Tag Archives: NRAO

Radio Waves: BBC lifeline, NZ Concert FM, Band Planning Group, and SETI VLA search

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’sRadio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Howard, Mark Hirst, Micheal Bird, Pete Eaton, andTroy Riedel for the following tips:


The BBC gave me a lifeline as a child. It must be kept public (The Guardian)

Those who lobby against the corporation’s service remit fail to understand its unique relationship with its audience

ou’re mistaken if you think you can hand Margaret Thatcher a pearl-handled revolver and expect her to do the right thing. She’d shoot you with it.” As memory serves me, those were the words of a member of parliament being interviewed on the BBC World Service in November 1990. The programme was Newshour, and the presenter was Owen Bennett-Jones. I recall these details because the ousting of Thatcher was the first political event I tuned into properly as a child with an interest in politics living in a sub-Saharan African country with no access to media that covered current events.

Satellite dishes were prohibitively expensive, and apart from a short news bulletin on state-controlled TV there was no other source of news, let alone analysis – until I found the BBC World Service on shortwave radio. I started to haul the only portable radio in the house, a large battery-powered contraption with a long-bent aerial, everywhere I went, becoming aware of the dead zones in the house where the signal was weak, and making note of the times when the signal was strongest. Night-times were the worst. I would heave the radio into the bed and painstakingly tease the dial to find the crackling transmission from Bush House, able only to fall asleep when I managed to find the faint voices fading in and out of the crackle of white noise.[]

NZ’s Concert FM may be safe (RadioInfo)

The future of New Zealand’s Concert FM seems to have been assured after NZ Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern said her Cabinet was looking at an unused FM frequency as a solution to keeping the station on air.

There has been public outcry since the announcement of Concert FM’s proposed closure late last week with ex PM, Helen Clark going public to condemn the move.

RNZ’s breakfast king, Mike Hosking, says that the government is out of touch replacing it with a youth station, “The fact they’re calling it “youth” immediately shows how out of touch they already are, and hopefully they can hire someone who’s pants aren’t pulled up quite as high who can put them straight.”

Under the proposed changes, the classical station would lose its FM frequency, presenters, interviews and live programmes, become fully automated and move to the AM band.[]

New HF Band Planning Discussion Group (Southgate ARC)

The ARRL has created a new HF Band Planning Discussion Group which is open to both members and non-members

The ARRL say:

HF Band Planning Committee Chair Mike Raisbeck, K1TWF, will moderate the group, which will focus on the ARRL HF Band Planning Committee’s recommendations and other band-planning activities.

Earlier this month, the ARRL HF Band Planning Committee invited comments and suggestions from the Amateur Radio community on its report to the ARRL Board. At the Board’s January meeting, the committee presented its specific recommendations in graphical form for each HF band and each US license class, with the goal of increasing harmony on the HF bands, particularly between CW and digital users. Those responding to the initial call for comments and suggestions are encouraged to cross-post their remarks to the new HF Band Planning Discussion Group.

The discussion group is at
https://groups.arrl.org/g/ARRL-HF-Band-Planning/

Other discussion groups are at
https://groups.arrl.org/g/ARRL-Groups/subgroups

Source ARRL
http://www.arrl.org/news/arrl-creates-new-hf-band-planning-discussion-group

Astronomers to sweep entire sky for signs of extraterrestrial life (The Guardian)

Project is collaboration between privately-funded firm and New Mexico observatory

Astronomers will sweep the entire sky for signs of extraterrestrial life for the first time, using 28 giant radio telescopes in an unprecedented hunt for alien civilisations.

The project is a collaboration between the privately-funded Seti Institute and the Very Large Array observatory in New Mexico, one of the world’s most powerful radio observatories. Gaining real-time access to all the data gathered by VLA is considered a major coup for scientists hunting extraterrestrial lifeforms and an indication that the field has “gone mainstream”.

Normal astronomy operations will continue at the VLA, which was featured in the 1997 film Contact, but under the new arrangement all data will be duplicated and fed through a dedicated supercomputer that will search for beeps, squawks or other signatures of distant technology.

“The VLA is being used for an all-sky survey and we kind of go along for the ride,” said Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley Seti centre. “It allows us to in parallel conduct a Seti survey.

“Determining whether we are alone in the universe as technologically capable life is among the most compelling questions in science, and [our] telescopes can play a major role in answering it,” said Tony Beasley, director of The National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which runs the VLA.[]


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Will Green Bank soon become a little less radio quiet?

GreenBankTelescope(Source: BBC News via Richard Langley)

Disturbing the peace: Can America’s quietest town be saved?

There’s a town in West Virginia where there are tight restrictions on mobile signal, wifi and other parts of what most of us know as simply: modern life. It means Green Bank is a place unlike anywhere else in the world. But that could be set to change.

“Do you ever sit awake at night and wonder, what if?” I asked.

Mike Holstine’s eyes twinkled like the stars he had spent his life’s work observing.

“The universe is so huge,” he began.

“On the off chance we do get that hugely lucky signal, when we look in the right place, at the right frequency. When we get that… can you imagine what that’s going to do to humankind?”

Holstine is business manager at the Green Bank Observatory, the centrepiece of which is the colossal Green Bank Telescope. On a foggy Tuesday morning, I’m standing in the middle of it, looking up, feeling small.

Though the GBT has many research tasks, the one everyone talks about is the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. The GBT listens out for signs of communication or activity by species that are not from Earth.

[…]Green Bank sits at the heart of the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000 square mile (33,669 sq km) area where certain types of transmissions are restricted so as not to create interference to the variety of instruments set up in the hills – as well as the Green Bank Observatory, there is also Sugar Grove, a US intelligence agency outpost.

For those in the immediate vicinity of the GBT, the rules are more strict. Your mobile phone is useless here, you will not get a TV signal and you can’t have strong wi-fi? -?though they admit this is a losing battle. Modern life is winning, gradually. And newer wi-fi standards do not interfere with the same frequencies as before.[…]

Read the full article on the BBC News website.

Additionally, if you have access to the BBC iPlayer, click here to watch the Click episode featuring Green Bank.

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National Radio Quiet Zone featured in BBC Radio 4 series

GreenBankTelescope

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, David Freeborough, who shares this brilliant, in-depth radio documentary featured on the BBC News and BBC Radio 4.

This BBC News Magazine article introduces the documentary:

“Anyone driving west from Washington DC towards the Allegheny Mountains will arrive before long in a vast area without mobile phone signals. This is the National Radio Quiet Zone – 13,000 square miles (34,000 sq km) of radio silence. What is it for and how long will it survive?

As we drive into the Allegheny Mountains the car radio fades to static. I glance at my mobile phone but the signal has disappeared.

Ahead of us a dazzling white saucer looms above the wooded terrain of West Virginia, getting bigger and bigger with every mile. It’s the planet’s largest land-based movable object – the Robert C Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) – 2.3 acres in surface area, and taller than the Statue of Liberty.

But it needs electrical peace and quiet to do its job.”

[Continue reading…]

The story continues on the BBC News site, but I would encourage you to listen to the five part radio documentary series on BBC Radio 4 first. Green Bank, WV, is certainly one part of the planet where a shortwave radio listener would be quite happy: residents have virtually no radio interference or obnoxious electrical noises that plague the rest of the modern world.

telescopes-1911The radio documentary can be streamed on the Radio 4 website.  I’ve included links to each episode below. As far as I can tell, there are no expiration dates on the Radio 4 streams:

My wife and I have camped near the NROA site in Green Bank–it’s a beautiful part of the world. I’m certainly long overdue to return!

Again, David, many thanks for sharing this!

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Living in a National Radio Quiet Zone

The Green Bank Telescope: An impressive parabolic dish covering 2.3 acres, the GBT has the largest collecting area of any fully-steerable telescope in the world. (Photo: R. Creager, NRAO/AUI/NSF)

The Green Bank Telescope: An impressive parabolic dish covering 2.3 acres, the GBT has the largest collecting area of any fully-steerable telescope in the world. (Photo: R. Creager, NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Paul, who shares this National Geographic video about Green Bank, West Virginia, USA–home of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO):

My wife and I took a camping trip to Green Bank in the late 1990s when the massive Green Bank Telescope was about 80% complete. The NRAO site is inspiring and you (of course) will find no better place on the east coast for RF quiet conditions.

The staff at the NRAO give daily tours throughout the year–click here to view the schedule and costs.

I’m overdue for another visit.

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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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