Day 2- NRAO

After we finished all of our work for last night, we adjourned to the basement of our residence here at The National Radio Astronomy Observatory for some relaxation. We found there a pool table, air hockey table, foosball table, and a ping pong table.There are some fun pictures of the students versus the degree holders in pool and the air hockey mini tournament. Cassie deserves a special notice for being the only one who beat me. I feel like the rematch may happen before we leave!

Today began at the spritely hour of 9am in the, what we would call the heavy rain and the West Virginians would call a light sprinkle. We drove down to the site and began switching over to the new power supplies and computer. Abhi and Judd worked on running the new code that controls the switching form the calibration load to the antenna. What this means is we need something to compare the data we get from the antenna to because we do not know the magnitude of the signal from the sky. By having this known load calibration we can figure out information about the energy received from the universe.

While Judd and Abhi were polishing that code, Hamdi and I embarked on my first soldering experience! The small circuit we built was to solve the issue I mentioned yesterday about the need for three different voltages and only having 2 power supplies. Needless to say, it will take a few trials to make it work the way we would like, which will be my task for tomorrow. Once this circuit is working, we will connect it to the whole system before leaving West Virginia.

After lunch we were joined by Dr. Rich Bradley (NRAO/UVA) the main builder of the antenna and balun, which holds the temperature sensor. We trudged out in the rain to open the styrofoam box that holds the antenna. Once we removed the balun, the temperature sensor was replaced and it now works beautifully!

Upon returning the balun into the antenna for a full system test, we noticed that some of the connections needed to be reinforced. We added some super glue to these joints and then put the system back together. I find it very interesting that most people say that all things can be fixed with duct tape. Well the engineers are not much better; when something breaks, we just use some super glue and everything gets fixed.

After the glue had dried, we put the system back together. When everything was in place, we went back inside and hooked all the power supplies up and began looking at the output of the system. It is very satisfying to finally get a result of exactly what you are expecting! There is that combination of laughter, “woo-hoos”, and clapping that signify the success of a difficult project. Hamdi, our source of entertainment in all moments of the day, said to us in this moment of triumph, “American Optimism- It’s always on my mind.”

Today, although very long and full of hard work, ended in a moment of success, DARE has taken its first big step to becoming the satellite that it is destined to be!