Tagged: radio telescope

Receiving Jupiter Noise Bursts with an SDRplay RSP1

Over on YouTube user MaskitolSAE has uploaded a video showing him receiving some noise bursts from Jupiter with his SDRplay RSP1. The planet Jupiter is known to emit bursts of noise via natural ‘radio lasers’ powered partly by the planets interaction with the electrically conductive gases emitted by Io, one of the the planets moons. When Jupiter is high in the sky and the Earth passes through one of these radio lasers the noise bursts can be received on Earth quite easily with an appropriate antenna 

In his video MaskitolSAE shows the 10 MHz of waterfall and audio from some Jupiter noise bursts received with his SDRplay RSP1 at 22119 kHz. According to the YouTube description, it appears that he is using the UTR-2 radio telescope which is a large Ukrainian radio telescope installation that consists of an array of 2040 dipoles. A professional radio telescope installation is not required to receive the Jupiter bursts (a backyard dipole tuned to ~20 MHz will work), but the professional radio telescope does get some really nice strong bursts as seen in the video.

The UTR-2 Radio Telescope. Photo Attr. Oleksii Tovpyha (Link)

RTL-SDR Spectrometer for a Small Radio Telescope

Marc Higginson-Rollins of the University of Kentucky has published an academic styled paper in conjuction with Dr. Alan E.E. Rogers of the MIT Haystack Observatory showing how they used an RTL-SDR to implement a Small Radio Telescope (SRT).

In the paper they discuss how they dealt with the frequency drifting and offset problems common in the RTL-SDR. They also show how they dealt with the center spur by correcting the bias that it introduced and how they filtered out RFI noise from a nearby radar station and electronics.

Using the RTL-SDR and SRT they were able to measure the spectra of several well known regions of neutral hydrogen emissions, and measure the galactic rotation curve shown below.

Galactic Rotation Measurements with the SRT
Galactic Rotation Measurements with the SRT and RTL-SDR

RTL-SDR for Budget Radio Astronomy

With the right additional hardware, the RTL-SDR software defined radio can be used as a super cheap radio telescope for radio astronomy experiments.

Marcus Leech of Science Radio Laboratories, Inc has released a tutorial document titled “A Budget-Conscious Radio Telescope for 21cm“, (doc version) (pdf here) where he shows

Two slightly-different designs for a simple, small, effective, radio telescope capable of observing the Sun, and the galactic plane in both continuum and spectral modes, easily able to show the hydrogen line in various parts of the galactic plane.

He uses the RTL-SDR as the receiving radio with an LNA (low noise amplifier) and a couple of line amps, a 93cm x 85cm offset satellite dish (potential dish for sale here, and here), and GNU Radio with the simple_ra application. In his results he was able to observe the spectrum of the Galactic Plane, and the Hydrogen Line. Some more information about this project can be found on this Reddit thread.

Here is a link to an interesting gif Marcus made with his RTL-SDR, showing a timelapse of recorded hydrogen emissions over 24 hours. Reddit user patchvonbraun (a.k.a Marcus Leech) writes on this thread an explanation of what is going on in the gif.

Interstellar space is “full” of neutral hydrogen, which occasionally emits at photon at a wavelength of 21cm–1420.4058Mhz.

If you setup a small dish antenna, and point at a fixed declination in the sky, as that part of the sky moves through your beam, you can see the change in spectral signature as different regions, with different doppler velocities move through your beam.

This GIF animation shows 24 hours of those observations packed into a few 10s of seconds.

 Marcus’ setup is shown below.

RTL-SDR Radio Telescope Setup

And here is just one of his many resulting graphs shown in the document showing the Hydrogen line.

RTL-SDR Radio Telescope Hydrogen Line

A similar radio astronomy project has previously been done with the Funcube. More information about that project can be found in this pdf file. In that project they used the Funcube, a 3 meter satellite dish and the Radio Eyes software.

However, in this Reddit post patchvonbraun explains that the Funcube’s much smaller bandwidth is problematic, and so the rtl-sdr may actually be better suited for radio astronomy.

This image is from the Funcube project document.

Funcube Radio Telescope Project

Another related project is the Itty Bitty Telescope (IBT), which does not use SDR, but may be of interest.

You may also be interested in Marcus Leech’s other tutorial where he uses the RTL-SDR to detect forward meteor scatter. (doc here) (pdf here)


If you enjoyed this tutorial you may like our ebook available on Amazon.

The Hobbyist’s Guide to the RTL-SDR: Really Cheap Software Defined radio.