Office of Undergraduate Research

Development and Testing of a Small Radio Telescope

We have installed a Small Radio Telescope (http://www.haystack.mit.edu/edu/undergrad/srt/index.html) on the roof of the UWM Physics Building (see attached). This telescope is intended primarily as an instructional facility for UWM students, and will help them learn modern astronomical techniques, starting from an understanding of instrumental capabilities, moving to design of an observational sequence, and finally reducing data and characterizing the result.

While in place, the telescope still needs to be properly calibrated, and observational methodologies need to be developed. Working with students and faculty at UW-Madison, we will establish the operating parameters of thetelescope (its level of noise, the best frequency ranges, the best positions on the sky) and figure out how to best use the telescope for basic astronomy experiments. These range from figuring out how bright the Sun and Moon are to detecting hydrogen gas in the spiral arms of the Milky Way galaxy.While the SRT is not used in full-scale astronomical research, the principles are the same as with national facilities, and the familiarity that the student will develop will serve him/her well. Starting with an operational but uncalibrated instrument to a validated science result (the rotation speed of the Galaxy) will demonstrate the process of astronomical research.

While the SRT is not used in full-scale astronomical research, the principles are the same as with national facilities, and the familiarity that the student will develop will serve him/her well. Starting with an operational but uncalibrated instrument to a validated science result (the rotation speed of the Galaxy) will demonstrate the process of astronomical research.

Tasks and responsibilities:

The student will work with the professor to establish the operational characteristics of the telescope. Different calibration methods will be tested, and the student will operate the telescope via computer, collect data, and analyze it to make conclusions about the telescope's performance. Basic tutorials in Radio Astronomy will be part of the process. The student will work with other students (at UW-Madison and elsewhere, facilitated by regular video conferences) in setting up a Wiki repository that contains the best practices and other information to facilitate future use. Calibration will be required to determine: (1) how well the telescope points at a desired target; (2) what the noise level of the telescope is; (3) what parts of the sky are suitable for observing, and what parts have too much interference.

Once calibration is done, the student will demonstrate the basic observing with the telescope and find how quickly the Milky Way is rotating.