Tag Archives: Arecibo Observatory

Radio Waves: Solar-Powered Broadcast Transmitters, Decommissioning Arecibo, and HWN in the path of an International Broadcaster

Arecibo Observatory’s 305-meter telescope in November of 2020 (Credit: University of Central Florida)

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Jerome van der Linden, Zack Schindler, and Wilbur Forcier and  for the following tips:


Powering communication networks using solar power (BAI Communications)

BAI Communications (BAI) is committed to reducing emissions and contributing to a more sustainable future.

Over the past four years, BAI has invested in a number of initiatives that reduce power consumption as well as the carbon released into the atmosphere.

This year, four solar-powered sites were introduced in BAI’s broadcast transmission network; Yatpool, Victoria; Mawson, Western Australia; Minding, Western Australia; and Brandon, Queensland.

The annual reduction in CO2 emissions from our recent solar investment is 698 tonnes, equivalent to reducing:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions from 2.7km driven by an average passenger vehicle
  • CO2 emissions from charging 89 million smartphones
  • Greenhouse emissions from 237 tonnes of waste sent to landfill

Find out how BAI implemented this solar power initiative as part of our commitment to managing our energy use and reducing consumption.

Click here to download case study (PDF).

The complexity of sending sounds to (and from) space (Mashable)

Communication with astronauts in space is vital, whether it’s during travel, when they’re doing experiments on the International Space Station, or just want to chat. It’s also pretty tricky.

That’s the topic of the latest episode of Twenty Thousand Hertz, where host Dallas Taylor speaks with International Space Station commander Peggy Whitson, NASA audio engineer Alexandria Perryman, and astrophysicist Paul Sutter to get an idea of how communication between astronauts and Earth works across the vacuum of space.[]

NSF to decommission Arecibo radio telescope (Space News)

WASHINGTON — The National Science Foundation announced Nov. 19 it will perform a “controlled decommissioning” of the giant radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, citing recent damage that made it unsafe to operate or even repair.

In a call with reporters, NSF officials said two broken cables used to support a 900-ton platform suspended over the telescope’s 305-meter main dish put the entire structure at risk of collapse. One cable slipped out of its socket in August, falling to the dish below and damaging it, while the second broke Nov. 6

Both cables are attached to the same tower, one of three surrounding the main dish. “The engineers have advised us that the break of one more cable will result in an uncontrolled collapse of the structure,” said Ralph Gaume, director of the NSF’s Division of Astronomical Sciences, referring to cables attached to that same tower. That would result in the platform crashing down to the main dish and potentially toppling one or more of the towers.

Engineers advising the NSF and the University of Central Florida (UCF), which operates Arecibo for the NSF, concluded that it was not possible to safely repair the structure because of the collapse risk. “After the recent failure, WSP does not recommend allowing personnel on the platform or the towers, or anywhere in their immediate physical vicinity in case of potential sudden structural failure,” stated WSP, one engineering firm involved in that analysis, in a Nov. 11 letter to UCF.

“NSF has concluded that this recent damage to the 305-meter telescope cannot be addressed without risking the lives and safety of work crews and staff, and NSF has decided to begin the process of planning for a controlled decommissioning of the 305-meter telescope,” said Sean Jones, assistant director of the NSF’s Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate.

Engineers are working on a plan to carry out that controlled decommissioning, which will take several weeks to complete.[]

International Broadcast Station Interference Overwhelms Hurricane Watch Net (ARRL News)

As Category 4 Hurricane Iota neared landfall in Central America on November 16, the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) was forced to suspend operations at 0300 UTC because of what HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, described as “deafening interference from a foreign AM broadcast station that came out of nowhere at 0200 UTC.” At the time, the net had shifted to its 40-meter frequency of 7.268 kHz, collecting real-time weather and damage reports via amateur radio.

“This was heartbreaking for our team, as the eyewall of Iota was just barely offshore,” Graves said. “The storm had weakened slightly to a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 155 MPH.” After activating at 1300 UTC, the net was able to collect and forward reports from various parts of Nicaragua and Honduras via WX4NHC throughout the day for relay to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Iota was the most powerful storm on record to make landfall this late in the hurricane season.

Graves said the very strong AM signal was on 7.265 MHz. “From my location, it was S-9,” he told ARRL. “You could not hear anything but the BC station.” The source of the signal was not clear, but as he noted, other foreign broadcast stations are to be heard from 7.265 to 7.300 MHz and splattering close by.

Stations handling emergency traffic during the response to Category 5 Hurricane Iota had requested clear frequencies on November 16 to avoid interfering with the HWN and with WX4NHC, as well as with a Honduran emergency net operation on 7.180 MHz and a Nicaraguan emergency net operating on 7.098 MHz. It’s not known if those nets were also affected by interference from the numerous broadcasters on 40 meters. “Thank you to all who allowed us a clear frequency,” Graves said on behalf of the HWN.[]

[Personal note: I understand that this is very late in the season for the Hurricane Watch Net to activate. Normally, they operate on 20 meters, but moved to 40 meters for the evening. I don’t believe net control was aware that this portion of the 40 meter band is shared with international broadcasters. I don’t believe the international broadcaster could be called “interference”–they operate on a publicly available schedule–ham radio nets are actually the ones who are frequency agile. This seems to have just caught them off guard. I believe the HWN will be using frequencies below 7.2 MHz moving forward.]


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Radio Waves: Arecibo Damage, Airchecks, Remote Ham Exams, Kids Learning CW Through LI Club, and West Bengal Ham Confirms LRA36

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Ron, Dave Cripe, and Trevor R for the following tips:


A Broken Cable Has Wrecked One of Earth’s Largest Radio Telescopes (Vice)

The Arecibo Observatory, one of the largest single-aperture radio telescopes in the world, has suffered extensive damage after an auxiliary cable snapped and crashed through the telescope’s reflector dish.

The accident left a 100-foot hole in the observatory, which stretches 1,000 feet over a karst sinkhole in northern Puerto Rico. The cable broke at about 2:45 AM local time on Monday, but the cause of the failure remains unknown, according to the University of Central Florida, one of three institutions that operates Arecibo.

“We have a team of experts assessing the situation,” said Francisco Cordova, Arecibo’s director, in the UCF statement. “Our focus is assuring the safety of our staff, protecting the facilities and equipment, and restoring the facility to full operations as soon as possible, so it can continue to assist scientists around the world.”

Arecibo was the largest single-dish radio telescope in the world for decades, but it was bumped into second place in 2016 by the Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China. Some radio observatories, such as the Very Large Array in Chile, consist of vast networks of antennas that take up far more space than Arecibo or FAST, but the latter telescopes are the largest facilities in the world that collect light in a single big dish.

Arecibo also suffered damage during Hurricane Maria in 2017, though it was nowhere near as debilitating as the wreckage caused by the broken cable.[]

The Ever-Evolving Role of Airchecks (Radio World)

Anyone who has deejayed in radio in the past 60 years knows about airchecks. They are as much a part of top 40 radio’s legacy as spinning Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and exploiting its 8:02 running time for a much-needed bathroom break.

In top 40 terms, “an aircheck is an off-air recording usually intended to showcase the talent of an announcer or programmer to a prospective employer,” said Rick Burnett, former radio deejay and owner of TwinCitiesRadioAirchecks.com in St. Paul, Minn. “Additionally, the airchecks were used for self-critique and evaluation by radio management and for legal archiving of content that is broadcast over the air.”[]

Technology and Technique Making Ham Radio Testing Possible During Pandemic (ARRL News)

Amateur radio license testing continues during the pandemic, with a combination of remote Volunteer Examiner (VE) test sessions and careful in-person session planning. In Hawaii, VE Team leader and Section Manager Joe Speroni, AH0A, said he and his team passed the 100-candidate mark on August 10 for video-supervised remote test sessions. Speroni said the most recent session administered exams to 10 candidates simultaneously.

“Candidates from all Hawaiian Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, and US military bases in Okinawa have had an opportunity to sit for licenses,” he told the ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator. “The high pass rate of 95% is most likely due to candidates having had time to prepare for the exam.” Speroni also said his VEs’ willingness to contribute their time has made the program a success and available to a wide geographical range.[]

With kids stuck home, Long Island group teaches a ‘new’ hobby: Morse code (Newsday)

Even though Alana Bernstein of Manhasset is a 17-year-old high school senior, this spring she had to learn the alphabet all over again.

Bernstein signed up for a new, free Zoom course in Morse code created by a Long Island ham radio operators’ club to offer kids a chance to learn a new skill and stay occupied during the pandemic.

“This is a good opportunity for me to connect with people around the world, make some Morse code friends and have some fun,” Bernstein says. She finished the beginner course and is now taking a summer intermediate course that meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The program has reached 125 children in kindergarten through high school since it launched in March, says Alana’s father, Howard Bernstein, 68, of Manhasset. He cofounded the Long Island CW Club — the CW standing for continuous wave — in 2018 with Rich Collins, 57, a UPS driver from Hicksville. The men are known by the call signs WB2UZE and K2UPS respectively when they’re on the air.[]

Radio ham picks up Argentine Antarctic base signal (Southgate ARC)

New Delhi Television (NDTV) reports a radio amateur in West Bengal received a signal from the Argentinian base in Antarctica

They say:

An amateur radio operator from West Bengal, who intercepts radio signals from far away countries as a hobby, received one from Antarctica, the southern tip of the globe, over 11,835 km away.

The feat of 65-year-old Babul Gupta is unique as it is the first successful DXing – receiving and identifying distant radio signals – with Antarctica from the state in recent memory, Secretary of West Bengal Radio Club Ambaresh Nag Biswas VU2JFA told PTI on Thursday.

Babul Gupta, a member of the club, received a radio transmission from a camp set up by an Argentine team of scientists in Antarctica when he was in Bakkhali, a seaside spot in the South 24 Parganas district, on August 8, he said.

“The transmission was made from LRA 36 camp. It was transmitted from the scientists’ camp in South Pole. I sent the recording of the audio to the Argentine team via email,” Mr Gupta said.

The Argentines have sent an acknowledgement citation to Babul Gupta referring to his tracking their radio signal on 15.476 kHz.

Read the full story at
https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/amateur-bengal-ham-radio-operator-intercepts-signal-from-antarctica-camp-2282700

A picture of Babul Gupta’s receiving station can be seen at
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/358599189055138206/[]


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Hurricane Damages Arecibo Radio Telescope

Arecibo Observatory

(Source: National Geographic via Eric WD8RIF)

Hurricane Damages Giant Radio Telescope—Why It Matters” at National Geographic, written by the daughter of Frank Drake, pioneer SETI investigator:

Scientists and ham radio operators have confirmed that the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico—arguably the world’s most iconic radio telescope, which has a dish stretching a thousand feet across—has come through Hurricane Maria mostly intact, but with some significant damage.

More importantly, the observatory’s staff sheltering on-site are safe, and the facility is in good enough condition to potentially serve as a local center for the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, reports Arecibo deputy director Joan Schmelz.

Because of its deep water well and generator, the observatory has been a place for those in nearby towns to gather, shower, and cook after past hurricanes. It also has an on-site helicopter landing pad, so making sure the facility is safe in general is not just of scientific importance, but is also relevant for local relief efforts.

News about the facility has been primarily coming from Arecibo telescope operator Ángel Vazquez, who managed to get to the site and start communicating via short-wave radio in the early evening of September 21.

According to initial reports, the hurricane damaged a smaller, 12-meter dish and it caused substantial damage to the main dish, including about 20 surface tiles that were knocked loose.

Also because of the storm, a 96-foot line feed antenna—which helps focus, receive, and transmit radio waves—broke in half and fell about 500 feet into the huge dish below, puncturing it in several places, says Pennsylvania State University’s Jim Breakall, who talked with Vazquez.[…]

Click here to read the full article.

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Video: HF tests from Arecibo observatory

The Arecibo Radio Telescope, at Arecibo, Puerto Rico. At 1000 feet (305 m) across, it is the second largest dish antenna in the world. (Source: Wikipedia)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ivan Cholakov, who writes:

Thomas, I did not see a story on the blog about the HF atmospheric heating experiments conducted by the Arecibo observatory a couple of weeks ago.

Thomas Cholakov N1SPY made a video about it but I am also sure a bunch of other listeners were able to tune to the super-strong signal on 5125 and 5095 kHz.

Great video, Thomas!

Indeed, I did miss posting this item. The event timing conflicted with my travel schedule in a bad way. Sadly, I only had one opportunity to tune in and I did too late (by just a couple of minutes!) that day.

Did anyone else catch the on-air experiments from Arecibo?

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Arecibo: Legendary radio telescope hangs in the balance

The Arecibo Radio Telescope, at Arecibo, Puerto Rico. At 1000 feet (305 m) across, it is the second largest dish antenna in the world. (Source: Wikipedia)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who shares the following story from Nature:

“Some of the observatories targeted in the review have found potential partners: New Mexico State University in Las Cruces is leading an effort to take over the Dunn Solar Telescope in Sunspot, New Mexico. Others remain in limbo, including the 100-metre radio telescope in Green Bank, West [Virgina], where university partners have offered limited help.”

Click here to read the full article on Nature’s website.

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Listen to asteroid echos November 8th-9th

The massive Green Bank Telescope will be listening for CW tuned to put the asteroid's echo at a constant 2380 MHz (Photo Source: NRAO / AUI / NSF)

The excellent Southgate ARC has posted information on receiving signals that the Arecibo Observatory, the Deep Space Network Goldstone facility, the Green Bank Telescope and the Very Long Baseline Array will be bouncing off of the near-Earth asteroid 2005 YU55.

The asteroid will be making a 0.85 lunar distance flyby of Earth on November 8.

While the listening frequencies are well above the HF (shortwave) spectrum, many of you may have wide-band receivers or ham radio equipment that could tune in the signals. So, apologies for this slightly off-topic post. The amateur radio astronomer in me couldn’t help but promote this rather cool and unique opportunity.

From Southgate ARC:

Because YU55 will be so close to Earth, its radar echo will be detectable with even small antennas (~1 m^2). YU55’s echo will be a slowly drifting signal with a bandwidth of ~1 Hz within a few kHz of 2380 MHz or 8560 MHz.

[…]On November 8, 2011, 19:15 – 19:30 UTC, Arecibo will be transmitting a continuous wave tuned to put the asteroid’s echo at a constant 2380.000000 MHz at the Green Bank Telescope. Observers elsewhere on Earth will see the echo within 2 kHz of 2380 MHz, Doppler-shifted by the Earth’s rotation. It will be slowly drifting in frequency and have a bandwidth of ~0.6 Hz.

On November 9, 2011, 01:30 – 02:00 UTC, the Goldstone Deep Space Network facility will be be transmitting a continuous wave tuned to put the asteroid’s echo a constant 8560.000000 MHz at a second antenna at the Goldstone site. Other observers may see the echo shifted by as much as 6 kHz, and it will have a bandwidth of ~2 Hz.

Read the full article on the Southgate ARC website.

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