Day 3.2: Divide and Conquer

Mid-morning we had “smoko” (coffee break) – a delicious coconut cake with a sweet lemon frosting. Hamdi has become a huge fan of the butter out here (as he says, “MRO has the best butter in the world!  I am an MRO guy!”), so one of the MRO staff, Mike, brought Hamdi two bricks of butter for his smoko. However, we couldn’t convince Hamdi to eat that instead of the cake…

Hamdi with his butter

Possibly enthused by all the sugar, the team embarked to the field, ready to engage DARE/EDGES yet again.  Once at the site, Judd split us into teams: the A Team would deploy the EDGES receiver to a run a few tests while B Team would glue the DARE’s foam housing back together.  Not unlike a couple of special operations units, we performed our duties.  (Maybe next time we could do a parachute jump and land directly on site.)

Inspecting the EDGES system in the control building

Hamdi and I focused on running a few tests on EDGES, starting off by measuring the impedance.  We had to layout what seemed like elvish rope’s (Lord of Rings reference anyone?) worth of Australian extensions cables between the hut and the antenna.  In order to weatherproof the antenna, the team thriftily covered the receiver with a plastic bag and laid down an adhesive cover across the upper slits of the antenna.  With this complete, we took a sample of the spectrum and verified it looked comparable to a previous measurement.   Oddly enough, being able to see just a little RFI helped us validate the spectrum measurement again.  Spotting one of these man-made signals is a reassuring token that the antenna is functioning properly.  For example, occasionally detecting a spike around 120 MHz means that an airplane might be flying overhead.  With this healthy indication, the team left EDGES recording overnight.

Running tests on EDGES

The B squad directed their efforts to fortify DARE.  They had to make efficient use of the glue on hand, carefully positioning glue pellets along the along the walls.  Even the distinctive “scarred” side of the enclosure seemed to have healed well.  Not a field for the faint of heart, radio instrumentation sometimes proves injurious for interloping spiders and foam boxes.

Tying down DARE

Having received positive results and stabilized the devices, the team drove back to the homestead with a considerable weight off its shoulders and off the truck bed, literally.  We had less stuff to take with us – not as much to worry about.  Depending on the quality of data, we might not return to the site tomorrow and instead spend time analyzing the data.  All indications suggests that both experiments are being team players and producing splendid results.

Discussing the preliminary data

Rested and washed up, we had an amazing roast beef for dinner.  Complete with a side of bread, non-skinned potatoes, peas, and squash – a feast for champions.  Moreover, Hamdi finally caught up with his daily consumption of butter.  Slowly but surely, he conquered the golden cube – the reward of a day’s hard work.