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The NAAPO Newsletter
Volume 18, No. 1; February 2002

Written by: Phil Barnhart, NAAPO Coordinator, 4655 Indian Ct., Westerville, OH 43082

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Coordinator's Corner

Following a long period of communication down-time we are back in the saddle, ready for continued action and itching for another round-up. We report in this issue some significant changes and progress in some areas that must seem to some of you to have lain dormant for some months.

We have some new volunteers and potential for more. Our "steady" staff has experienced some turnover. The old guard continues to cling with tenacity to goals looking more and more attainable.

Some policy decisions have led to behavioral changes on the part of some of our followers. Search this issue carefully for clues to how you may keep in touch with us more effectively and contribute to our progress. We want to hear from as many of our long time friends as possible in the next few weeks. We also hope as many of you as possible can keep in touch with us electronically. (See the accompanying article.)

About ten years ago, Bob Dixon commented in one of our working sessions that computer speed and memory capacity necessary for Argus to fly was " . . . probably 20 to 25 years down the line." At the time we all felt this was a good time scale to get things done. Not surprisingly the time is NOW. We have the computing power off the shelf along with ample memory and Argus is now under way. Antenna design has had its needed breakthrough (see another accompanying article) and we are assembling an Argus array.

Of course this means we have a new set of immediate needs to fill. The adventure continues. The nature of a volunteer organization means we are always on the verge of disaster and our environment seems always to operate from one crisis to another. These crises have proven to be highly entertaining learning experiences. I highly recommend attending our working sessions just to sample the energy and productivity that grows out of a common drive to know.

If you are in the neighborhood and want to find us every first and third Saturday of each month, just give me a call.

Phil Barnhart
(614) 882 - 6711

Argus Flies

The principal focus of our efforts this past year has been building a working all-sky array. To this end we are involved in several parallel programs.

Hardware development is under way on two fronts. Actual construction of receiving antenna elements could not begin until a satisfactory design was adopted. Many possible element types were considered, tested and rejected.

In traditional radio astronomy, antenna design relies heavily upon techniques of achieving high gain (very narrow antenna beam widths), large aperture and high spectral selectivity (many channels each of very narrow bandwidth). The Argus approach is at odds with these traditional demands. Our design criteria are small aperture, very broad antenna beam coverage and wide spectral bandwidth from which narrow channels may be accessed when the need arises.

While attempting to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of a flat spiral antenna element, Steve Ellingson found it actually performed in all respects better than other proposed designs. It is simple and lends itself to easy mass production.

Steve designed a simple box to contain a pair of stepped ground planes and a low noise amplifier (LNA)/receiver module. An array of eight box elements was set up on the roof of the Satellite Communication building behind the Ohio State University ElectroScience Laboratory. Successful testing of this array led to the decision to build eight more elements, improve the LNA/receiver modules and begin to develop data analysis software.

NAAPO volunteers are now fabricating the next eight antenna modules. These should be operational early March. Refinements and construction of the next 16 modules will begin immediately.

On the back end, a computer network is being assembled to perform the beamforming and real time data analysis and display. Bret Boggs is developing the necessary software.

We are working toward the goal of a bank of dedicated computers to handle the data flow from the growing array. Progress in this direction will be reported in a future issue of Signals.

Changes Afoot on BIGEAR.ORG Website

For a number of years, Cindy Brooman hosted and edited the BigEar.org web page for the radio observatory. Increased work load with her business led her to offer to relinquish her responsibility in maintaining the site. Her dedicated and professional handling of what became a very popular internet site is greatly appreciated. We have realized much benefit from her commitment.

Jerry Ehman took on the webmaster job and worked hard to transfer Cindy's excellent work to another server. Several problems related to relocating the site, providing adequate hardware to host the site and continuing the registration of the domain name consumed several horrendous months.

The transfer now is complete and several additions to the web page have been effected by Jerry. We feel this is still a vibrant window on the work of the radio observatory.

A new editorial attitude on BigEar.org centers on its status since the 1998 demolition of the telescope. We feel the website needs to fulfill an important historical function concerning the institution. Much of the talented and effective work put into the site by Cindy has been retained. Jerry is adding the documentation prepared for the Historical Marker dedication and plans also to add some of the photographic coverage of that event.

Some of the volunteer information and services will be moved to the new (see accompanying article) web site NAAPO.org [this site]. There are opportunities to provide electronic feedback as well as links to other relevant web sites such as NAAPO.org and SETIatHOME.

We invite all of you to look in on both these internet locations to check out what has been done and what we are up to now.

Big Ear Historical Marker Dedicated

On November 5, 2000 a crowd of nearly 100 persons witnessed the dedication of a State Historical Marker commemorating the Big Ear Radio Telescope and those who built and operated it. It stands as a history making monument itself. It is the first (and probably still the only) historical marker in Ohio honoring a living person. Dr. John Kraus has the unique honor of enjoying a marker honoring him specifically.

Furthermore, the marker is the first of over 550 historical markers in the state of Ohio to be erected in Delaware County. The cost of marker was shared half by The Ohio Bicentennial Commission (with a grant from the Longaberger Foundation) and the Ohio Historical Society and half by NAAPO.

The ceremony featured speakers from many constituencies of the observatory. In particular, Dr. Kraus expressed his gratitude for the honor and greeted many of his friends and associates who returned for the dedication. Drs. Dixon and Ehman represented the professional staff that completed the Ohio Sky Survey as well as the continuing volunteer groups that operated the telescope to its final days.

Dr. Jonathan Young of OSU's ElectroScience Laboratory spoke on behalf of those who made extensive use of the instrument for essentially non-astronomical research. Graduate students who obtained degrees in recent years while volunteering at the Big Ear facility were represented by Steve Brown and Steve Ellingson.

The Ohio Bicentennial Commision was represented by Carmelita Boyer who presented a proclamation from Governor Robert Taft. The Ohio Historical Society was represented by Philip Ross.

A reception was held following the dedication ceremony in the Perkins Observatory, graciously provided by Director Tom Burns. Refreshments were provided by the Otterbein College Food Service.

A video tape record was made of the dedication ceremony by Willie Franklin of the Otterbein College Technical Services Department. A generous donation by Ange Campanella has made possible copies of this video for distribution to those who are interested in borrowing or owning one. Anyone interested in either option may contact Phil Barnhart, the Associate Director of NAAPO or at the address at the top of this issue of Signals.

The marker is located at the north bound Rte. 23 entrance of the Dornoch Golf Club. They have promised a parking area for interested travelers wishing to view the marker.

Copies of all the printed materials prepared for the ceremony will soon be posted on the Big Ear web site: (www.bigear.org). Pictures of many of the participants will also be posted there.

NAAPO Launches New Web Page

There is a new service on the World Wide Web. After a long, successful run of bigear.org getting news of our activities to the general public we felt a need to branch out and provide a distinct source of information about our continuing activities in the absence of the large telescope.

Having retired bigear.org into the role of being an historical record of the achievements of that great institution, we have launched www.naapo.org [this site] to become the information source for our continuing work on the Argus array and the data analysis remaining in the Big Ear archive.

We plan to include quarterly issues of Signals for progress reports and news of the operations to develop Argus. In addition there will be the required IRS reports and filings for public scrutiny.

Along with links to bigear.org there will be links to other appropriate SETI and radio astronomy sites.

Users will find current information on volunteers, staff bios and the history of NAAPO [as the webmaster is able to get that information on the site].

Feedback: If you have questions or comments about anything said in this newsletter, then you may send our webmaster an e-mail. He will then either respond himself or forward your message to an appropriate person in our group. To start your default e-mail program, simply click on the underlined link below. Note that the Subject line will already be filled out for you. Just enter your message and send.

Questions/Comments About February 2002 Newsletter

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