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The NAAPO Newsletter
Volume 20, No. 1; April 2004

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

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   Phil Barnhart

As we move ahead in the development of the next generation of Argus antennas we face some notable shifts in key personnel. As mentioned earlier (Signals, Volume 19, No. 1) Steve Ellingson has moved to Virginia Tech to assume a faculty position. He continues direct involvement by personal visit and internet interaction with the on-site volunteers.

The principal developer of the Argus-like receivers, Grant Hampson, is returning to Australia the end of this month. Grant was in the process of developing an improved version of the current Argus receiver when he became involved in finishing up his degree work at OSU. To allow him to continue his receiver development down under he has been supplied with a spiral antenna element and a 'roof-top' line amplifier to help get started after his move. Grant seems eager to continue developing these state-of-the-art receivers. We want to wish Grant the best as he heads back to the southern hemisphere. We will look forward to receiving working instructions for building the new receiver elements.

Jerry Ehman is continuing the Herculean effort to bring all issues of NAAPO News and Signals on line. It has strained the Coordinator's filing system to bring forth all back issues. The set is not complete (there are 8 issues out of 106 still unaccounted for). Jerry has scanned and edited 76 of the available issues. They should be available on line by early summer.

One of the early editorial interns for NAAPO News was an Otterbein student, Beth Helwig. Beth was responsible for bringing her dad and brother to volunteer for NAAPO. She later married and began a career in Special Education. In a chance encounter with her brother, Rick, we learned of the passing of their dad, Richard. Dick and Rick as we came to know them contributed often to the cause. They provided tools, muscle and many school children through their Space Camp summer programs. Many visitors to Big Ear were provided by the Helwigs. At a county poll-worker's party in the fall one "graduate" of the Helwig Space Camp approached me and commented on what a fine program they and Big Ear had provided for the campers. We will miss Dick Helwig from our circle of friends.

Argus Observations Continue

All sky measurements are being made with the 24 element array. Progress in developing a team of programmers to manage the data acquisition and real-time analysis is progressing.

Bob Dixon has prepared and delivered tutorials in the data analysis art. A number of volunteers are pursuing the fundamentals in writing programs in preparation for the data analysis problems. The programming/hardware team consists of Doug Needham, Russ Childers, Lee Edwards, Terry Payne, Harry Kitchen, Derek Edwards, Tom Hanson and Bruce Lerner. They join the Display Team of Bret Boggs and Scott Horn.

Russ Childers is generating CD ROM copies of data streams from the array for the programming teams to work with. He has succeeded in producing from these data sets all-sky pictures in the 1660 MHz region of the spectrum.

Receiver Electronics Merge with Data Processing Computers

In two intensive work sessions the receiver and calibration computers were moved into the same laboratory space occupied by the Data Analysis Computers. This involved not only the physical movement of computer units from remote locations, but the re-routing of the cables from the roof-top array from the southwest wall access to the east wall access to the Argus control room.

The move will materially improve the operation, particularly after power outages requiring the re-boot of the receiver hardware. The move also involved the relocation of storage shelves and file cabinets out of the workspace.

News Item Stirs Reaction

A front page article appearing in the April 2, 2004 Delaware Gazette stirred strong reactions from NAAPO members and the creator of Big Ear. The news item in question reported the death at 82 of Clarence Jones, local demolition contractor. The article featured the fact that it was Jones who demolished the world class radio telescope, Big Ear.

Russ Childers, upon hearing of the article recalled a phone conversation with Jones in 1998 requesting assistance in moving the flat antenna into a more upright position to make the job of pulling it down easier. Russ calmly, but with emphasis, declined the invitation saying it was not his job any more and that the problem lay with the new owners.

A more intense reaction was displayed by Big Ear's creator and builder of Big Ear, John Kraus. In a note to several members of the NAAPO team John stated it very clearly;

"It was a day of infamy in December 1982 when Ohio Wesleyan betrayed my trust and sold the land out from under the "Big Ear" to a developer who wanted to demolish the telescope for a golf course. It was a unique world class telescope which I had designed and built with my students using federal funding. Students and staff using it made the largest radio sky survey complete with maps resulting in many important discoveries including the discovery of the most distant known objects in the universe at a distance of over 12 billion light years where one light year is 9,000,000,000,000 kilometers. The telescope also detected the famous "WOW" signal, a possible artifact of an extra-terrestrial intelligent civilization. In addition, the telescope was used by the Ohio State University ElectroScience Laboratory for extensive measurements vital to our national security. What other discoveries and measurements might have been made if the telescope had not been demolished in 1998?

John Kraus"
Next phase Antenna Construction

Construction of the next 64 elements for the Argus array are beginning. The physical element structure will consist of plastic cube containers in which a wire mesh ground plane, circular reflectors, plastic spacers and fiberglass insect screen will be mounted. The more expensive spiral antenna, low noise amplifier and bandpass filter will be installed as they become available.

Composite mounting spacers and PVC tubing is being fabricated at the present time. Sufficient aluminum reflectors are on hand. Styrofoam spacers are yet to be fabricated.

Use of weather resistant plastic will hopefully prevent the type of deterioration experienced by the pressed wood construction on the current array elements. Full scale testing of the new units will start as the individual elements are completed.

Ellingson to Address Colloquium

On April 30 Steve Ellingson will give a talk on "Wide Field Radio Transient Searches" to the University of Minnesota Astrophysics Colloquium. He plans to present as much Argus material he can fit in. The expectation is for him to describe the LOFAR All Sky Monitor but Argus is getting hot enough to slip in prominently.


We need financial support! If you are seeking an outlet for your tax-exempt contributions, NOW is the time to remember NAAPO. We have about exhausted our available funds and now need money to continue expanding Argus!

Send your tax deductible donation payable to:

   % Philip E. Barnhart
   4655 Indian Court
   Westerville, OH 43082

Also, we will gladly accept volunteers who hunger to get hands-on experience with an exciting new experiment in astronomy, radio technology and satellite tracking/identification. If you want to volunteer, it is almost a necessity that you live within an hour's driving time of Columbus, Ohio. We find it helpful to be able to work with you in person as you work with us! If you are interested in volunteering, you may send our webmaster an e-mail describing your interest and by giving a short summary of your current or past employment and interests. Just click here to start your e-mail application.

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.

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Copyright © 2004 North American AstroPhysical Observatory
Created by Jerry Ehman.
Last modified: August 11, 2004