The World's Smallest Radio Telescope

Silke Kremer, Gerd Nolden, Mario Simons

project report

The goal of our project is to develop a radio telescope that is affordable for schools and that can be operated without specialist knowledge. Taking advantage of the substantial progress in satellite receiver technology, we decided to try to detect extraterrestrial radio waves using cheap parabolic and offset reflectors and low noise converters (LNCs). The use of a conventional receiver as an amplifier was not an option as we needed the entire bandwidth of the LNC to reach our goal. Therefore we built a low noise amplifier from quality components which can provide 100000-fold amplification. Using a 1.5 m parabolic reflector we were able to achieve a detection limit of 1000 Jansky (Cassiopeia A 1084 Jy). However, the main achievement of our project is a 35 cm offset reflector. Using a simple telescope tracking system we were able to track the sun using the offset reflector. Our little 12 GHz radio telescope is not only useful for solar observations, but it can also be used for weather radar applications. We believe that our work shows a route that schools can take to enter the adventure of radio astronomy.

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