Tennessee SkyNet
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
  1. Is radio astronomy expensive?
  2. Do I have to be an astronomer?
  3. Do I need an amateur radio operator license (HAM operator)?
  4. Does NASA know what you are doing?
  5. Are you searching for ET (extra-terrestrial life)?
  6. Does a radio astronomy system take up a lot of space?
  7. Do I need to have a college degree in physics or astronomy to learn and understand this stuff?
  8. Can you do “real” science with amateur radio astronomy equipment?

1.     Is radio astronomy expensive?  No, many of the units we have cost us less than $300.00.  There is a wealth of information on how to build your unit or buy one “off the shelf”.  Like any hobby, you can spend as much or as little as you wish. 

2.      Do I have to be an astronomer?  No, but most amateur radio astronomers have an interest in optical astronomy.  Some astronomers turn to radio astronomy because of light pollution or health issues (eyesight, mobility, etc.) that does not allow them to enjoy optical astronomy.  Radio astronomy can be enjoyed even in cloudy skies and during daylight. 
Some of our amateur astronomers get involved because of their interest in amateur radio.


3.      Do I need an amateur radio operator license (HAM operator)?  No, but if you do not have some electronics experience and knowledge, you will need the help of someone who does.  The radio astronomy units are not like buying modern electronics (TV’s, radios, etc.) and just plug them in and they work.  You need some knowledge to assemble and troubleshoot your project.  A good place to find experienced persons would be a ham radio club.  You can go the Amateur Radio Relay League website and search for a club in your area.  Another great resource is the Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers.  You can find mentors listed from all over the United States who are willing to help you get started in radio astronomy.


4.      Does NASA know what you are doing?  Yes and not only do they know, they encourage people to participate in radio astronomy thru projects like Radio Jove.  As a participant in the Radio Jove project, you are encouraged to upload files to the NASA data archive. 


5.      Are you searching for ET (extra-terrestrial life)?  No, we are not, but if that is something you are interested in you can pursue it as an amateur astronomer.  The SETI League is the place to go  http://www.setileague.org/  as well as Seti@home http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/


6.      
Does a radio astronomy system take up a lot of space? Most of the receivers are very small, but you need to consider what kind of antenna you need for your project.  You will also want to check to see if your community or subdivision has any antenna restrictions.  The SID unit has a small, compact loop antenna that can be used inside or outside.


7.      Do I need to have a college degree in physics or astronomy to learn and understand this stuff?  No college degree required- just an interest in the science.  Undoubtedly, you will have a greater understanding if you have a science and/or math background. But as long as you are willing to learn, there are people and resources on the web to help you.  Many of the radio astronomy projects are being done in middle schools as well as high school and college. 


8.      
Can you do “real” science with amateur radio astronomy equipment?  Yes, real science can be done with amateur radio astronomy units.  Depending on the project you choose, there are universities and even NASA collecting data from amateurs for analysis. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bill & Melinda Lord
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