radio astronomy: a project by r a d i o q u a l i a


Radio Astronomy is a collaboration between: - r a d i o q u a l i a, New Zealand
- the Windward Community College Radio Observatory (WCCRO) in Hawaii, USA
- NASA's Radio Jove network, USA
- the Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Centre (VIRAC), Latvia.

With additional audio contributed by:
- the University of Iowa's Plasma Wave Group, USA
- Jodrell Bank's Pulsar Group, UK

r a d i o q u a l i a, New Zealand

r a d i o q u a l i a is an art group founded by New Zealanders Honor Harger & Adam Hyde in 1998. r a d i o q u a l i a works in the fields of art, science and technology. Their principal interest is in the ways that broadcasting technologies such as radio and online streaming media can be used to create new artistic forms, and in ways that sound art can be used to illuminate abstract ideas and processes.

Windward Community College Radio Observatory (WCCRO), USA

The WCCRO facility is located on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, USA. WCCRO's team include some of the USA's key scientists working on initiatives to make radio astronomy more accessible to schools and the general public. Dr. Joseph Ciotti is Professor of Astronomy, Physics, and Mathematics; Richard Flagg is a pioneering Radio Engineer and researcher; and Jim Sky is a Software Developer and creator of Radio Sky Pipe system. The Observatory uses a small steerable 17-30 MHz log-periodic antenna to receive radio emissions from Jupiter and the Sun. These signals are also made available in real-time over the Internet by the use of strip charts.

NASA's Radio JOVE Network, USA

Radio JOVE is a joint effort of NASA's Space Science Data Operations Office, the University of Florida Astronomy Department, the Florida Space Grant Consortium, University of Hawaii's Windward Community College and Kochi National College of Technology in Japan. Radio JOVE studies radio emissions from Jupiter and the Sun to better understand their magnetic fields and their plasma [charged particle] environment. It is an educational project, which teaches planetary astronomy, solar radio astronomy, space physics, and the scientific method to teachers and students. It provides hands-on radio astronomy experience and experience in electronics construction and testing. Its networked structure enables participants to use the internet to interact with other Radio Jove participants to exchange astronomical data, ideas, and experiences.

Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Center, Latvia

In Irbene, Latvia, there is a 32-meter fully steerable parabolic, centimetre-wave range antenna RT-32 and a 16-meter diameter antenna RT-16. The Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Center (VIRAC) uses these antennae to take part in observations of cosmic sources of natural and artificial radiation in order to accumulate observational data for fundamental and practical research programs in radio astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, geophysics, geodynamics, geodesy, coordinate-time service and other.

The Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Center is not only interesting scientifically. It also has a fascinating social and political history. In the 19970s and 1980s, RT32, plus two smaller dishes, and a communications centre formed Zveolsdoshka - Russian for Little Star. Zveolsdoshka was built by the Soviet military and was used by the KGB to spy on data transmissions between Europe and North-America during the Cold War. The dish was a secret object for most of its existence. Normal citizens of Latvia had no idea it existed and the whole area around it was closed to the public.

When the occupying forces of the Soviet military withdrew from Latvia in 1993, they abandoned Zveolsdoshka. The military were reluctant to give these technical resources to the Latvian Government, and entertained the idea of blowing up the satellite dishes. Pressure from the scientific community dissuaded them from this, but RT32 was sabotaged by the retreating forces. Acid was poured into its motors; nails were driven through the electrical wires. All the technical plans and schematics explaining how the dish worked were removed. The dish was effectively ruined.

Since this point, a small group of Latvian scientists have dedicated themselves to the restoration of RT32. Considering they were working without any technical specifications, and with minimal financial support, it is remarkable that they have managed to completely repair the dish. It has been converted from military to scientific use, and is now being used for radio astronomy.

Now, rather than listening to earth-bound data, as it did during its espionage days, RT32 listens to planets, stars and the moon.