Memo: 12 A pulsar observing capability at CCERA

This recent memorandum at describes the equipment and techniques used to engage in routine monitoring of bright pulsars, in particular, J0332+5434. Our equipment choices have been largely dictated by our observing goals—we wish to observe J0332+5434 on a daily basis to provide data to a local university for their undergraduate-level course in astrophysics. The target pulsar is “bright” at lower frequencies, which means that an antenna with quite-modest gain is required to observe it. All of the radio astronomy signal processing at CCERA is based on the Gnu Radio 5 software DSP platform. The pulsar signal-processing chain is no different.

CCERA acquires surplus satellite antenna for Deuterium survey

In support of our Deuterium survey project CCERA has acquired a surplus 5.5M dish antenna that was formerly deployed at the Smiths Falls Gateway of the Globalstar network. Thanks to the careful and precise work of the expert salvage technicians at Falls Iron and Metal we were able to acquire just the critical reflector surface, without the exceedingly-heavy and expensive equipment hub and mounting hardware, which made the whole assembly weight roughly 1800Kg–much to heavy and cumbersome for CCERA to manage. The surface is made in 12 equal segments that bolt together, and combined weigh in at less than 400kg–this will make it vastly easier to handle, and to create a mounting arrangement for it.

An external photo-album shows the various pieces, and the final disposition of the reflector segments at the CCERA lab site.

Look for updates in the coming weeks as we assemble the reflector, and design and build a mount that will have it pointing full-time at the North Celestial Pole in support of our Deuterium survey.

CCERA makes protective masks for COVID-19 pandemic

We have taken advantage of part of our lab space to design and fabricate protective face-masks for our local community here in Smiths Falls. Part of our lab space has been converted into a “mask lab”, seen below.

Masks, including the filtration layer, are made from non-woven materials, included “up-cycled” materials normally used in other applications.

Typical materials are shown below, with a number of filter+liner segments ready to be sewn to the outer layers.

Here is a mask being made, with a custom “unicorn” stamp for a friend of CCERA.

The outer layer is a non-woven polypropylene fabric, often used to make inexpensive reusable shopping bags, but it also has excellent properties for reusable, washable, protective masks.

If you are interested in receiving a mask, they are available for a reasonable cost–please send an inquiry to

CCERA hosts visit from Canada Wide Science Fair participant

Jarek Osika, a 14-year-old participant in the Canada Wide Science Fair  visited the CCERA
facilities on May 16th, during the science fair.

We showed him around the facilities, and sent a CCERA hat and bumper stickers with him.

Jarek the Science Guy with the spectrometer.

Jarek the Science Guy with the spectrometer.

Jarek went on to win the Excellence in Astronomy award, sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada for his project Exploring 1420 MHz. Jarek designed and built a small 21cm radio telescope for the project, and we’re happy to have inspired his work. Congratulations, Jarek!

Jarek and his family are from Flin Flon Manitoba, and in the future, we hope to collaborate with the local schools there as part of their emerging STEM program.

CCERA nears completion of first “school” radio telescope

We have been busy the last few weeks building-up a mobile radio telescope in support of high-school physics programs.

CCERA secured access to a number of small, very-high-quality microwave dishes, and we’re turning two of those into a mobile radio telescope that can be loaned to local high-schools for radio astronomy demonstrations and short-term observing programs.

Based on an Andrew 0.8M reflector, these telescopes are designed to receive signals at 12GHz or 2.8GHz, depending on the observing program.


0.8m GHz-range antenna dish at CCERA.

New back-end for dual-channel 21cm spectrometer

We’ve upgraded the back-end of the 21cm spectrometer, including both DSP software and the matching SDR hardware.

The SDR receivers are now synchronized to a GPS-derived 10MHz reference clock, which provides an uncertainty in doppler measurements of approximately 30cm/sec.

The FFT resolution has been improved, by covering only the +/- 200km/sec of doppler velocity that is “visible” within the galaxy. This provides a resolution in the FFT of approximately 0.26km/sec or approximately 0.1% of the peak velocity that we are able to observe within the galaxy.

Further DSP work will allow us to double the resolution (half the doppler velocity) in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for updates.

First of two 21cm “binocular” dishes brought on-line

The first of two 1.2m dishes for rapid surveys of the 21cm line has been brought on-line, and is currently observing at the declination of the galactic center (declination of -29 degrees).

The second dish will be brought on-line soon, which will allow spectral surveys do be completed at twice the rate of a single dish of the same size.

Stay “tuned” for more announcements….

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