The Astronomy and Physics Club to raise money for radio telescope

This photo shows different ways the radio telescope can display the information and data in captures (Tony Hardy)

This photo shows different ways the radio telescope can display the information and data in captures (Tony Hardy)

The Astronomy and Physics Club at Saddleback College has been hosting informational workshops both on and off of campus in order to raise enough money for a high powered radio telescope. These events have included ‘Totality’- the day the sun disappeared and the Navigating the ‘Night Sky’ workshop.

The objective of the project is to build a telescope that operates in the radio-wave spectrum. This idea was first coined by Cory Hague, the Treasurer of Astronomy and Physics Club. His goal is to build a system that will automatically track constellations and assemble digital images of the Milky Way with the data that it compiles.

This project will give students a hands on experience and bolster student resumes for transfer admissions and job applications. It also has the potential to grow student interest for the programs at Saddleback and give Saddleback public exposure to what the students, clubs and educational programs are capable of accomplishing.

“There is a remnant of a radio-wave telescope on top of the science and math building but it was never fully completed,” Tony Hardy, Astronomy and Physics Club Director said. “When I asked people in the department if there was any data I could gather from it, they just told me how there is none because it has always been missing parts.”

The telescope was never completed because having it on the roof has some real problems. The architecture of the Science and Math Building is outdated, making images really difficult to focus on due to outside vibrations.

“The new Sciences Building would be the best bet because of the way it’s made,” Hardy said. “The architecture of the new building would eliminate most of the outside vibrations from things such as earthquakes.”

This is a basic diagram showing how the radio telescope functions an operates (Tony Hardy)

This is a basic diagram showing how the radio telescope functions an operates (Tony Hardy)

The Astronomy and Physics Club has been attempting to raise money by selling raffle tickets at their workshops and giving away books about the cosmos and even smaller telescopes ranging anywhere from $200 to $500. This radio-wave spectrum telescope has some costly parts, so they are doing their best to raise as much money as they can by next year.

A 2.1 meter, prime focus satellite dish would be required to collect the radio waves. A broadband low noise amplifier would be needed to filter out noise and amplify the desired signal. A digital satellite finder would be necessary for dish alignment and calibration. A low noise block down converter would also need to be purchased in order to detect a signal coming from the dish.

Other components that would be needed include linear actuators, a mount to rotate the satellite dish, microprocessors, analog digital converters, hardware, wires, LED’s, relays, switches, power supplies, motor controllers and a webcam to automatically align the telescope as the constellations rotate to prevent streaks in the image.

“My best estimate of how much this would cost including all miscellaneous parts like wiring and circuitry would range anywhere from $6,000 to $6,500,” Hardy said. “The most important aspect of this project though is the high speed PC computer because of how much data we would be gathering.”

Once the image is captured it must be analyzed and put together which would take a tremendous amount of processing power. Only a highly functioning computer would be able to analyze the data and process it in a timely manner.

“What I would really like to do is pitch the idea of getting a planetarium,” Hardy said. “We are the only community college in Orange County that doesn’t have any plans to construct one any time soon because of how expensive it actually is.”
There will be a sign up sheet for people to help build towards this goal at every workshop offered by the Astronomy and Physics club. Every raffle ticket purchased will go towards the club and helping them to complete this project by June of 2018.