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Semiannual Project and Activity Review July through December 2011

posted Sep 15, 2012, 10:48 AM by Simon Shupp   [ updated Sep 15, 2012, 10:49 AM ]

Posted on January 1, 2012 By Web Master

Lewis Longmont Laboratory, Longmont, Colorado
Plishner Radio Astronomy and Space Sciences Center, Haswell, Colorado

In the second half of 2011, members made great strides restoring the DSES 18m dish in Haswell, CO, where we have the Paul Plishner Radio Astronomy and Space Sciences Center. On October 23, we had first light in the form of a drift scan at 21 cm. This was possible when the elevation drive system was activated so the feed could be installed. Though this is exciting, we sadly said farewell to the Table Mountain Field Site where DSES held court for over twenty years. We hope one day to return. In the meanwhile, we are fully engaged in getting the Plishner center into full, on-site tracking.

Figure 1: Adieu for now, old friend. Photo courtesy of Jim Widlar, 2011.

On Saturday and Sunday, the sixth and seventh of August, many DSES members removed DSES property from the Table Mountain Field Site, building T22. The bulk of the inventory was loaded onto a forty-foot trailer for storage in Boulder. Several items were loaded onto smaller trailers for hauling to Haswell. These items were needed to get the Plishner site operational. Those helping were Paul Berge, John and Ines Ewan, Adam Glazer, Pete Goldman, Don Lewis, Jamie and Jordan Riggs, Leonard Sitongia, Patricia Sheridan. Jim Widler, and Joseph Zonfrelli.

(a) Photo courtesy of Leonard Sitonga, 2011.(b) Photo courtesy of Jim Widlar, 2011.
Figure 2: Staging for loading the trailer (a). Adam Glazier, Paul Berge, and Jordan Riggs taking a photo op (b).

Don Lewis offered his office/workshop for DSES use, and we have coined it “Lewis Lab”. It is located in northwest Longmont. To use Lewis Lab, you will need to contact Don to schedule a date and time. DSES small group meetings may be arranged as well. The days and times are reasonably flexible. There are two workbenches and enough equipment to enable project development. A drill press and bench also are available. Thanks, Don for your generosity!

(a) Photo courtesy of Don Lewis, 2011.(b) Photo courtesy of Don Lewis, 2011.
Figure 3: Some of the work space and equipment available for DSES member use.

DSES member trips to the Plishner site have resulted in facility clean-up and repairs of the dish. Michael Lowe has been working with the local Haswell electric cooperative to get power installed at the site. Paul Berge, Don Lewis, and Michael Lowe have spent several weekends at Plishner, and with the efforts of local residents, have made a rewarding collaboration between DSES and Kiowa County.

The August Plishner excursion was conducted on the 16th through the 21st. Those making the trip were members Paul Berge, Don Lewis, Adam and Joyce Glazer, Michael Lowe, and Horace Martin. The work was varied, and much progress was made on both dish restoration and infrastructure refurbishment.

A heavy duty trailer was loaded with three 250 gallon, food-grade tanks and one in Adam Glaziers truck for the September trip. Don had arranged to pick up a 250 watt solar panel in Niwot. Michael Lowe had arranged for the Lab Trailer to be located at his house and it was moved from there to the Plishner site. The living trailer tank was filled with water from the tank in Adam’s truck. The process of moving the new water tanks to the bunker required draining the tank in Adams truck, moving it down and then filling it with the tanks on the trailer one by one. The scaffolding was unloaded, benches and other items were unloaded from the trailer.

Paul Berge determined a solution to the motor mounting problem for getting the elevation motor installed in the Plishner dish tower. Paul continued work on the elevation motor mount and additional clean up of the tower, which resulted in operation of the both the elevation and azimuth motors.

(a) Photo courtesy of Paul Berge, 2011.(b) Photo courtesy of Paul Berge, 2011.
Figure 4: First axes movement at Plishner.

The goal of the second October trip for Michael Lowe and Robert Slate was to Audit the equipment at the rail yard in Eads and to talk to various officials and people in Eads regarding our activity. The post-audit trip made by Adam Glazier, Rod Johnson, Don Lewis, Michael Lowe to the Eads railroad yard Oct 31 – Nov 4 2011 was to discharge the equipment and material inventory. The V&S RR allowed us to salvage materials from their yard. There was a large amount of structural aluminum and still more of railroad steel. Almost 4 T of aluminum and 8 T of steel were delivered to the scrap yard, while usable materials were delivered to Plishner.

One of the best results of this trip was meeting several good folks in Eads who now know of the Plishner site, who have some really good ideas about developing our site, working with the local population, and connecting with the local and at-large science and education population. On the way to achieving full tracking capabilities by summer, 2012, Peter Goldman has been steadily planning and designing interface hardware and software to connect the motor drives and absolute encoders to the University of Colorado Aerospace Engineering COSMOS team computer controller. Peter’s interface will accommodate other controller options as well, thus allowing for future developments and enhancements.

In March of 2011, an informal goal was set to try to achieve at least a fleeting first light (the dish is not yet commissioned) at Plishner in October of 2011. First light is the term astronomers use to describe the first data produced by a newly commissioned telescope. A small group of members managed to use the Haswell dish to collect data from a Hydrogen line receiver (1420.406 MHz) for the first time on Sunday Oct. 23 at about 6:30 PM (see Figures 5(a) and 5(b)). This is a remarkable milestone for DSES and the Plishner project. We have met our goal! Huge thanks to all the participants and all the members who have supported the effort in many ways.

(a) Photo courtesy of Paul Berge, 2011.(b) Photo courtesy of Paul Berge, 2011.
Figure 5: First light at Plishner on 21 cm!

DSES members Rodney Howe and Dave Mynatt are recording data on the Solar Flux with a 2.8 GHz (10.7 cm) receiver on a 90 cm satellite dish (see Figure 6(a)). This radio uses two soup cans as a wave guide. At the same time as the sun peaks in the 90 cm offset dish, readings are taken with a H. LUNT telescope shown in Figure 6(b). This optical scope is used to count the sunspot groups and sunspot numbers. The idea is to correlate the radio solar flux unit with the sunspot numbers (Figure 7(b)). As the 10.7 cm line peaks in this drift scan we get a temperature reading of 131, which has a linear relation to the Solar Flux Unit. This is compared with daily readings for the sunspot group and number counts, as seen in this Sun Entry program in Figure 7(a) and 7(b). All these data are used by solar scientists in predicting the sun’s solar cycle and space weather.

Rodney Howe and Jamie Riggs are collaborating on a redesign of traditional sunspot counting data collection and analysis methods used by the American Association of Variable Star Observers. See the research page of the DSES website: for additional information. DSES members attended conferences, gave presentations on DSES activities, and published papers. Jamie Riggs gave a talk on DSES activities to the Denver Astronomical Society on July 15, 2011, on the campus of the University of Denver. Jamie and Don Lewis gave a similar talk to

(a) Photo courtesy of Rodney Howe, 2011.(b) Photo courtesy of Rodney Howe, 2011.
Figure 6: Solar flux at 2.8 GHz (a) and optical Hα (b).

the Kiowa County Economic Development Foundation on July 19, 2011, in Eads, Colorado. Jamie gave a presentation on the statistics of sunspot enumeration first to the University of Northern Colorado Applied Statistics and Research Methods Department in Greeley, Colorado (September 7, 2011), and then to the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) 100th Annual Meeting on October 8, 2011, Woburn, Massachusetts.

(a) Solar flux at 2.8 GHz.(b) Optical Hα
Figure 7: Monitoring radio and optical solar emissions.
(Click images for larger view.)

DSES Organizational Opportunities

The DSES is an organization of amateur radio operators, astronomers, scientists, radio hobbyists and plain old “big equipment” nuts. Whether you like to help with organization and management, work on a keyboard, try to pull in the weak signals, want to try your hand at digital signal processing or just wonder “what is out there” and you want to see for yourself, the DSES has a place for you.

We still need your help.

The DSES wants to renew its relationship with its members and bring in some new ones as well. In addition to dish improvement projects, we are always looking for projects that use the capabilities of the dish such as radio astronomy, Earth-Moon-Earth (EME), satellite ground station uses, etc. Do you have something you think we should be adding to our abilities? Come and re-join us! Membership for a full voting member is $50/year and for an associate, non-voting member is $20/year.

Thanks to all who have joined or renewed!

Thank you for your interest in the Deep Space Exploration Society!

For further information you can send email to the board members at or see our website at Our newsletter and activity reports are available on this website.