Nominally the Eastern Conference is held each year at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia. This year the conference was carried completely online using Zoom. The coordinator for this conference was our own DSES Science Lead, Richard Russel. Over 93 SARA members participated, including several DSES members. DSES members Ray Uberecken, Skip Crilly, and Rich Russel gave talk presentations. Rich also was elected as Vice President of SARA.
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.
This is Skip Crilly‘s updated paper/presentation, “Radio Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence SETI is fun ! Geographically-spaced Synchronized Signal Detection System“, updated July 2019. Skip presented it at the Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers conference at Greenbank, WV on August 4, 2019. The link will open as a pdf file.
By Gary Agranat. Photos courtesy of SARA.With contributions by Bob Haggart, Steve Plock, and Skip Crilly.
The 2019 Society of Amateur Radio AstronomersWestern Conference this year was held in Boulder, Colorado, from March 22nd to 25th. The Deep Space Exploration Society co-hosted the conference this year, with a field trip to the Plishner radio telescope site in Haswell. DSES members presented 5 of the talks at the conference. The venue location was the Boulder campus of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
The conference activities began on Friday afternoon, with a visit to the NCAR Mesa Labs High Altitude Observatory (HAO). During the weekend the conference was hosted at the NCAR Center Green conference Center in Boulder. Nine talks were presented by SARA members on a variety of amateur radio astronomy topics. Plus the keynote address was by the HAO Director Scott McIntosh about a regular predictability of the solar cycle based on an understanding of the sun’s magnetic physics.
DSES members presented 5 of the papers at the conference:
“Milky Way Rotation Rate and Mass Estimation Using HI Measurements, Latest Updates as of February 2019 Observational Data”, by Dr. Richard Russel.
“Earth’s Orbital Position in the Solar System using Galactic HI Measurements, Updated to Include: Fourth Observation Results with Solar System Yaw Measurements”, by Dr. Richard Russel.
“Simultaneous and Associated Pulses Observed with Synchronized and Distant Radio Telescopes”, by Skip Crilly.
“The Future of Radio Astronomy: The Square Kilometer Array and the Next Generation Very Large Array”, by Dayton Jones.
“Expanding the RTL2832u SDR Dongle”, by Hans Gaensbauer.
Also attending the conference from DSES were Ray Uberecken, Steve Plock, Bill Miller, Paul Berge, Brian Nelson, and Gary Agranat.
Over the weekend were field trips to two sites: The North Table Mountain antenna site operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Little Thompson Observatory at the Berthoud High School. Table Mountain is the site where DSES got its start, using the two 60 foot dish antennas there. That was one of the locations we visited on the site. We also visited Terry Bullet’s lab, and a lab for measuring radar cross sections of test objects (like military personnel carriers). The group went for dinner Saturday evening at the Three Margaritas Restaurant in Longmont.
For Sunday evening and Monday, DSES sponsored a field trip visit to its 60-foot dish antenna site at Haswell. Ahead of time, DSES members help prepare the site for the visit, and helped with providing food. Then, much of the visit time was devoted to touring and discussions and getting to know one another better. The dish antenna was made available for observing.
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Bob Haggart wrote about the work he contributed: “I went to the site on Sunday and stayed overnight. While there I cleaned up the ops trailer, placed a shelving unit to help keep order in the area. I also installed a camera on the rear door, in order to view the dish antenna movement. That evening I lit up the dish with a single light so that it can be seen at night.” It made the dish appear as a “ghost-like ship”. Bob also mentioned the amount of mud that made cleaning difficult.
Steve Plock wrote about additional work: He left the conference Sunday afternoon, stopped at his home to pick up frozen pizza for serving to the group, and proceeded to the site. He delivered a large microwave oven as well. He stayed overnight with Skip Crilly at the guest house in Haswell. “For quite some time on Monday I helped Skip with his new setup to make sure it worked OK. He put in a new receiver system for the SETI data acquisition. The photo with the feet was me climbing into W9YS’s vehicle that had locked keys inside.” Steve and Bill Miller took several visitors on tours of the pedestal. “The dish antenna was made available for observing. ” Several other DSES members helped with the site visit, including Ed Corn and Rich Russel.
Skip Crilly also wrote: “In between DSES member Skip Crilly’s endless story-telling, a new simultaneous SETI pulse detection receiver and its software was installed in the comms trailer. The new receiver system has approximately twice the pulse detection throughput as the previous system, which was used for simultaneous SETI with Green Bank, since late 2017. Details about the 2017 to 2019 simultaneous pulse observations are in a presentation Skip gave at the SARA Western Conference. More SETI fun will be forthcoming, especially when the third simultaneous dish comes on line, planned for mid-2019. Stay tuned and keep looking up!”
Thanks to everyone in SARA, DSES, Little Thompson Observatory, and NCAR who supported and made this a great conference. And thanks to everyone who participated.
Some photo highlights from the conference
Visit to Table Mountain – Tour of Terry Bullets lab.
Visit to the twin 60-foot dish antennas on Table Mountain, where DSES started in 1991.
Photos from the visit to the DSES radio telescope site in Haswell.