The study of atomic hydrogen in the far reaches of universe was one of the prime scientific drivers for the SKA and I’ve long wanted to offer DARA students, and potential future recruits, the chance to make their own hydrogen line observations - though obviously on a smaller scale! Even so introductory work is often based on parabolic dishes ~3m in diameter and these may be too expensive for universities to acquire. The Table-Top Radio Telescope (TTRT) is therefore deliberately small but its sensitivity remains sufficient to give students the real-time thrill of observing clouds of hydrogen gas thousands of light years away and detecting the rotation of the Milky Way. Twenty TTRTs will be supplied by DARA for use in partner countries.
The aim is to make the instrument usable with limited supervision and so, to complement the instruction booklet which comes with the TTRT, I’m giving two e-seminars to provide an additional confidence-building pathway.
• e-seminar part 1 introduces the principles of 21cm hydrogen line observations and describes how radio astronomers over 60 years ago were able to show that the Milky Way has spiral arms. Some of the latest results on the Milky Way and nearby galaxies will also be presented.
• e-seminar part 2 (later date) will describe the TTRT hardware and the processes of taking, calibrating and analysing the digital data it produces. Representative results of Milky Way observations, taken from a table top in my back garden in the UK, will be shown.