Antenna Set Up

Well the last three days have been the most busy, tiring, and exciting of the whole trip here in Western Australia. Once the antenna arrived late Wednesday afternoon, we had a lot to do to get the whole system up and running.
On Thursday morning, we woke up before the sunrise to get breakfast and were on our way to the site just after 6am. When we arrived, the huge crate that held the antenna and all the other parts to put it together was sitting at the CSIRO site office. Hamdi was quite antsy to get the box to the hut and crack it open. The very kind and efficient staff here at MRO used a crane to drive it the mile from the entrance to the hut for us. Once it was there, we read the directions on how to get the crate open.

The Crane

Opening the crate.

The antenna and the beautiful weather.

After fiddling for about an hour with all the screws that needed to be removed to get the weather shield with the antenna out of the case, we were finally able to pull it out of the crate and set it safely on the ground. As you can see in the pictures, there are four very large ground screens that we had to unload and carry about 150 feet to the place where the antenna is going to sit while it gathers data. We ran into the issue of how to get it all bolted together when you had to bolt from the underside but there were no legs to have space to get underneath it. We decided that the best way to do it was to bolt it all together upside down and then flip it over.

One panel of the ground screen.

Judd and Hamdi putting the ground screen together.

By the time we had it all bolted together it was time to leave the site because it was getting dark. People are not allowed to work past sunset because of all the wild animals that are on the roads when driving in the dark. So, we headed back to the homestead and had dinner.

Sunset

Last night was a beautiful night to look at all the stars because there were no clouds to be seen. Even though we were completely exhausted from the long day of work, we set out down the drive way of the homestead to get a better view of all the stars. It was absolutely spectacular to see so many stars! We were even able to see the Magellanic Clouds. According to NASA, “The Magellanic Clouds are irregular dwarf galaxies orbiting our Milky Way galaxy”. To read more about these galaxies, go to http://heasarc.nasa.gov/docs/cosmic/nearest_galaxy_info.html.

Magellanic Clouds

Milky Way

This morning we also woke up before sunrise and were out the site just after 6am, and more excited than yesterday (If you know Hamdi, that excitement was very hard to beat) because of the anticipation of seeing first light with our antenna here in Australia. We started by flipping the ground screen and feeding the power and signal cables though the hole in the center. Once this was done, we put the base of the Styrofoam stand on the ground screen.

The ground screen and antenna base.

Back in the hut, before we could progress further on the set up of the antenna, we plugged all the power supplies in and tested them with each of the electronic components to make sure the right voltages and currents were being drawn. Once this was verified, we set out into the wind to complete the setting up process. The balun, which transfers the signal from the antenna to the receiver though a coaxial cable (just like a TV cable), was carefully hooked into the antenna and, with a lot of balance and patience, the antenna was finally safely standing here in the Outback.

The complete antenna!

We headed back to the hut to power everything up and check to make sure the antenna was working. To all of our great joy, first light was achieved! Now all that is left to do is make sure that we can control the whole system remotely with no kinks or disasters. Once this is complete, we will have done everything that we came here to do 100 percent successfully!

Looking at the antenna spectra.

Sarah

These are the quotes from the last few days!
We have a car that has a remote start which is very finicky. Judd said that getting the car to start was like alchemy, to which Hamdi replied: “Even alchemy is more predictable than this car!”

Hamdi is a cultural sponge and has a love for the English language. So whenever he finds a word that we say is interesting, he always repeats it for the next 30 minutes, forgets it, asks for us to say it again, and the cycle beings again. Cassie commented, “Hamdi is like having a parrot along.”

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