Thursday, April 22, 2010

Orroral Valley Tracking Station and its significance

Last night I gave a talk for the Canberra Archaeological Society about the Orroral Valley Tracking Station in the ACT.  I reported, with the assistance of my elegant geophysical friend Ian Moffat, on the results of the magnetometer survey we did in February.  There were several subsurface anomalies that were not correlated with any visible surface features.  An old Orroral staff member present at the talk was able to tell me that one of them was where the remains of the Baker-Nunn camera infrastructure were buried. 

I talked a lot about horn antennas, which I am finding increasingly fascinating.  Up until now, I have created a few boundaries to define my research interests - a necessity, so that one doesn't get distracted from the main game.  Pretty much, I have decided that I start at 1936 (Peenemunde) and only do space - so not sites associated with pure astronomy.  Of course it's not as simple as that, I'm well aware that there is much overlap between space sciences and astronomy, but it's worked pretty well until now.

But with tracking stations, I'm now looking at things which are antenna, telescopes, and aerials all at the same time.  Many paraboloid antennas were recycled/reused in radio astronomy (so really it's a nature/culture divide, isn't it - it's an antenna when listening to human signals, a telescope when listening to non-human signals).  The design is starting to interest me more, and the co-development of radio astronomy and spacecraft tracking.

So I may have to rethink my research parameters.

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