Remote Control of a Radio Telescope and Data Transmission via the Internet

Reinhold Gau, René Kermis

project report

We want to create an opportunity for schools that are interested in radio astronomy. This includes access to current measurement data via the World Wide Web and even taking measurements using our Remote Mini Radiotelescope. Our project is mainly aimed at those who would like to have a first encounter with radio astronomy. Schools will be able to control the radio telescope via the telephone network and later even via the Internet, record measurements and transfer them to their own computer, where they can be processed. We will make the necessary software available on the Internet free of charge. Therefore, our challenge is to program the required data telecommunications software, to enable the control of the radio telescope by a distant computer and to digitize the analog measurement data from the radio telescope to allow computer processing.

We have programmed the data telecommunications software for measurement results ourselves. The browser program Net-Browser V1.1 runs on MS-WindowsTM and offers an easy-to-use user interface. In case of the server program Server 2.0 we focused on data security and we have kept the graphical user interface rather basic. These programs enable effective data transmission, control over our Remote Mini Radiotelescope and allow the user to access various documents and measurements.

In order to fully control the radio telescope via the parallel port of a computer we have modified the telescope's existing manual control. The ability of the parallel port to address individual bits can replace expensive control interfaces. We have also written the software to achieve this ourselves. It allows exact tracking of the reflector, which is essential for exact measurements and thus it is a lot more powerful than a simple automated manual control.

The data digitization was a particularly interesting challenge as we did not want to use a conventional (very expensive) measurement interface in order to be able to offer a cost-effective solution for schools. We had the idea of using the sound card as a measurement device as this offers many advantages in terms of sampling rate, precision and value for money. Nowadays almost every PC has a sound card that could be used for a large range or measurements. However, in most cases this requires a special circuit that converts the measurement signal into an audio signal that is compatible with the sound card. Only with this additional circuit, the sound card becomes a versatile measurement device.

Finally, after addressing the above challenges, the data telecommunications, telescope control and digitization software had to be combined into a server application in order to allow the "Remote Control of a Radio Telescope and Data Transmission via the Internet."

Miniforschung - St. Michael-Gymnasium Bad Münstereifel - Disclaimer, privacy policy, imprint