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  • mpbusch 8:47 pm on April 13, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , istb4, ,   

    LoCo Outreach 

    Hello LoCo followers! My name is Michael Busch; I am currently a sophomore at Arizona State University majoring in Astrophysics and Computational Mathematical Sciences. I started working in the Low-Frequency Cosmology (LoCo) Lab in August of 2013 under both Dr. Judd Bowman and (more directly) Dr. Danny Jacobs. The LoCo lab is involved with some awesome radio research, as Nithya described last post. This semester, I am helping Danny identify sources of noise in the power spectrum of the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA). One of my other regular duties in the lab is aiding in the lab’s education and public outreach department. LoCo participates at a majority of the events hosted by the School of Earth and Space Exploration, including Earth and Space Open Houses and other special events, such as Earth and Space Day and Night of the Open Door.

    Night of the Open Door occurred in March, this is the biggest public education and outreach event that Arizona State hosts. All of the colleges and schools in the University host their own events and open their doors to the public for them to see some of the cool research that lab groups and departments are conducting. Planning for this event had been ongoing for many months, and many different groups in the School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) participated.

    As with many events well-planned and organized—catastrophic weather struck and monsoons doused the ASU Tempe campus.

    This was, overall, quite unlucky for the outdoor demonstrations across campus, but dramatically increased the influx of visitors to our building. LoCo had two tables full of demos and information for the public: including one of the dipole antennas used in the MWA, the Octocopter autonomous flying drone, Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) detectives, a giant word search puzzle, and a poster that I made explaining some of the general science behind the MWA. Despite the weather, Night of the Open Door yielded an amazing turnout, and the LoCo table was quite the hit!

    The LoCo lab at Night of the Open Door, with the Octocopter on display. From left to right, Michael, Danny, Tom, Jackie, and Nithya.

  • tnithyanandan 7:08 pm on March 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Cosmology, EoR, , low frequency, , power spectra, , , ,   

    Joining ASU and a peek into my research 

    My name is Nithyanandan Thyagarajan. I joined the LoCo (Low frequency Cosmology) lab group at ASU SESE headed by Prof. Judd Bowman, in September 2013 as a postdoctoral research scholar. I did my bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering from IIT Madras, India. For my PhD thesis at Columbia University, I worked on identifying and characterizing variable and transient radio objects by conducting one of the biggest searches of its kind in the radio sky. I then moved to Raman Research Institute in Bangalore, India as a postdoc and worked on statistical characterization of foreground contamination in the power spectrum of redshifted 21 cm line emission of neutral hydrogen during the epoch of reionization (EoR). During this period I got associated with the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) project.

    The LoCo group has members involved in a variety of interesting projects. Besides having a strong presence in the MWA project, the members are also involved in other EoR experiments using the Experiment to Detect the Global EoR Step (EDGES), Precision Array for Probing the Epoch of Reionization (PAPER), Dark Ages Radio Explorer (DARE), Long Wavelength Array (LWA) and other theoretical and modeling projects. I am excited to be a part of this diverse group which provides enormous opportunities to learn science through the many perspectives from these different experiments.

    Currently, I am focusing on setting up simulations to predict the response of the MWA telescopes to all-sky radio emission. My aim is to isolate and characterize the signatures of different spatial structures of foreground objects such as the Milky Way, and other extragalactic objects besides the instrument’s own systematic effects on the observed power spectrum that contains information about the spatial distribution of redshifted 21 cm line emission from neutral hydrogen from the EoR. An understanding of the radio foreground objects and that of the telescope is extremely significant because the expected signatures from the neutral hydrogen emission during the EoR are extremely faint compared to the contamination from radio foregrounds and instrumental artifacts. Detecting EoR signal may be impossible without a precise removal of such contamination and artifacts.

    Here’s an approximate simulation of the radio foreground and instrumental signatures we expect to see in the power spectrum when the entire hemisphere of the sky is observed by the MWA telescope. The simulations are found to match well with results from analysis of data from the MWA telescopes.

    Predicted spatial power spectra of a an all-sky model as seen by MWA telescopes.

    Predicted spatial power spectra of an all-sky radio model of foreground objects as seen by MWA telescopes. The all-sky radio emission model is shown in the central panel. The peripheral panels show the power spectra recorded by different antenna pairs (x-axis) grouped by orientation of the lines joining them (EW at bottom right, NE at top right, NS at top center, and NW at top left). The x-axes in all the peripheral panels represent the different antenna pairs which sample the transverse spatial information from emission from the plane of the sky while the y-axes sample spatial structures into the plane of the sky. Since the sky model contains heterogeneous spatial structures, these different antenna pairs record different spatial information. The wedge/fork shaped feature prominent in the top center panel and the bright horizontal feature in all the peripheral panels arise out of the emission from our galaxy and other extragalactic radio emission (all the bright features enclosed by the forked black lines). The periodically repeated horizontal structures are caused by the frequency characteristics of the MWA telescopes.

  • abhijithrajan 2:01 am on December 27, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: LBTO, Observing   

    Observing at the Large Binocular Telescope 

    This is my first post on this blog and I thought I’d start off with a photo blog post. I was offered the opportunity to assist in observations with LMIRCAM which is a mid-IR camera on the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT). ASU is a partner in “The LBTI Exoplanet Exozodi Common SearcH” (LEECH), and I was to assist with these observations. Ends up, I was given the shift from the 25th to the 31st, days when nobody else wanted to be stuck observing. So here I am preparing to go observing only to get a cold the day before. But!!! I decided that neither a nascent cold, nor 3 ft of snow would keep me from fulfilling my observing duties and so without further ado, here are some pictures from Mt. Graham.

    Driving up to Mt. Graham

    Driving up to Mt. Graham

    The roads were fairly treacherous with a fair bit of snow, and at one point the 4WD (monster truck!) I was driving got stuck in the snow/ice. I called for help, only to then spend 10 minutes backing to and fro to dislodge said truck. I wasn’t particularly happy about this procedure, since this game was being played at ~9000 ft and there was a bit of a drop on one side (mainly when going forward) and by this point the truck was not parallel but rather perpendicular to the road (wish I had thought of taking a photo).

    The huge LBT dome. It’s not circular!.

    The huge LBT dome. It’s not circular!.

    Anyways, I managed to arrive at the dorms without further incident only to be greeted by wonderful smells of a delicious Christmas dinner that was made for the few determined staff and observers that were working on Christmas day.

    What’s isn’t visible, is that we set up 2 laptops that were skyping into the adjacent control room to two other laptops pointing at the main control monitors :). This way we enjoyed dinner while ensuring that good data was being taken. Science FTW!!!

    What’s isn’t visible, is that we set up 2 laptops that were skyping into the adjacent control room to two other laptops pointing at the main control monitors :). This way we enjoyed dinner while ensuring that good data was being taken. Science FTW!!!

    Well I am now on day 2 of 7 nights that I will be here assisting the science and technical crew. Thus far I have been working as an AO monitor, ensuring that the adaptive optics loops stay closed. Adaptive optics is essentially a hardware technique used to correct for the blurring caused by the atmosphere. And my job, is to make sure that the hardware does what it’s intended and if not, to call for help :).

    One can never have enough monitors!

    One can never have enough monitors!

  • raul_monsalve 4:21 pm on November 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Deployment of the EDGES-2 Experiment 

    As you may know from previous blog posts, a radio astronomy experiment called the Experiment to Detect the Global Epoch of Reionization Signature (EDGES) is set up in the outback of Western Australia in a large, remote radio astronomy facility called the Murchison Radio Observatory ( Although our group at ASU, the Low-Frequency Cosmology (LOCO) Laboratory, can communicate with EDGES via the Internet, we also visit the site a couple times a year to bring improved equipment and new parts. This trip is particularly exciting because we have brought out an entirely new antenna that we call EDGES-2, and we think it is going to be a lot better than the first EDGES.

    Here’s a re-cap of our first week: After arriving in Perth (on the western coast of Australia), we drove north, first to a town called Geraldton, to pick up some equipment and for me to receive some training since it is my first trip out to the site. On the way we stopped at an amazing national park, called Nambung, which is home to geologic formations called “The Pinnacles,” which are big limestone pillars:


    The Pinnacles on the way to Geraldton

    The Pinnacles on the way to Geraldton

    After stopping in Geraldton for the night, we drove out to Boolardy Station, the 1,000 square-kilometer “ranch” that houses the Murchison Radio Observatory. The homestead of Boolardy provides accommodations and food for visiting scientists and engineers and from there we drive 40 minutes each day out to the MRO, often passing many interesting animals—both wild animals and livestock.


    Australian iguana

    Australian iguana


    Brahman bull

    Brahman bull


    We spent the first few days dismantling the old EDGES, running cables, adding new equipment to the computer area in our “hut” and setting up the EDGES-2 antenna. We also set up a new weather station that I built that will provide temperature and humidity data from the area near the antenna.

    Weather station

    Weather station


    One nice thing about working out here, where we have a small space among larger radio antennas, is that there is both power and a fast internet connection that allows us to keep our experiment running and keep in touch with it at all times. The internet is good for another thing, too… Because of the time change, the ASU football team was playing Washington State at 10:30 a.m. our time on Friday morning (7:30 p.m. AZ time on Thursday night). Although we weren’t able to watch the game, we could check the score throughout the morning. Glad to see that ASU won!

    In the afternoon yesterday, while we were working on some final set-up for the antenna, we suddenly felt like we were being watched. We then noticed that a very curious emu was circling us to check things out. Luckily we had the camera out with us and the emu was sufficiently curious that we had plenty of time to take pictures.

    Emu behind the scenes

    Emu behind the scenes



    Emu surrounding us

    Emu surrounding us

    Our last bit of excitement upon heading back to the homestead last night was a large dust storm on the horizon. Not as dramatic as an Arizona haboob, but still pretty impressive.

    Dust storm

    Dust storm


    Today we should get EDGES-2 up and taking data. Stay tuned…

  • sethmorales 10:11 am on August 17, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    UMB-WEST: Second Week in Mexico 

    Hello all!

    After a remarkable first week in Mexico filled with exciting sustainable tours and new experiences, it was time to get to work. The UMB-WEST participants spent Saturday and Sunday preparing for the experiments that would be taking place during this second week. These preparations included purchasing food for the week, making sleeping arrangements, and transporting the necessary materials for the experiments (including 3 tons of concrete blocks for our weir experiment!).  Our experiments took place in two locations within the Rio San Miguel sub-basin: the small town of Rayón, located at a low elevation, and the Oak Savanna Site, located at a high elevation. Both these locations are ideal to the study of water fluxes in the Rio Sonora Basin, and provide insightful information necessary for making water management decisions.


    Witnessing a beautiful rainstorm our first day in Rayón.

    Rayón Site

    Our “headquarters” this year was located in Rayón, a small pueblo located about 2 hours from Hermosillo. Just getting there was an adventure in itself, as we had to cross a river that had increased in size due to the rainstorm event from the previous day. This pueblo is highly affected by the summer monsoon, making it an ideal location for experimental studies.


    The truck with all the luggages crossed the river without a problem!

    The following experiments were performed at the Rayón site:

    Plant Water Potential Measurements


    Taking water potential measurements.

    Plants play a key role in understanding the hydrological cycle, therefore making it crucial to perform ecohydrological experiments. Water potential measurements provide sensitive indications of the water stress in plants, which provides implications on the ecosystems health. These measurements are taken by placing a plant’s stem inside a Scholander pressure chamber to measure the pressure at which water is “pushed out” from the stem. Water potential measurements were taken from nine different species of plants twice a day, once before sunrise (when the plants are less stressed) and once at noon (when the plants are most stressed).



    Stomatal Conductance Measurements


    Using a porometer to take stomatal conductance measurements.

    Stomatal conductance measurements are used to study stomatal behavior in plants that accounts for the interactive effects of soil and atmospheric water deficits. Throughout the experiment, measurements were taken everyday three times using a leaf porometer system. This experiment was performed in both the Rayón and Oak Savanna sites.

    Leaf Area Index (LAI) Measurements

    Leaf Area Index (LAI) measurements are useful for both for the expotranspiration partition and validation of remote sensing LAI products. Throughout the experiment, a ceptometer was used to determine the vegetation cover density. This experiment was also performed in both the Rayón and Oak Savanna sites.

    Cosmic-Ray Soil Moisture Observing System Soil Moisture Calibration

    A Cosmic-Ray Soil Moisture Observing System (COSMOS) was installed at a buffel grass site in Rayon during last year’s UMB-WEST campaign.  COSMOS is a new technology that is capable of measuring soil moisture without altering the vegetation and soil profile of the site. It does this by using solar radiation and the resulting neutrons released by soil. This year’s objective was to perform a standard calibration using the COSMOS procedure to get an accurate max count rate and determine the accuracy of the statistical approach.


    Working on the COSMOS sensor.

    Community Water Use Surveys

    The purpose of this experiment was to assess the water use practices and perceptions of the people living in the San Miguel River Basin. This assessment specifically helps to analyze the inhabitants’ perceptions of water quantity and quality issues, water management, climate change and water related conflicts.

    Oak Savanna Site


    The Eddy Covariance tower at the Oak Savanna Site.

    The Oak Savanna Site is located at a high elevation and is characterized by its oak savanna landscape. The experimental purpose of this site is to observe the hydrologic cycle at a small scale, which can later be applied to a larger watershed scale specific to this ecosystem. The following experiments were performed at the Oak Savanna Site:

    Installation of Soil Moisture and Temperature Sensors


    Connecting the sensors to a datalogger.

    This year, twenty-one soil moisture and temperature sensors were installed at the Encino headwater basin to measure the spatiotemporal variability of soil moisture and soil temperature. The soil moisture sensors were installed at various depths in an attempt to measure surface soil conditions, grass root soil conditions, and deeper infiltration.

    Installation of a Weir


    Installed sharp-crested weir.

    One of our goals this year was to install a sharp-crested weir at the Oak Savanna Site to measure the discharge in a small headwater catchment located within the boundaries of the Eddy Covariance tower. The installation of a weir allows for correct flow conditions to be reached, which essentially allows for discharge to be measured using water height and an established equation. This job required a lot of rigorous work, including digging, carrying concrete blocks, and pouring concrete. The people working on this experiment did a great job!


    Working hard to install the weir.

    Installation of Sapflow Sensors


    Installation of the sapflow probes.

    Sapflow sensors are used to measure transpiration of trees based on sap flow. These measurements of transpiration give us the ability to continuously monitor the physiological state of the vegetation in the site and estimate the absolute amounts of transpired water per unit of ground area. Sapflow sensors are composed of thermal dissipation probes, which measure sap flow through temperature differences. This year, the group installed eightheen sensors on nine different trees (two on each tree).

    Rainfall Interception Measurements


    Tipping bucket rain gauge.

    When rain falls onto a forest the canopy, a large portion of this precipitation is intercepted and evaporated back into the atmosphere. Therefore, this water is no longer considered to play a role in the terrestrial portion of the hydrologic cycle. It is for this reason that the amount of rainfall intercepted is essential when considering the water balance of an ecosystem. This year, the group focused on installing a set of rain gages used to take these measurements.


    Radiosondes Sounding Experiment

    Sounding experiment utilizes radiosonde to measure the diurnal cycle of planetary boundary layer structure and characterize the day-to-day changes in atmospheric condition. In order to take measurements in the atmosphere, the radiosonde is attached to a large balloon, which lifts the sensor up to altitudes as high as 22 km!


    Releasing the balloon into the atmosphere.

    There is no doubt that this year’s  UMB-WEST campaign was a success! Not only did the participants experience science in a unique way, but they also established long-lasting friendships and developed an appreciation for another culture. The final week of the UMB-WEST campaign was spent in Arizona, where the ASU students worked diligently on creating a presentation to summarize the events of this year’s campaign. This presentation will take place on Monday, August 26 at 10:30 am in ISTB 4 Rm 240. We would love to see you there!


    Final group photo.

    ¡Adiós Amigos! (Goodbye friends!)

    Seth Morales

    UMB-WEST 2013 Participant

  • sethmorales 11:55 am on August 16, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    UMB-WEST: First Week in Mexico 

    Hello all!

    Our first week in Mexico was filled with thrilling adventures and exciting new experiences! Some of our most unforgettable memories include long bus rides without air conditioning, exciting interactions with a new culture, a group of wonderful new people, and best of all, numerous breathtaking panoramas of a beautiful country.

    The first week of this year’s UMB-WEST campaign focused on visiting several water resource infrastructures in Sonora, as well as interacting with key local decision makers. These “sustainable tours” were particularly insightful during this campaign due to the current dispute over the control of water between the continuously growing capital city of Sonora, Hermosillo, and the long-existing group of local farmers known as el Pueblo Yaqui. The origins of this conflict can be traced back to the semi-arid climate that exists in the Sonora region, which has left the city of Hermosillo with limited water resources for its increasing population.

    Sonora’s Sistema Integral (Sí), a multi-faceted effort by the federal government with the purpose of managing water resources in the state of Sonora, recently finished the construction of the long-planned Independence Aqueduct. This aqueduct, which is already in use, transfers water from a reservoir that belongs to the Yaqui Valley river system, known as el Novillo, to the city of Hermosillo. The Novillo reservoir is a key water resource for the Yaqui farmers, who highly depend on this body of water to irrigate their crops. It is under these circumstances that the group had the opportunity to witness, first hand, the legal and social ramifications that have emerged from the completion of the Independence Aqueduct.


    Lunch at Elba in Santa Ana, Sonora

    Our first day began with lunch at a popular restaurant in Santa Ana, Sonora known as Elba. If you followed the blog posts from last year’s campaign, you may recall that this restaurant is famous for its milanesa, a breaded cutlet chicken also known as “oreja de elefante” (elephant’s ear) due to its very large size. Only one person was up to the challenge of finishing one entire milanesa by himself. This was Dr. Giuseppe Mascaro, who not only earned the respect from the group by finishing the whole dish, but also passed the test of immersing himself into Mexican cuisine.

    Upon our arrival at Hermosillo, our Mexican colleagues, who had also just arrived from various locations, including Ciudad Obregon and Ciudad Juarez, greeted us warmly. After some brief introductions, and a bit of socializing, the entire UMB-WEST group was united for the first time. We went over some logistics and plans for the following week, and by the end of our meeting, everyone was ready for bed. However, it was clear that a sense of excitement was present as everyone looked forward to the new experiences our first week would bring.

    Michael Bierwagen, a UMB-WEST participant from SESE, has joined me to retell the thrilling stories of our first week in Mexico:

    Agua de Hermosillo

    Agua de Hermosillo

    Representatives of Agua de Hermosillo informing the students on the water crisis in Sonora.

    Our series of sustainable tours kicked off early Monday morning with a presentation given by Agua de Hermosillo, the municipal agency in charge of providing water to the city of Hermosillo. All through the presentation, city officials explained past and current water situations in the city of Hermosillo, and throughout the region.  Prior to the construction and implementation of the Independence Aqueduct, water was being rationed, causing residents to have limited access to running water. The running water varied between 4 to 6 hours a day, entailing them to store their water in tanks for later use throughout the day.  Not only was the water rationing incapable to fit the needs of the general population, it was also damaging the water distribution system due to the lack of constant pressure throughout the pipes. Currently, water is being provided 24-hours a day to the entire city through a water system that includes extracted water from El Novillo, transferred via the Independence Aqueduct, and pumped groundwater from local wells.

    Rodriguez Reservoir

    After our visit to Agua de Hermosillo, we stopped briefly at the Rodriguez Reservoir, which neighbors the city of Hermosillo.  The Rodriguez Reservoir represents a poorly located reservoir that fails to hold water, since most of it evaporates or soaks into the ground rapidly. This water infrastructure works to provide the city of Hermosillo with some flood protection, but fails overall as a working reservoir.

    El Oregano Stream Gauge Site

    Technician rocking the stream flow gauge!

    The technician demonstrating how to use the stream flow gauge.

    On Tuesday, we visited a site known as El Oregano, where we met stream gauge technicians in charge of measuring the stream flow of the Rio Sonora, year round. The technicians demonstrated the process of taking stream flow measurements, and exposed the group to various techniques and instrumentation critical to taking these measurements.  Additionally, the technicians took us to a nearby reservoir known as El Molinito, which prior to the Independence Aqueduct, provided a large portion of Hermosillo’s water.

    Table Grape Producers

    Following the Molinito Reservoir visit, we traveled north to visit a table grape vineyard known as Pesqueria. The vineyard belongs to the Grupo ALTA, a company that distributes table grapes and other produce internationally to the United States, Japan, China and certain countries in Europe. We had the privilege of meeting the owner of the company, who gave us a presentation on the low water use practices and the organic methods used within the vineyard, in order to grow table grapes efficiently in the Sonoran Desert ecosystem.

    Participants were excited to try the grapes!

    Participants were excited to try the grapes!

    Sonora Sí Headquarters

    Sonora Si Headquarters

    Sonora Si Headquarters

    Our sustainable tours continued on Wednesday as we visited the headquarters of Sonora Sí, the program in charge of meeting the water needs of Hermosillo’s growing population. After a quick tour around the facility, we attended a talk given by the lawyer who represents Sonora Sí in the political battle over the control of water from El Novillo. The lawyer provided some interesting background information on the conflict, and gave us his perspective on future implications of water in the Sonoran region.


    Water treatment plant located in the outskirts of Hermosillo.

    After our visit to the Sonora Sí headquarters, we traveled to a local water treatment facility, which is one of the few treatment plants located in Hermosillo that provide clean water to its residents. Technicians at the water treatment facility guided us through the process of treating water, including flocculation, sedimentation and disinfection.

    Independence Aqueduct and El Novillo Reservoir


    Participants get a beautiful view of the Novillo reservoir.

    Following our tour of the water treatment plant in Hermosillo, we travelled to El Novillo Reservoir, which is the site where water is pumped from and transported to Hermosillo via the Independence Aqueduct.  It is through this tour that we actually got to see first hand the famous Independence Aqueduct, which we learned had been built in a time span of only 14 months! There are five pumps currently extracting water from the reservoir and pumping it up to a storage tank located at a higher elevation. It is from this storage tank that the water is transported to the city of Hermosillo via gravity. Additionally, we were given a brief tour of the controls rooms where the pumps were being operated.


    The Independence Aqueduct

    El Novillo Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant


    El Novillo Dam

    One of the most exciting tours that we participated in during the first week of the campaign was our trip to El Novillo dam and hydroelectric power plant, which took place on Thursday morning. This immense dam has been operating since 1964, and generates an impressive 135,000 kilowatts of electricity to the city of Hermosillo. A group of engineers gave us an exclusive tour of the dam, which is very rare at this facility. During our tour, we got to: visit the controls system room where the 4 turbines of the power plant were being operated; personally see the turbines in action; walk through the tunnel system inside the dam; and even walk on the top of the dam’s curtain! It was no wonder that this was one of the most favored tours!


    Participants climbing the curtain of the Novillo Dam.


    Our new friend from El Novillo!

    Once the tour ended, we headed back to our bus thrilled to find some shade from the scorching heat, only to find out that our bus had broken down! Thus began our exhilarating adventure in trying to find a shaded place to wait for another bus to arrive (which we knew would likely take about 3 hours due to our remote location). Nevertheless, UMB-WEST participants weren’t discouraged and found a way to entertain themselves and enjoy each other’s company. Once the bus arrived, participants were exhausted from a long day and ready to take a nap on the bus. However, our adventure didn’t finish here. As we made our way to Ciudad Obregón, we learned that we had an unexpected friend with us. A turtle had also boarded the bus back in El Novillo, and was walking around loose under our feet! It wasn’t until we arrived to our destination that we found the little guy under one of the seats, forever deeming him as the UMB-WEST turtle!

    Participants looking for shade to wait for the new bus.

    Participants looking for shaded area to wait for a new bus.

    Yaqui Valley Representatives


    Our meeting with Yaqui Valley representatives.

    Our sustainable tours continued despite the minor delay we had due to our broken bus. On Friday morning, we met with Yaqui Valley Irrigation District representatives in the city of Obregón. This group of people represents the opposing side of El Novillo conflict. They explained how droughts have affected their crops in the past, especially during the devastating 2002 drought. The representative also explained how there is not enough water for the Pueblo Yaqui’s agricultural activities due to the Independence Aqueduct.  Finally, it was also pointed out that Article 3 of the Mexican National Water Law written in 1931 essentially states that water from one watershed cannot be transferred across another watershed, something that the current Independence Aqueduct is doing.

    INIFAP-CIANO facilities


    New sustainable methods of growing crops at INIFAP-CIANO.

    Following our meeting at the Irrigation District with the Yaqui Valley Representatives, we visited researchers at the INIFAP-CIANO facilities near the city of Obregón where they demonstrated the use of agricultural conservation practices. Some of these practices included the utilization of retaining the base of wheat plants from previous winter crops as hay in the fields without plowing or tilling the fields.  This process of maintaining wheat plants as hay reduces the surface temperature of the soil by a whopping 20°C!  This practice also conserves soil, minimizes costs, water usage, wind impact, and weed intrusion, retains soil moisture, and even eliminates the use of tractors, which essentially reduce CO2 emissions.  With the use of this process, sorghum crops can grown in the Yaqui Valley region near Ciudad Obregón, something believed to have been impossible (especially in the middle of the intensely hot Sonoran summers!)


    One of the engineers explaining certain methods of growing crops that are practiced at INIFAP-CIANO.

    As you can see, our first week in Mexico kept us busy and was filled with new adventures, as well as unforgettable learning experiences. Stay tuned to hear about our second week in Mexico as we begin our field experiments in the city of Rayón.

    Hasta la próxima! (Until next time!)

    Seth Morales & Michael Bierwagen

    UMB-WEST 2013 Participants,

  • margaretelizabethblumm 10:18 am on August 9, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , conference, education, , ,   

    Astronomical Society of the Pacific Meeting 

    Recently, I attended the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s annual Education and Public Outreach conference in San Jose, CA to represent the Low-Frequency Cosmology Group (LoCo Lab).  It was an amazing experience!  I met with many people involved in the educational outreach community from across the nation.

    I presented a postertitled “RFI Detectives: Raising Awareness of the Radio Sky” describing an activity we modified to use for large public events.  This activity helps us to teach aboutradio wavelengths, frequency, and radio astronomy using hand-held radios to let children search for sources of radio frequency interference; or RFI, for themselves.  We adapted the activity from the NRAO activity “Be an RFI Detective”.  Many people came by to view and discuss my poster, and seemed quite interested in the research we are doing.

    I attended numerous talks about a variety of things, from the politics of astronomy education to how to teach astronomy to preschoolers.  Everyone was so knowledgeable and incredibly kind.  I networked and make contacts that will assist in future efforts toward a career in education outreach.

    One of the sessions I went to was about how to teach the scale of the Universe.  I was amazed to see how far apart the planets are.  We had string that was scaled to the distance of the planets (I don’t remember what the scale factor was), and we stretched out the Solar System.  I objectively knew that the distances were huge, but seeing how the outer planets wouldn’t even fit in the room was surprising.

    The conference provided an invaluable learning experience and was fascinating. I am very grateful that I was able to go and meet so many like-minded people who share my passion for teaching the world about the wonders of space. This was a wonderful opportunity and I will make sure to use all I have learned to improve the outreach here and get people more interested in space.


  • sethmorales 8:59 pm on July 26, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    US-Mexico Border Water and Environmental Sustainability Training (UMB-WEST) 

    Hello all!

    The UMB-WEST 2013 campaign is officially in motion! There is no doubt that we have a lot of exciting plans for this summer. This first week has been filled with exciting workshops and intensive preparations for this year’s campaign. In case you are unsure as to what UMB-WEST is all about, let me fill you in:

    The US-Mexico Water and Environmental Sustainability Training (UMB-WEST) campaign is a one-month research program focused on investigating hydrological science in the US-Mexico Border regions of Arizona and Sonora. Throughout the campaign, participants will collect field hydrological measurements useful for water resources management, meet with local Mexican decision makers, and apply data analysis techniques to hydrologic modeling experiences.  Additionally, participants will engage across two languages and cultures as they interact with students and faculty from three institutions in Sonora, Mexico. You can find more information on the program on the website.


    Dr. Enrique Vivoni provides an overview of the program to this year’s participants.

    This year’s UMB-WEST participants come from a broad range of backgrounds, academic levels, and disciplines (including Engineering, Sustainability, and Geology). For example, Amanda Orozco, a participant in this year’s campaign, is a senior pursuing a BS in Earth and Environmental Studies and a minor in Sustainability. She initially heard of the program through her SESE academic advisor, and explains that what attracted her most to the program was how participants will be exposed to government and scientific aspects of water resource management.

    Orozco explains, I really like that the trip is split up into one week of sustainability tours and one week of hydrology field research. I think it will give us incredible hands-on exposure to water resource management.” Some experiments Orozco will be involved in during the campaign include passing out a “Water Use Survey” to certain communities in Sonora in order to gain valuable data on water use, working with a COSMOS soil moisture sensor, and assisting in taking plant water potential measurements.


    The participants learning how to use GIS and HEC-HMS.

    The campaign kicked off this week at ASU as participants spent their time learning about the Sonoran River Basin region, reading and discussing relevant papers, and helping to prepare the instruments and logistics of the trip. The week began with a series of meetings led by Dr. Enrique Vivoni, who provided a brief introduction and overview of the program. Shortly after, the participants were split up into teams and assigned various tasks in order to fulfill the necessary preparations for the trip.

    Time was also spent in the computer lab with Dr. Giuseppe Mascaro, where the group was introduced to GIS and HEC-HMS, two very effective tools used in hydrological modeling and spatial analysis. The rest of the week focused on preparing the protocols for the experiments that will be taking place during the campaign. Leading these preparations included graduate students Adam Schreiner-McGraw, Tiantian Xiang, and Nolie Pierini.


    Graduate student Adam Schreiner-McGraw gives a presentation on the COSMOS soil moisture sensor .

    After a long week of hard work, our group faced the final challenge of packing the equipment into the vehicles (a task easier said than done!). Reflecting on our accomplishments throughout the week, there is no doubt that a sense of excitement and yearning filled all of our hearts as we look forward to the new events to come in the following weeks.


    One of the trucks all packed and ready for departure!

    Hasta la próxima! (Until next time!)

    Seth Morales

    UMB-WEST 2013 Participant

  • kdavis32 2:27 pm on May 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , RFI   

    Characterizing EDGES Radio Frequency Interference 

    Hello LoCo followers! As the avid readers should know, the LoCo team is working on developing a ultra-sensitive radio telescope, EDGES, in order to detect faint emission signals from the very earliest stars and black holes that formed in the universe. Since the signals are so faint, EDGES must be the most sensitive instrument of its kind. However, the high response of the telescope to small signals can be disadvantageous, since there are many other radio sources that can “drown out” the desired signal. Most everyone has experienced this effect as static on a car radio. In this case, the EDGES frequency range actually includes the FM band, and the radio signals that you want to hear in your car is, to us, just like ‘static’ that interrupts your favorite broadcasts! In fact, astronomers call this unwanted interference ‘noise’ even though it is caused by electromagnetic waves instead of sound waves.
    Here at ASU, I am looking at the radio frequency interference (RFI) patterns that disturb our observations of the early universe. In figure 1, you can see a typical plot of the intensity at a given frequency during the course of the day. The X-axis is a plot of frequency, and the Y axis shows time at one minute intervals. A red pixel shows that there was a lot of incoming flux at a given frequency, and blue shows a low level of flux. The large red sphere is actually the radio emission of our Milky Way galaxy. The vertical bands of high flux correspond to radio frequency channels that we humans use for broadcasting. Some of these bands are used for FM radio, some are used for GPS, and others are used for industrial or amateur radio communication (like cell phones or satellite TVs).

    Antenna Temp 2011_315_00_Ta

    The intensity of the RFI signals in these bands changes throughout the day for a wide variety of reasons. I am looking for times when the power is unusually high, and seeing if those events correlate to known environmental phenomenon. For instance, one of Earth’s atmospheric layers is composed of high temperature particles that have been stripped of their electrons and form ions, thus the layer’s name ‘ionosphere’. When a force perturbs this layer, the charges move around in wavelike patterns. Moving electrical charges radiate photons, and the frequency of the radiation is dependent on the frequency that the ions oscillate. If the ions oscillate at radio frequencies, then there will be an increase in radio photons coming from the ionosphere, and the EDGES instrument will record that event. Other RFI sources that cause noise in the data are meteor showers (that perturb the ionosphere), ionospheric clouds, solar flares, and geomagnetic storms.
    The frequency at which radio waves can propagate through the ionosphere is called the critical frequency. Signals at higher frequencies than this escape to space, while signals at lower frequencies
    are reflected back towards Earth. Figure 2 shows a plot of the average critical frequency of the f1 layer of the ionosphere for each day from 2007 to present, which spans the time period that the EDGES instrument has been running. You can see that there are seasonal peaks each year, due to the orientation of the earth’s magnetic field compared to the direction of the sun. I am interested in finding the spikes in the data, to see if there are any peaks in the RFI intensity on those dates.

    RFI 2011_315_00_rfi

    As mentioned above, infalling meteors are known to cause perturbations in the ionosphere. Many of these meteor showers are spectacular to view with the naked eye, but a few are so faint that we only know they are there because of the disturbances they make in the ionosphere that have been recorded by other radio instruments. Figure 3 shows a plot of how many meteors are expected to hit the atmosphere for any given day. They are separated into ‘visible’ and ‘radio’ showers, based on whether they are visible to the naked eye or have been detected by radio instruments only. The X axis runs over one year only, since the Earth only runs into each group of meteors once per year due to our orbit around the sun. The Y axis gives the Zenith Hour Mean (ZHM), which is the total number of events predicted to occur during the hour that the shower has the most meteors.

    Total Expected Radio and Visible

    So far, I have been working on getting the data into a format that will be meaningful to do the comparison between. In the next few weeks I should start to see if there are any of the correlations between the ‘noise’ in the EDGES data and the events that happen in the sky above it. If this is successful, I can use the information to remove the events from the data so the astronomical signal we want to detect will be clearer. Wish me luck!

  • dannyjacobs 3:08 pm on April 10, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    In the name of science 

    Science experiments, as in life, are plagued by uncertainties.  As sarah showed last week, a particularly pernicious one is the response of the  telescope across the image. Things tend to get dimmer towards the edges, but without some very well known source in that area, its difficult to correct.  Most telescopes get around this problem by physically scanning across a known source, tracing out the response function.  Our new low frequency telescopes (MWA,PAPER) are fixed to the ground, we do not have the option of moving the telescope. So its time to get creative.  We can use satellites, known astronomical radio sources, or we can even fly a known transmitter over the telescope.

    So, I hope this explains this picture here.


    Danny flying the Octocopter. Next, we’ll be attaching a calibration antenna.

    The Octocopter is on loan from our colleagues at Curtin University. (Here’s a great video they made with it.) We’ll be attaching a calibration source and flying grid pattern over the telescope.  Today we just attached a go pro camera.  Here’s the footage

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