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6m Educational Telescope


The Caltech Microwave Research Group (CMRG) developed a 6meter diameter telescope and placed it on top of Caltech's Moore Laboratory. This telescope is used for educational purposes; and to test amplifiers, feeds, spectrometers, software and receivers.



Other Educational Telescopes


Radio Astronomy Teaching Lab Consortium ?


​In theory, there could be cooperation between different radio astronomy teaching laboratories. Here are some ideas on what one could do:


  • Each site has a Common Computer (CC) with identical software, digitizer, receiver and gpu. Students access this computer via a web browser user interface. Course material relates to this computer and its common software. Since these computers are identical at each site, sites can share course material. Also, if one adds software to the CC, other sites can use that software. The sites collectively add to, and maintain, the CC's. 

  • Each site has a Specific Computer (SC) which is the glue between their specific hardware and the Common Computer (e.g. steering telescope). The CC and SC talk using a standard protocol defined by the Radio Astronomy Teaching Lab Consortium (which does not exist at this time, this is only a concept).

  • Here is an example of how a consortium could be helpful. Let's assume Site X does not have programmer resources and money to make their software great. They end up with minimal software and a long list of things they would like to do yet cannot due to not having several productive full time programmers. Let's assume Site X has a CC and SC. Then, on the other side of the world, an energetic 15yo kid writes CC software that creates a spectrogram. Site X would like spectrogram capability yet does not have the resources to create it. Instead, they copy it to their CC and it runs without modification.

  • In the early days of the personal computer, there were no standards and home grown computers hung by a thread with minimal capability. Then standards appeared, people built on those standards, and collectively the world made personal computers great. Over time, one could do this with Radio Astronomy Teaching Labs, in theory.

  • Other universities could copy Common Computer (CC), Specific Computer (SC) and Hardware if they wanted to duplicate a site's setup without doing development. If one could build a teaching lab without having to create from scratch, the number of teaching labs might increase dramatically.

  • One could develop a software interface between the Common Computer (CC) and MATLAB. Students could then call MATLAB subroutines to point the telescope (if steerable), digitize, FFT and plot. Most students know MATLAB, therefore it might be good to standardize on this for course work. See also:

  • One could set up Common Computers to be accessed remotedly by students (e.g. Windows Remote Desktop), instead of writing software that exposes a web browser user interface. Students could then run application software directly on the CC.

  • If the consortium wanted a simpler architechure, they could have one computer (not a CC and SC) which is specific to each site and runs one program that is exposed to a student web browser. This program could contain common source code files (same on all sites) and specific source code files (unique to each site), and each site would compile and maintain their own version. The user interface could be similar at each site, therefore they could share course material. The student could then use their web browser to point the telescope, digitize, and download a binary timewave to their own computer for further processing (e.g. via MATLAB).

  • If the consortium wanted more simple cooperation, they could only agree on one thing, which is a standard format for timewave files. Then each site would have specific hardware and software to produce them. And the software and courseware that processed these timewave files could be shared.

  • Want to make cooperation even easier? Agree on one simple thing, which is to state that the timewave files are to be in a specific MATLAB file format, which is already defined by Mathworks corporation.

  • Want even less work? Just say No to Hardware. One could create a website with a database of timewave and frequency spectrum files from big hardware (e.g. VLA, GBT). Students could download and process these files with software like MATLAB. Course materials would refer to this Radio Astronomy Education datastore. In this scenario, universities do not need to maintain hardware, and instead can focus on developing course materials, collecting data from places like NRAO (and uploading it into the database), and refining the database website. This kind of set up would make it easy for universities to offer Radio Astronomy Labs.

  • Does (Hardware Poor / Software Rich) and (Hardware Rich / Software Poor) make for a happy marriage? What percentage of time over the course of a year is an educational telescope actually in use by students? If it is small (e.g. 2% per-year-per school), then in theory a site with a great telescope could announce that anyone who writes software for their telescope can have their students access it a reasonable amount of time.

  • Another approach is to have "everyone" (i.e. multiple universities) write software for one hardware site, make that site great, and then share it; instead of multiple sites with deficiencies.

  • To discuss the consortium concept further, please visit the Radio Astronomy Teaching Lab Consortium Concept email list server, maintained by UC Berkeley. 





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