2019 Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers (SARA) Western Conference

By Gary Agranat. Photos courtesy of SARA. With contributions by Bob Haggart, Steve Plock, and Skip Crilly.

The 2019 Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers Western 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).

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is west2019-1-1024x768.jpg
Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers 2019 Western Conference, group photo Sunday morning. (Courtesy of SARA)

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.

DSES Contributions to the 2019 SARA Western Conference – with abstracts: http://dses.science/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/DSES-Contribution-to-the-2019-Western-Conference.pdf

More information about the conference program and talks can be found on the SARA website. http://www.radio-astronomy.org/node/301

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.

* * *

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

Visiting the HAO Mesa Lab. The Mesa Lab was the site of the first commercial Cray computer.
Scott Mcintosh giving his keynote talk about recent work on the predictability of the solar cycle, based on the underlying magnetic physics of the Sun. For more see http://opensky.ucar.edu/islandora/object/articles:22329
Dr. Richard Russel from DSES presenting his talk, about estimating the mass of the part of the Milky Way galaxy within the Sun’s orbit, from taking HI (21 cm neutral hydrogen) Doppler velocity measurements.
We were served deli lunches each day of 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.

Dinner Saturday evening at Three Margaritas Restaurant in Longmont.
Visit to Little Thompson Observatory. Terry Bullet showing us the meteor scatter experiment.

Photos from the visit to the DSES radio telescope site in Haswell.