Radio Astronomy and Space Science

     by Clif Horne, WS6G

http://SpaceWeather.com is the link for solar flare and aurora alerts, also has information on meteor showers for scatter.

Ham radio has a strong historical connection to radio astronomy and space science. Radio astronomy is the study of radio emissions from objects outside of the Earth's atmosphere, such as the Sun, solar system planets, stars, interstellar molecular clouds, supernovas, black holes, galaxies, quasars, and other mysterious objects. The first serious radio astronomy studies were carried out by a Dutch ham, Grote Reber. Some excellent links to amateur radio astronomy are:

Solar activity and it's effects on the ionosphere plays a dominant role in propagation of long-distance high-frequency (HF) amateur radio and other communication signals. This is another area where amateurs are very active. Most people are familiar with the 11-year sunspot cycle, which nears it maximum in the early part of 2000. Sunspot numbers, solar flux, A & K propagation indices are indicators of the quality of long distance radio propagation and are broadcast by WWV 18 minutes after each hour (2.5, 5,10, and 15 MHz).

Other sources of solar activity information can be found at:

Another activity with recent strong amateur interest is SETI, or the Search for Extraterrestial Intelligence. Professional interest in this area started with radio astronomers such as Frank Drake, and several programs of serious listening for radio transmissions from other civilizations have been carried out since the 1960's. The main work in this field is organized by the SETI Institute, http://www.seti-inst.edu, with headquarters in Mountain View, California. Since this is the ultimate SWL activity, a large number of amateurs have organized the SETI League, http://seti1.setileague.org/homepg.htm. The amateurs generally use 9-12 ft parabolic dishes from first generation satellite television systems and can't hear as well or as far, but are pioneering low-cost low-noise communications which have other applications. Who knows? -- our first contact with an outside civilization may be through a nearby robot exploration probe similar to the many we have sent out through our solar system!

Other ham radio space related activites such as meteor scatter, ham radio balloons and satellites, etc. can be found at:

Amateur astronomy and general astronomy information can be found at:


Back to Home Page