Tag Archives: Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute

Interval Signals + Radio Astronomy = Bliss

Yesterday, I spent part of the better part of the day at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI): a place that has begun to feel like a home away from home.

As you might imagine, radio astronomy observatories are places with very low levels of radio frequency interference. Since I had a few hours on the PARI campus to play radio, I used it as an opportunity to evaluate the CCRadio-EP Pro‘s AM/mediumwave performance.

For comparison purposes, I packed the CCRadio-EP Pro, Tecsun PL-660 and (for kicks) my Sony ICF-5500W.

Now isn’t the ICF-5500W a handsome boy?

I’ll post some of the CCRadio-EP Pro videos in my final review.

Though it was immense fun tuning through the AM broadcast band right through the gray line,  being an SWL, I eventually turned to the shortwaves. The only shortwave radio I had on hand was the amazing little Tecsun PL-660. Conditions weren’t as bad as I had expected–propagation was decent and did I mention no noise?

After tuning around a bit, I happened upon one of my favorite interval signals: that of the Voice of Turkey.

Everything around me–all that was on my mind–simply took a backseat to the simple pleasure of listening to an interval signal on a cool, foggy spring evening surrounded by the beauty of PARI’s campus and those giant radio telescopes.

Though the feeling was nearly impossible to capture, I did make a recording to share with SWLing Post friends and readers from around the world. I hope you enjoy:

Click here to watch on YouTube.

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Solar Eclipse 2017: In the path of totality

A portion of the PARI campus

Tomorrow, we will be experiencing a total solar eclipse here in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Instead of enjoying the eclipse at home, I will be volunteering as a docent at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute in Rosman, North Carolina. Post readers might recall PARI as it was the location of our 2015 PARI DXpedition.

One of PARI’s 26 meter radio telescopes.

PARI is expecting at least 1,000 visitors tomorrow, from a number of countries. Many are scientists, astronomers, and guests who want to be in the path of totality.

On the PARI campus, we will be in totality for about 1 minutes, 47 seconds.

What makes the event truly special for PARI is that this is the first time in history a world-class radio astronomy observatory has been in the path of totality. To say the PARI astronomers are excited is simply an understatement. All four of PARI’s telescopes will be trained on our local star and gathering copious amounts of data.

If you don’t live in the path of the Eclipse, I invite you to check out PARI’s YouTube channel where they will host a live stream:

Click here to watch on YouTube.

Gathering spectrum

I will also be gathering data of my own during the event.

I will remotely record the entire mediumwave (AM broadcast) band several hours before, during and after the eclipse. I will also set up a separate SDR to record either the 31/30 meter bands and my buddy, Vlado (N3CZ) is kindly using his SDRplay RSP1 to record from 6 MHz – 8 MHz.

What do I expect to see/hear in the spectrum recordings? Certainly a drop in noise. If I’m lucky, I also hope to hear some DX anomalies–hopefully a signal or two that I wouldn’t normally here in the middle of a summer day.

I don’t expect any dramatic results (though I would love to be proven otherwise!) since the ionosphere takes time to change states. My buddy Mike (K8RAT) likens it to an oven: it takes time for it to heat up to the desired temperature, and it takes time for it to cool down as well. I’m not so sure the shadow of the moon, which moves at a good clip, will be persistent enough to change the state of the ionosphere in any meaningful way.

If it does, I’ll be there to record it!

There are many other radio related experiments happening during the solar eclipse. A notable one that you can even help with is the 2017 Ham Radio Eclipse Experiment.

SWLing Post contributor, Dan Srebnick also suggests a few stations you might try catching on the AM broadcast band. Dan notes:

Something to do during the solar eclipse on Monday. There are 13 clear channel AM stations along the path of totality. Give a listen for them:
[LIST OF AM CLEAR CHANNEL STATIONS]
kHz CALL Location Eclipse UTC
—— ——- —————- ————–
650 WSM Nashville, TN 18:28
670 KBOI Boise, ID 17:27
750 WSB Atlanta, GA 18:36
840 WHAS Louisville, KY 18:27
880 KRVN Lexington, NE 17:57
1030 KTWO Casper, WY 17:43
1040 WHO DesMoines, IA 18:08
1110 KFAB Omaha, NE 18:04
1110 WBT Charlotte, NC 18:41
1120 KPNW Eugene, OR 17:17
1120 KMOX St. Louis, MO 18:18
1190 KEX Portland, OR 17:19
1510 WLAC Nashville, TN 18:28

Kudos to Bob WB4APR (of APRS fame) for producing this list.

Post readers: Will you be in the path of totality or do you plan to enjoy a partial eclipse? Have you ever experienced a total solar eclipse?  What are your plans if any? Please comment!

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Video: Shortwave listening and radio astronomy

Sony-ICF-SW100

On Thursday I attended an event at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI)–location of the 2015 SWLing Post DXPedition.

During a break, I had a couple of free hours, so I reached in my messenger bag and pulled out the Sony ICF-SW100: a radio that has quickly surpassed all others as my favorite EDC (everyday carry) radio. It has so many useful features in such a small package!

Radio astronomy observatories are ideal locations for impromptu shortwave radio listening as there is little to no radio interference/noise present.

PARI-26E-and-26W

PARI’s “Building 1” and the 26 West (left) and 26 East (right) radio telescopes.

While the weather on Thursday was gorgeous, HF band conditions were…well…miserable. There was very little to hear other than China Radio International, Radio Havana Cuba and a few other blow torch broadcasters.

Still, time signal station WWV was on my mind since I had just purchased Myke’s new edition of At The Tone and have been reading your excellent comments with early memories of listening to WWV and WWVH.

I tuned to 15 MHz and, of course, there was reliable WWV in Fort Collins, Colorado on frequency. Though WWV’s signal was relatively strong (despite the conditions) I turned on the SW100’s sync detector because fading (QSB) was pronounced at times.

Here’s a short video of the ICF-SW100 on a picnic table in the middle of the PARI campus. That’s PARI’s 26 (meter) West telescope in the background:

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SWLing Post DXpedition at PARI…this weekend!

If you’ve registered for, and plan to attend, the PARI DXPedition, please make sure you’ve joined our Yahoo Group.  This is where we’re finalizing details and communicating about the DXpedition, noting any changes, updates, etc.  

PARIdish

If you’ve tried to contact me recently and haven’t gotten a response yet (sorry about that!) it’s because I’ve been unusually busy: writing a shortwave radio buyer’s guide for The Spectrum Monitor, several reviews for WRTH 2016, plotting another reader challenge, and last but not least, putting together the final details of the SWLing Post DXpedition at PARI this weekend.

Soon I’ll be another kind of busy, at the DXpedition:  exploring the bands, gazing at the stars, and hanging out with some of the SWLing Post community. Needless to say, it’s going to be fun, and I’m looking forward to it.

If we have Internet access at PARI, we hope to post a few loggings and photos from our Twitter account.

We have about a dozen registrants this year, a good start.  If you can’t make it there, no worries; if all goes well, we may have another next year.

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SWLing Post DXpedition at PARI is all systems go!

DSC_0884Some of you may recall a post I published last year regarding a shortwave and medium wave DXpedition at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), a 200-acre radio astronomy observatory and former NASA tracking station located deep in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Since this is the first event of its kind, we’ve been working closely with PARI staff to put the DXpedition together.  And come together, it has.

I’m pleased to announce that we’ve now received the official go-ahead: we’re clear to launch the (first-ever!) 2015 SWLing Post DXpedition, which will take place Friday, October 9, through Sunday, October 11.  Come join us!

PARI will soon post the official registration form on their website; of course, I’ll post an update when this form is ready.

Meanwhile, those of you who may be interested in attending, keep reading…and do join our dedicated email discussion group (more info below).

A few DXpedition details…

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As I mentioned last year, PARI has agreed to handle all of the event’s arrangements, and will even provide a limited number of basic shared dormitory rooms to the first registrants who request them. An event fee will pay for facilities and PARI staff (see below); modest profits, should there be any, will benefit PARI’s worthy science education mission.

We are fortunate to be sharing the beautiful PARI campus with with a larger party of amateur astronomers, aka, a “star party,” taking place the same weekend; the DXpedition will benefit from this in terms of expanded facilities access. An additional benefit is that we can share our passion for radio with members of the star party, while learning a little about astronomy from their members.  And for those of us who enjoy both, all the better.

Costs

The costs associated with the event are as follows:

Registration fee: $100

Lodging: On campus, the fee is $50 per night, per person, in a shared dormitory room; or $20 per night, per tent or travel trailer (no hook ups, though electricity is available). Want to come along, but not interested in roughing it? You’ll find numerous comfortable hotels and inns within a 30-40 minute drive of PARI’s mountain campus.

Meals: Catered meals will be provided for a modest charge to be determined (PARI is working with local food services to arrange our meals currently). Of course, you can always bring your own food and prepare it on-site, as well.  The campus has a lunchroom with a microwave.

The PARI campus and accommodation

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PARI was formerly a NASA tracking station, and following that, a Department of Defense monitoring facility.  Because of the remote nature of the campus, basic on-site dormitories were built; scientists use these throughout the year as they conduct their research, and the shared rooms are available upon request.

Typical PARI dorm room (click to enlarge)

Typical PARI dorm room (click to enlarge)

The dormitories are conveniently located in the heart of the 200-acre campus, and sleep about four to each room.  These are simple facilities, and no private rooms are offered. Bathrooms (with showers) are shared, and separate buildings house men and women; thus the dormitories may not be the best option if you plan to bring a spouse, a large family, or young children.

Of course, if you enjoy camping and/or star-gazing, you can pitch a tent (just $20/night), or park your travel trailer on campus (also just $20/night). Note that this is not a travel park, thus hook-ups for travel trailers are not supplied, although power is available.

For those who prefer not to camp or stay in a shared room, the nearby mountain town of Brevard, NC (approximately 35 minutes from PARI by car) is a charming small town offering numerous hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, and other comfortable private accommodations. PARI often recommends the Hampton Inn in Brevard, NC. Hotels.com and AirBnB offer alternatives.

Receivers, antennas, and other radio equipment

DSC_0904DXpedition participants should bring their own receivers, antennas, and accessories. If you wish to bring an SDR or tabletop receiver, there are quite a few places on campus where you’ll have access to power. At least one main listening post will be set up under cover, as well, for our participants.

Feel free to bring any type of receiver you like. A few potential participants have noted that they plan to bring a portable receiver only, and that’s absolutely fine–this is your DXpedition, your chance to sit back and listen to your radio without distraction, so any radio you choose to bring is the right one.

Of course, a few SDRs, tabletops, and portable receivers will be available for participants to try out, so if you can’t bring your own receiver, please let me know in advance; I’ll try to reserve a time slot for you to use one of the available rigs.

SWLing Post DXpedition email group

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We have created an email discussion group for the DXpedition. If you are seriously considering joining the DXpedition, click here to become a member of the group as this is the place where we’ll organize and make further plans.

Since this is the first time the SWLing Post and PARI have sponsored a DXpedition, we’re certainly trail-blazing here. My sincere hope is that this event will lead to future DXpeditions…not to mention, real friendships among our readers and fellow SWLers.

Looking forward to the DXpedition–we’ll see you at PARI in October!

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