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The NAAPO Newsletter
Volume 19, No. 1; February 2003

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

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Coordinator's Corner    Phil Barnhart

I am back to writing again. Having done mischief to my sitting apparatus I must ration my time before the word processor. Since I read flat on my back, I spend most of my writing time reading.

In trying to dredge up a few facts I easily become sidetracked. The accomplishments of Reber, von Hoerner and especially John Kraus recaptured me. I read and reread tales of these pioneers. I remain fascinated and marval at the simple approach to research success.

I continue to be impressed with how sloppy are many web pages, i.e., they contain factual errors. One young surfer in reading a straightforward account of Grote Reber's academic rise on the NRAO webpage wrote:

  "After attending The Ohio State University in Columbus, in 1962,
  Reber received an honorary Doctor of Science degree."

The author also cited as reference to Grote Reber's mother being a school teacher the lyrics of Paul Shuch's song "Grote Reber".

  1. Reber did not attend The Ohio State University.
  2. Paul used considerable poetic license in his lyrics, particularly in the way in which the scientific world rejected Reber's pioneering work. There are many good references to the early connection between the Reber family and the world of astrophysics and cosmology.
We should remain very skeptical of information offered on the internet.

We continue to receive offers from potential volunteers. Jerry Ehman continues to respond to them relating appropriate conditions on their (and our) acceptance. We remain a very viable, completely volunteer organization.

We can still use monetary donations from any part of the world. They are all tax deductable.

Antenna Element Construction Progress

The next eight antenna boxes are complete. Anti-insect netting is to be installed this week over the remaining hole in six of them. They are then ready for final testing and mounting on the roof. Components for the next eight are ready for paint and final assembly. They should be complete in about 4 weeks.

The next generation antenna elements are still under development, awaiting a decision by Steve Ellingson on the suitability of the present design and some proposed modifications. Time for completion before the June URSI Conference is getting short. Volunteer time will have to be allocated very carefully to assure progress on all fronts.

It is now time to order more short cables for the internal LNAs and filters.

Satellite Prediction Project Lags

Steve Ellingson reports he no longer needs the satellite prediction capability we were developing. However, this does not remove the importance of pursuing this project. We still would like to pursue the capability for an on-line service to radio observatories around the world for a real-time assessment of potential RFI (radio frequency interference) at any location on earth. We still need volunteer input to complete the work started by Scott Horn.

Steve reports the latest version of "Predict" does the job for him without modification. Perhaps our groups should look into this program.

NAAPO Acknowledges Marconi Event

During the working session January 18, 2003, mention was made of a brief discussion on NPR (National Public Radio) (local station: WOSU-AM 820 kHz) of a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Guglielmo Marconi's first trans-Atlantic radio transmission. The report mentioned a transmission to Cape Cod, MA. Bob Dixon, (in his all-knowing mode) described in detail the plans of the Marconi Radio Club to mark the event with activities covering a period of several days.

Non-ham Barnhart then set out to discover what the details of the original event involving Marconi consisted of. Access to the internet led to the realization that the 1903 event was not the first trans-Atlantic transmission by radio. That accomplishment involved a transmission of the Morse code symbol of S . . S . . S . . originating in Poldu, Cornwall, England on December 12, 1901. That signal was received by Marconi in St. John's, Newfoundland. Marconi detected the signal with an antenna suspended from a kite flown from a hillside in St. John's.

On January 18, 1903, Marconi transmitted a 54-word message from U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt to King Edward VII in England. This was sent from the newly established Marconi Station on Cape Cod, MA and was the first trans-Atlantic transmission from America to Europe. This is the event commemorated on January 18, 2003.

The relevance to our mission is that in the 100 years since Marconi succeeded in communicating across the Atlantic, we have advanced to the point where we are seeking to detect intelligently-generated transmissions of the order of 600 billion times as far away (100 light years). Indeed, radio signals are routinely detected from the order of 10 billion light years away, though not of ETI origin.

New Volunteers Welcomed

In the last 6 months we welcomed three new volunteers. Brad Stone, a very near neighbor, volunteered to work on the data analysis software project. Soon after getting started, he moved out of the central Ohio region and has lost touch with the project.

James Kimble arrived in time to pick up with software development in data analysis and display problems, working with Bret Boggs.

Keri Krukal, a bioengineering graduate of Purdue University, volunteered just in time to help with the LNA fabrication project with Ange Campanella. She has the distinction of being our only resident trained in classical ballet. We look forward to performances from "Swan Lake" to liven up our Saturday meetings.

Noted in Passing

Grote Reber: December 22, 1911 - December 20, 2002

Grote Reber was the pioneer of observational radio astronomy. Karl Jansky serendipitously discovered cosmic radio emission (from the Milky Way Galaxy), but even he was not permitted to follow up the discovery. Grote Reber was a radio ham and electronics technician who decided there may well be something to be learned about the universe using radio emission from beyond the earth.

Born in 1911 to Schuyler and Harriet (Grote) Reber, Grote grew up fascinated by radio communication. He graduated with a Bachelor's Degree from what is now the Illinois Institute of Technology. He worked as an electrical engineer for radio manufacturers in Chicago and upon reading of Jansky's 1931 discovery of cosmic radio emission set about to explore the phenomenon on his own.

He constructed a 30-foot (9-meter) diameter parabolic dish in his Wheaton, Illinois backyard. Using the dish as a transit instrument he scanned strips of the sky night after night searching for Jansky's cosmic emissions, detected at 10 and 15 meters wavelength. Reber reasoned that most radiation familiar to astronomers was thermal (stars, planets and moons) he should find the strongest signatures at short radio wavelengths. Failing to find any at 9-, 33-, and 62-cm. wavelengths he finally found celestial emissions at 187 cm. This demonstrated that the cosmic radiation he and Jansky were measuring was non-thermal; his first contribution to the new field of radio astronomy.

Reber also found evidence for discrete sources of radio emission. The Milky Way produces a distributed source of radiation. The first discrete sources he detected were in Cygnus and Cassiopeia.

Reber worked throughout his life on projects at the fringe of routine science. He spent the better part of a year at Big Ear developing what he hoped would be a 'cosmic ray telescope'. Using a large ionization chamber to detect high energy cosmic ray particles or gamma rays he hoped to make a directional detector that could locate sources of cosmic rays. This work predated by 30 years the large neutrino detectors now operating.

While in Ohio he became interested in the twining vines that wrap themselves around trees and radio telescope structures. When he returned to Tasmania he requested Bob Dixon to send him seeds of various plants he had found around the telescope property. Bob suffered great distress from poison ivy in tracking down the seeds, and sent mostly the wrong ones. A re-exploration with more explicit directions from 'down under' resulted in seeds that seemed to satisfy Grotes' wishes. At any rate, Reber published a 1964 paper on "Reversed Bean Vine" in the Journal of Genetics, 59, p37. He also published a paper in the Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture.

His work in Tasmania involved 100- to 300-meter (1 to 3 MHz) observations to take advantage of the thinning of the ionosphere at times of sunspot minimum to allow long wave radiation to penetrate from outer space. Through two sunspot minima (about 11 years apart) he did not obtain positive results. He did continue work in this area using Spacelab 2 ionospheric depletion experiments.

Reber has had a life-long connection with the cosmic adventure. Before her marriage to his father, Harriet Grote had as an eighth grade student one Edwin Hubble, destined to produce one of the outstanding revolutions in 20th Century cosmology. It is interesting to note Grote Reber did not accept the expansion of the universe as an explanation of Hubble's redshift-distance relation. He steadfastly subscribed to a 'tired light' or 'some sort of interaction with intergalactic matter' explanation.

People with the spirit and drive possessed by Grote Reber appear on the scientific scene all too seldom. We need more of his kind.


Sebastian von Hoerner: April 15, 1919 - January 7, 2003

The radio astronomy community has lost another friend with the death of Sebastian von Hoerner on this past January 7. He was an astrophysicist who became interested in SETI while working at NRAO at Green Bank, WV when Frank Drake made his first attempts at detecting ETI in Project Ozma.

He obtained his PhD in 1951 at the University of Goettingen under Carl F. von Weizsaecker. He was particularly interested in star formation and the dynamics of star clusters. In 1962 he joined the staff at NRAO and continued work on star formation and shock front propagation.

Von Hoerner did work in gravitational collapse and proved to be an influential mechanical engineer. He devised an antenna structure (called 'homologous antenna') which allowed a parabolic dish to maintain its parabolic shape even when stresses tended to cause it to sag at large zenith distances. This meant only a slight shift in the prime focus feed would be necessary as the telescope tracked across the sky. This design was employed on the 100-meter telescope at Effelsberg, Germany.

Of immediate interest to the Big Ear family, Sebastian von Hoerner served on the editorial board of Cosmic Search magazine. An interview with von Hoerner conducted by Mirjana Gearhart appears in Volume 1, No. 1 of Cosmic Search. He published a paper in Science, (1962, 137, p18) exploring the general limits of space travel. He also published a rather pessimistic view "Where Are They?" in Naturwissenschaften, (1978, 65, p553). Shortly before his death he completed the manuscript for a book about SETI, Sind Wir Allein? (Are We Alone?).


Alice Kraus:

We also note with a sense of great loss the passing of Alice Kraus, devoted wife and inspiration of John Kraus, Ohio's own radio astronomy pioneer. She died June 5, 2002 following an extended struggle with the effects of a stroke.

Not only did she provide encouragement and support to John, she was always a welcoming hostess to colleagues, students and neighbors. Always interested in nature, the arts and science, Alice still found time to be politically active and was an important influence in the community.

She is sincerely missed.

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