Official Amateur Radio Astronomy/RF Space Science/SETI Resource List, and Station Pics #RTL #radioastronomy #waterhole #seti #21cm

Robert Gast

Let's face it Amateur Radio Astronomy (ARA from hear on out) isn't the most popular hobby, and is rare among hams even. Secondly I would venture to guess that most people out there beginning experiments in ARA are using simple systems based on hacked Sat Finders or products like the RAL10KIT from Radio Astro Lab, to me these are totally clumsy and inferior solutions that belong back in the 20th century! There isn't a whole lot of people out there using SDR for ARA, although that is changing and SDR will ultimately be the main tool for ARA as more and more people get comfortable with the new paradigm shift in RF thinking.  

I figure it would be nice to start a topic specifically as a place where we can all share are ARA resources like software, web sites, pdf files etc. I have quite a modest amount of info covering lots of different topics that I have scrounged up while doing research on setting up an ARA station. I am hoping that others may have quality resources they have discovered that I have not and and will post them here too. While your at it why not post some pictures of your set up and write a little bit about what your doing with ARA.

So I figured I would post all the software I know of related to ARA, especially ARA using SDR along with I consider some of the best ARA web sites in my book marks. I also have a lot of cool radio astronomy based pdf files on all sorts of topics about everything from using helicals instead of dishes for the h-line, to a comparison of an SDR and GNU Radio Set up VS a traditional super pricey radiometer(The USRP wins, and since the AirSpy has even better Rx than USRP....). In the near future I plan to set up a blog about Electronics and ARA, until then I will just upload the PDF files to my main website and post the link here as long as there is sufficient interest in any of this ARA stuff!

Ok lets get to the list already!

Software Resources for, or that work well for ARA and SDR/DSP.

#1 SDR#/AstroSpy/SpectrumSpy 
I don't think this needs any description, but if you did not know AstroSpy has a config file where the bandwidth among other things can be tweaked.

#2 Spectrum Lab 
Windows DSP software like SDR# it is usually used with sound card input but can be adapted to SDRs like AirSpy/RTL via audio piping or directly with a little work (when set up directly for SDR SpecLab isn't limited by audio cards bandwidth). Spectrum is much more complicated than a general SDR program like SDR#/GQRX and allows features like custom band pass filtering etc...

#3 GNU Radio Windows Binary
Everyone knows what GNU Radio is, now there is an easy to use windows installer in case you weren't aware. On Linux just use your package manager to download it obviously.

#4 Pothos SDR
Framework by Josh Blum, like GNU Radio. It also supports GNU Radio code with in it. Pothos is based on soapy SDR which is a cross platform SDR agnostic development environment. Pothos is suppose to be more intuitive than GNU Radio, and there are people jumping on the bandwagon for example there is a team using dishes to track NASAs Stereo A and B space probes for solar research, they are using Pothos as there framework of choice to actually demodulate and decode the probes signals (not just track the Doppler of there carrier like most DSN). As someone who uses Linux as there main OS with a WinVM always running for SDR# SpecLab etc etc, I love the idea of soapy and pothos layer of total hardware and OS abstraction.

For those unfamiliar with GNU Radio Companion, any script/flow chart can easily be opened and it's source block can be changed back and forth between RTL and AirSpy along with the receiver sample rate

#5 CCERA RadioMeter
GNU Radio program to use your SDR as a total power radiometer

#6 CCERA Pulsar Display
GNU Radio program to monitor pulsars

#7 Simple RA
Simple Integrated Radio Astronomy receiver in GNU Radio

#8 RTL SDR Software Tools
Windows command line, Link goes to a .doc file explaining usage of the command line tools, links to software at bottom of document. these tools are for collecting FFT bins and averaging them over time

#9 H-Line Tools for Windows and Linux
Link goes to a .doc file explaining usage of the command line tools, links to software at bottom of document.

#10 RTL SDR Pulsar analysis tools
Windows tools, c source code included

#11 Radio Spectrogram with RTL Bridge
Basically a water fall display over an elongated time period

#12 Radio Sky Software
All software from Radio sky publishing, check it out if you haven't seen it. RadioEyes is an invaluable resource for finding radio sources in space and planning your observation.

Well thats it for the software, here are some of the most usefull or neatest ARA web links i have found

Papers and Presentations on RA by David Morgan
Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers
MIT HayStack Radio Astronomy Tutorial
MIT HayStack Radio Observatory Information
RadioSky Articles
11Ghz Solar Interferometer with GRC Files
BAA Ragazine
21cm Hydrogen Line Astronomy at International Space Institute
Canadian Center for Experimental Radio Astronomy
SETI League

And finally a little bit about my set up, which is still a work in progress. Right now I have most of what I need ready except antennas!!! I have a 3 meter (10ft) dish, that I hope to start setting up after x-mas. It was given to me with a polar mount and linear actuator, my plan is to buy a cheap stick welder so I can modify the mount. I have already talked to the local place that scraps metal and they told me I can take anything I need for 3 cents a pound, so I am all set on the structural material. Im planning on making the azimuth rotor out of a large enough motor with a high resolution encoder on it and an industrial worm gear of ebay, that can be sourced pretty cheap. If anyone has an idea of what kind of motor I need to rotate a 3 meter dish please let me know, I dont want to buy something under powered. I have already started working on an L-Band horn feed, and have thermo-electric coolers to mount on the low noise amps to keep there gain stable.

I call the whole project my "Citizen Science Center", not only do I intend on monitoring 1.4ghz but throwing up some 21mhz dipoles to monitor Jupiter, am active VLF antenna to monitor solar disturbances and a 20 wrap helix I made to receive solar imaging from goes satellites. Lastly I want to throw in a seismic sensor, I live in southern California where we have a lot of earth quakes and I have done some reading about VLF disturbances and there correlation with earthquakes I want to study a little more.

Pretty Plain Electronics Work Area

The "Citizen Science Control Center", HP 6 digit Meter, HP 100microV Scope,
USB Scope and AWG, Radios, Power Supplies, Voltage Standard, DIY
Ovenized GPS locked 3 channel VFO, HF UpConverters, Microwave DownConverters,
RF Synth, SDRs, Some Robot stuff that needs to find a new home, and finally computer

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