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Internet Access to a 4.6m Radio Telescope for High Schools


Internet Access to a 4.6-m Radio Telescope for High Schools & Colleges ... LUNAR/SOLAR Telescope: Live Internet video of Sun and Moon for education/public outreach ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Internet Access to a 4.6m Radio Telescope for High Schools

Internet Access to a 4.6-m Radio Telescope for
High Schools Colleges
M. W. Castelaz, J. D. Cline (Pisgah Astronomical
Research Institute) D. A. Moffett (Furman
Univ.)J. Case (Brevard H.S., NC)J. Daugherty
AAS 200th meeting, Albuquerque, NM, June 2002
Tuesday, June 4, 2002, 1000am-700pm. Session
Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute
Smiley and the School of Galactic Radio Astronomy
are located at the Pisgah Astronomical Research
Institute shown above. Two 26-m, one 12-m, and
the 4.6-m make up the PARI Radio Observatories.
In addition, nine optical telescopes, from 0.12-m
to 1.8-m are in operation or being planned (see
Session 64.08 at this 200th Meeting of the AAS)
as part of the PARI Optical Observatories.
Current Education Programs at PARI
  • Summary of the Education Programs
  • STARLAB Portable Planetarium, visits region
    schools, with more than 3500 students in
    2001-2002 participating
  • SGRA Internet Classroom using the 4.6 m radio
    telescope remotely
  • DUKE TIP Dr. Keohane from the NC School of
    Science Math directs the Talent Identification
    Program Astronomy Summer Camp at PARI
  • LUNAR/SOLAR Telescope Live Internet video of Sun
    and Moon for education/public outreach
  • PFI TEACHER WORKSHOPS Pisgah Forest Institute
    Environment Program includes astronomy component
    at PARI
  • GAMMA RAY BURST WORKSHOP 8-10 Aug 2002 workshop
    to prepare for ground-based work in response to
    SWIFT Mission

Introduction to SGRA
  • The Internet Classroom is called the School of
    Galactic Radio Astronomy, or SGRA.
  • The purpose of SGRA is to teach the basics of
    scientific inquiry, which includes methodology,
    critical thinking, and communication of results
    to students in grades 8-12.
  • Relies on Internet access to PARIs
    remote-controlled 4.6-m radio telescope.

The 4.6-m Radio Telescope
  • Smiley shown with a 26-m in the background
  • 1.4, 4.8, 6.7, 12.2 GHz Feeds
  • Alt-Az Mount

JAVA Applet Control Panel is shown here
software is combination of Visual Basic 6 and
JAVA code.
Internet Access to the 4.6-m Radio Telescope
  • T1 Line
  • Teacher given username, Password
  • Teacher/students schedule observing time
  • Live video of Smiley
  • Smiley Control Panel accessed by any browser
  • Control Panel includes
  • Pointing/tracking
  • Spectrometer Spectrum control
  • Spectrometer Continuum control

To Use the Telescope
  • For a teacher and class to participate in SGRA
    and use the telescope, the teacher needs to
    attend a 2 day workshop. Goals of the workshop
  • Learn how to use the 4.6-m radio telescope on
    site and remotely
  • Learn the basics of radio astronomy
  • Develop proficiency in using the curriculum
  • Develop one original use of the SGRA facilities.
  • Given username password, schedule observing

Labs Prepared for SGRA
Beta-Test Experiences
  • Six young scholars from A.C. Reynolds High School
    in Buncombe County near Asheville, N.C. visited
    PARI in November 2001. The group, plus three of
    their curious teachers are shown above.
  • These students and teachers are the first group
    to beta test SGRA labs.
  • They compared the radio brightness of the Sun to
    Cassiopea A. If they had radio eyes,  they would
    be told not to look directly at the Sun and Cas A

In March 2002, seven high school students from
the North Carolina School of Science and Math
(NCSSM) spent ten days at PARI. 
  • The student projects included
  • Mapping the Galactic Center at 1420 MHz using the
    West 26 m radio telescope
  • Mapping the entire Galactic Plane at 1420 MHz
    using the Smiley 4.6 m radio telescope
  • Measuring the frequency dependence of quasar
    emission using the West 26-m radio telescope
  • Measuring the pointing model for the East 26-m
    radio telescope
  • Building a radio telescope from scratch

  • Two NCSSM students mapped the Galactic Plane at
    1420 MHz using Smiley sampling every 2.0 degrees
    along the plane.
  • Since Smileys FWHM beamwidth is about 3 degrees
    at 1420 MHz, they were able to measure the coarse
    velocity structure of the Galactic Plane.
  • Their map is shown below. The brightest spot is
    Cas A.
  • Teachers/students can do the same thing remotely,
    and demonstrates the capability of the 4.6-m
    radio telescope.

Students from Brevard High School, North
Carolina, have been using Smiley and SGRA labs
throughout the Spring 2002 term. Part of their
intent was to point out ways to improve the SGRA
and Smiley program. We list their major comments
for improvement and changes as a result
Comment The original Internet access was done
through direct connection using a remote
communications software package. The
communications was very slow, even though both
sides were using T1 connections. Change A JAVA
Applet interface was developed to replace the
direct link remote communications package.
Reaction time improved greatly. In addition, no
special software is required by the high school
any Java enabled browser will work.
Comment The telescope slews to hardware limits,
instead of taking the most efficient path in
Azimuth and Altitude. Change The software was
revised to make the slew more efficient.
Comment The spectrometer is difficult to use
because of the small dynamic range (i.e. gains
and offsets have to be changed often) and signals
saturate the output. Change The spectrometer
they used had a 12-bit A/D converter. We have
upgraded to a new spectrometer with a 20-bit A/D
converter and now have plenty of dynamic range.
The spectrometer is now easy to use with signals
not saturating the output.
Comment Smiley was fun to use once we understood
what we were looking at! Change The comment here
is one we enjoy hearing. Radio observations are
much different that optical. Students are
beginning to appreciate the sea of
electromagnetic radiation in which we are
In the coming year we are opening the SGRA and
Smiley Project to teachers/students in regional
high schools. The remote use of Smiley may
interest those teaching undergraduate general
astronomy courses as well. Teacher Workshops are
being offered July 15-17 and again July 24-26,
Contact Information Michael Castelaz Astronomica
l Studies and Education Pisgah Astronomical
Research Institute 1 PARI Drive Rosman, NC
28772 Phone 828-862-5554 FAX
828-862-5877 E-mail Web
Acknowledgements We acknowledge the Space
Telescope Science Institute IDEAS Program for
partial support of the School of Galactic Radio
Astronomy. Also, we appreciate the support we
have received from the South Carolina State
University NASA PAIR program for their
development of the 4.6-m radio telescope controls
and detectors. This is a mutual benefit between
the SCSU students and mentors and PARI. We
also acknowledge support from the Z.Smith
Reynolds Foundation for their generous support of
teacher workshops.