing expense out ways its usefulness.

 

Looking North along Kiowa County Road 20. The white structure in the background is the 200 foot tall grain elevator 5 miles north in Haswell, CO. The electric meter will be mounted on the nearest pole next to the fence.
The trenching operation starting from the southwest corner of the bunker area. The structure at the starting point of the trenching operation is the “dog house” emergency bunker entry/exit over the recently constructed spiral staircase. Next to this structure is a 40 foot telescoping mast supporting the 160 & 80 meter dipole antennas.

October 29, 2017 DSES Plishner Site Work Trip Report

Report written by Bill Miller, DSES Secretary.

Location and Time: On Sunday, Oct 29th Ed Johnson and Bill Miller made a trip to the site to reinstall and tune the computer for the System 2 dish controller.

Attendance: Ed Johnson, Bill Miller

Site Activities:
A. Bill arrived on site by 9:00am, unlocked the facilities and fired up the generator. Ed arrived a little later and brought in the bench computer on which he had repaired the operating system corrupted by a MS update from the last trip. We immediately hooked up the computer to the controller interface in the pedestal control deck via the Ethernet LAN interface and got to work. Several items in the software needed to be corrected.

B. Ed added a Start and Stop ramp subroutine to the motor drive software to prevent the system from abruptly starting and stopping the drive at high speed. This generates a stepping ramp function to start the motors slowly and speed up to the desired speed and then slow down in a similar fashion to stop. It greatly helps to reduce the stress on the system and should reduce over currents from popping the 3 Amp breakers on the drives. Some amount of iterative tuning of this was needed to get this to work just right.

C. A problem was seen when the computer would pause and stop communicating with the interface about every 10 seconds. This is a critical fault which would render any closed loop control unstable or ineffective. We attempted to find the source of this problem. We traced and substituted the LAN switches, CAT5 wires and connections and eliminated this as a cause. We turned off as many processes in the machine that could interrupt the system as possible. Ed found that by unloading the MS Visual Studio program that the interrupts occurred about half as frequently but they still occurred. We finally concluded that the PC was just not fast enough to perform the control function with all of the other MS programs and housekeeping functions and this was causing it to hesitate. Ed decided to donate another laptop he has with considerably more speed for this function and will ready that for the next trip. Bill will pick it up at Ed’s in Limon if Ed can’t make the trip. In the mean time we left the bench computer in place to control the dish pointing.

D. While Ed was modifying the software and testing the movement, Bill monitored the result from the pedestal control deck and also spent some time mapping out about half of the controller box. He will finish that on the next trip and transfer the diagrams to schematic capture for documentation.

Observations: Some important observations are as follows:
A.  It was found that there is a fault in the elevation optical encoder. At several particular positions of the elevation the encoder would jump a number of degrees in value. For instance at 44 deg of elevation it would suddenly jump to 50 deg. So the 6th significant bit appeared to be faulty. These errors always occurred at the same positions indicating a fault in the encoder and not the electronics attached. This could be contamination or a scratch on the optical device. Since we use only half of the encoder for the +0 to 180 elevation position sensing it might be possible to realign the encoder 180 deg off and use the other half of the bits if no errors are seen there. If not the encoder will have to be repaired or replaced. This problem was not seen on the Azimuth encoder but we were not looking for it. A means of testing the encoders for such a defect would be a handy utility in the software that we should add.

B.  Even with the start/stop ramp function and driving the dish at a relatively slow speed we still had the 3 amp breakers tripping, sometimes in the middle of a continuous movement when we were not starting or stopping. We need to measure the currents in these breakers and determine the root cause whether an overload, controller fault, worn or miss-sized breakers. This is a real nuisance when trying to move the dish and must be corrected before computer control can be effective.

C. Bill stayed in the tower communicating with Ed on the radio to position the dish from the previous ~ 45 deg elevation for 40 Eridani observation to the parked 90deg (birdbath) and 315 deg azimuth position. This 315 deg azimuth position is the optimum service setting to allow access to the upper deck and dish though the service portal. It is also the best position to allow the feed point to be driven in elevation only to the -0 or 180 deg position to place the feed on the service tower.

Shut Down:
We had to wrap up the work by about 3pm to travel to other commitments. After setting the dish to the parked position Bill shut down the lights, locked all of the doors, returned the keys and shut down the generator using the original procedure of turning off the main gas valve. This may not be required anymore but as yet we haven’t officially changed the procedure and it is the safest condition if we are not on site for a while.

That concludes the minutes from our Plishner site work trip of October 29th, 2017

73, and keep looking up! 
Bill Miller
KC0FHN
DSES Secretary
Email: mountain_son[a]comcast.net
Snail Mail to our new Colorado Springs Address at:
Deep Space Exploration Society
4164 Austin Bluffs Pkwy. #562
Colorado Springs, CO 80918-2928

2017-09-02 DSES Plishner Site Work Trip Report

Here is a summary from our work trip to the Plishner Radio Telescope site on Saturday September 2, 2017.  It includes many photos of what we did.  Highlights include:

  • Work started on rebuilding the bunker ramp retaining wall
  • Work on the control boxes which control the azimuth and elevation pointing of the 60 foot antenna
  • Maintenance and calibration of the Radio Jove and total power measurement instruments
  • Positioning the 60 foot antenna for detecting radio source Cygnus A during drift scan
  • Colorado ham radio QSO Party participation

The summary report was written by DSES Secretary Bill Miller.  The ham radio report was written by Gary Agranat.  Click the link to see the report in PDF.

2017-09-02 DSES Plishner Site Work Trip Report rev3

Photos from our site work trip July 23, 2017

These are photos taken during our work trip the Plishner radio telescope site on Sunday July 23, 2017. – Gary WA2JQZ

 

 

 

 

 

Ray Uberecken AA0L and Steve Plock KL7IZW reinstalled Ray’s 3-band antenna feed at the focus of the 60-foot dish. Bill Miller KC0FHN and Gary Agranat WA2JQZ  helped from the ground.

 

 

 

An all-day project today was the rebuilding of the “Radio Jove” phased dipole antenna. The first version had been constructed with PVC pipe masts, but that was collapsing. Dave Molter AD0QD redesigned a new antenna support system, using surplus stainless steel pipes, and adding springs and pulleys. Last autumn the bases for the poles had been already set with concrete. Today most of the team helped rebuild the antenna at one time or another. The placement of the structural support ropes was carefully rethought. Floyd Glick WD0CUJ fastened all the knots.  Here is the result.  This antenna system is used to monitor radio pulses emitted from Jupiter and its moon Io at 20 MHz.  These pulses are among the strongest astronomical signals observable.

 

Ed Corn KC0TBE contributed with much facilities work. Here he is installing a small solar panel to charge the 12 volt batteries at the generator.  With him is Floyd Glick WD0CUJ.

 

Ed Johnson AD5MQ walked around the 60 foot antenna with a UHF signal source.
Inside the communications trailer, Ray Uberecken AA0L monitored how the signal was received.
Ed Johnson AD5MQ
Ed Johnson AD5MQ
Bill Miller KC0FHN constructed a ventilation fan to the side of the communications trailer. The fan is self-powered by a solar electric panel. Its purpose is to help exhaust the hot air that builds up in the trailer during the summer season. It turns on automatically whenever the sun is out. Bill first cut a wood mounting frame to place on a window opening, to mount the fan.
Bill KC0FHN installing the fan at the side of the trailer.
Bill KC0FHN installing the fan at the side of the trailer.
Ed KC0TBE meanwhile installed a new air filter for the trailer, to help the air flow for Bill’s vent fan.
Inside view of the new trailer ventilator fan.
The new small solar panel on the roof is to power the ventilator fan.
The ventilator fan, installed by the end of the day.

 

The propane fuel tank for our generator.
Our generator shack.