Tag Archives: PARI

DXpedition at a radio astronomy observatory: Want to join me?

PARI-WestYesterday evening, prior to my presentation at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), I took the opportunity to do a little portable shortwave listening on the PARI campus.


One of the great things about listening to shortwave, mediumwave or longwave at a radio astronomy site is the blissful absence of any radio noise. Radio astronomy requires seriously RF-quiet conditions, and all the better for SWLing, too. My little Tecsun PL-380 receiver easily detected most everything on the 31 meter band; All India Radio (and the Voice of Korea on the same frequency), for example, was as strong as a local station.

DX among the radio telescopes:  Sound fun–?

Next year, in October 2015, I might just organize a radio listening DXpedition at PARI. It would be a wonderful opportunity to DX in an RFI-free environment in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina, on the 200+ acre campus of an active radio astronomy observatory and former NASA tracking station. (Really, how cool is that?!?)

PARI has agreed to handle all of the arrangements, and even provide some dorm rooms and camping space to the first registrants. There will be a fee for the event (to pay for the facilities and PARI staff time) but any profit would benefit PARI’s science education mission. The fee would be based on the number of attendees and how many nights we operate–I’d aim for two nights, on a Friday and Saturday (October 9 & 10, 2015).

If you would be interested in a shortwave listening DXpedition at PARI in Rosman, North Carolina, USA, please contact me or comment below.  Click here to track the distance to PARI.

Note: the autumn foliage, for which the NC mountain region is famed, will be at or near its peak during the time of the DXpedition.

PS–Bonus: A dish in motion

As I departed the PARI site late Friday, an astronomer programmed the rotation of the East radio telescope, an awe-inspiring 26-meter parabolic antenna.  I snapped a couple of shots with my iPhone.  It was truly impressive, this massive radio telescope slowly turning to some distant star or galaxy to acquire new data.  See for yourself (for a sense of scale, see the fence at the base):



Spread the radio love

October 10: Let’s talk shortwave…and astronomy


I’ve been invited to speak at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), a non-profit educational radio astronomy observatory (and former NASA tracking station as well as one-time NSA installation), in the mountains of western North Carolina.

I’ll be speaking about shortwave radio, of course–both its technical and cultural aspects–on October 10, 2014, at 7:00 pm EDT.  Afterwards, there will be a tour of the PARI campus, and an opportunity to stargaze with both amateur and professional astronomers.

Many thanks to my buddy, Ken Reitz, who shared this article about my presentation in the area’s local county newspaper; here’s my statement about the presentation:

“Shortwave radio is an international communications medium that has been in existence for nearly one hundred years,” said Witherspoon, “yet this vintage technology supports an ever-evolving multicultural landscape that, remarkably, remains relevant today. The Internet and mobile technologies have made the dissemination of information more readily accessible to many, yet shortwave radio remains viable and dynamic, and in many ways still outstrips the Internet.

“I plan to share some of shortwave radio’s diverse voices and investigate some of the technology used to receive them. So, if you are a shortwave enthusiast, or simply interested in learning more about shortwave, this program is for you and will be suitable for all ages.”

Read the full article here–and if you can make the journey, join us for shortwave and astronomical fun. There is a small charge for the evening; all proceeds go towards PARI’s mission of providing public education in astronomy.

PARI is a stunning radio astronomy campus which will no doubt be accentuated by the mountains’ fall leaf colors on October 10. For PARI’s location, click here.

Spread the radio love