Tagged: rtl2832u

A Talk on 21cm Hydrogen Line Amateur Radio Astronomy

The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group (AREG) recently held an online talk with guest speakers Phil Lock and Bill Cowley, talking about amateur radio astronomy. In the talk they note how they use an RTL-SDR as their radio.

Cheaper electronics has created great possibilities for Amateur Radio Astronomy. This talk will describe a local project to receive and map the distribution of 1420 MHz signals from neutral hydrogen in our galaxy. We briefly describe the history of 21cm RA and why it’s still of great interest to astronomers. We outline some challenges over the last few years in assembling a 2m dish with custom feed, electronics and signal processing, then show recent results from our project.

The image in the thumbnail shows recent signals (May 17th) recorded over a 24 hour period for dish elevation of 53 degrees. The signal changes as the antenna points to different parts of the Milky Way.


21cm (1420MHz) Amateur Radio Astronomy

Open Weather: An Artistic Performance Involving Live NOAA APT Signal Decoding for Sound Arts Festival

Just after our post a few days ago about an art project involving weather satellite reception with SDRs, we received a story submission about an artistic performance with similar weather satellite and SDR themes. The submission from Sasha Engelmann reads:

Open Work, Second Body is a live-streamed performance by designer Sophie Dyer (@sophiecdyer) [M6NYX] and geographer Sasha Engelmann (@sashacakes) [M6IOR] in collaboration with the author Daisy Hildyard. The work was performed twice during Reveil 2020, a global sound arts festival streaming sounds from listening points around the planet on the day of the International Dawn Chorus.

Open Work, Second Body asks: From the climate crisis to coronavirus: what are the tools we need to make sense of events unfolding on vastly disparate scales? Through spoken word, field recordings and live radio reception of two NOAA satellite images, the work probes the porous boundaries between our bodies, local atmospheres and weather systems.

Still image capture from livestream of Open Work, Second Body, AM performance, May 2nd 2020

Due to lockdown constraints in London, Sophie and Sasha were not able to be in the same place or to leave their apartments, so they performed the work via simultaneous streams from their respective balconies in South East and North West London. Using RTL-SDRs, Turnstile antennas, Open Broadcast Software and collaborating with two NOAA satellite passes, Sophie and Sasha shared the process of decoding NOAA satellite images with hundreds of viewers around the world, employing spoken word poetry and field recordings to complicate relationships of local and global, weather and climate, the individual and the collective. 

Recordings of the performances can be found at the links below. 

☀️Morning: https://youtu.be/-5JrxwNpJqI [performance starts at 05:25]
🌤️ Afternoon: https://youtu.be/h88zaCtX8cw [performance starts at 05:00]

Still image capture from livestream of Open Work, Second Body, PM performance, May 2nd 2020
Still image capture from livestream of Open Work, Second Body, PM performance, May 2nd 2020

Open Work, Second Body is part of Sophie and Sasha's larger artistic research and design project Open Weather, which employs ham radio, open data and feminist theories and approaches to build new and diverse communities around satellite image decoding and weather sensing. The Open Weather web platform will be launched in Summer 2020 and will host an archive of SDR-generated weather images, visually rich how-to guides for those with no radio and engineering experience, and material about Sophie and Sasha's collaborative artistic practice. 

For Open Work, Second Body, Sophie and Sasha would like to thank the Soundcamp Team: Grant Smith, Dawn Scarfe, Christine Bramwell, Maria Papadomanolaki and Ciara Drew. They are grateful to Daisy Hildyard for her willingness to be in conversation with them, Bill Liles NQ6Zfor technical advice, Jol Thoms for sound design, Rachel Dedman, Laure Selys and Arjuna Neuman (Radio Earth Hold) for early curatorial input, Akademie Schloss Solitude for the support of a residency, the satellites NOAA 18 and NOAA 19 and the RTL-SDR and wider ham radio community. 



It's very cool to see technical hobbies like ours starting to make an impact in art and reaching a wider audience. More content and images available on Sophie's Open Weather webpage, and Sasha's Open Weather webpage

Open Weather Live Stream

An Art Project Involving GOES-16 & NOAA Weather Satellite Reception with SDR

As part of his Bachelor of Architecture studies Daniel Tompkins created an art installation called "signs of life" which was focused around his interest in weather satellite reception with an SDR.

FM radio headphones were given out at the door. Each set was tuned beforehand to receive a broadcast from my pre-programmed station.

Visitors were then invited to walk around the room, contemplating the artifacts of the exhibit. A V-dipole at one end of the room captures the broadcast and displays a real-time spectrogram of the radio waves on a small display.

Across the room, a satellite dish points back, creating an alignment across the projected GOES-16 "full-disk" image animation of the Earth. Along the back wall, a few dozen images show demodulated signals from the NOAA 15/18/19 satellites as they passed over Cambridge, Massachusetts in the months of October and November 2018.

The experience demonstrated my interest in tapping into an invisible (wireless) environment of digital information. A USB, software-defined radio (SDR) dongle helped me reach the satellites.

In listening to the transmission, the visitors are engaging in a shared experience, but are somehow still alone and unable to communicate while wearing their headphones. The performance of the exhibition is designed to be a place which simulates the real disconnection of techno-humanity. The "reflecting pool" of the earth spinning on the floor might provide a metaphorical reflection of humanity and progress.

Daniel Tompkins GOES-16/NOAA Art Installation
Daniel Tompkins GOES-16/NOAA Art Installation

This installation reminds us of the "Holypager" live art piece which used a HackRF to receive and print out live pager messages with an aim to demonstrate the amount of personal data being sent publicly over pagers. Another related art piece was the "Ghosts in the Air Glow" project by Amanda Dawn Christie, which saw the HAARP Auroral research facility used to transmit various art pieces to be received from all over the world by people with HF radios. 

Testing out the SDR-Kits L-band Inmarsat Patch Antenna for AERO

The SDR-Kits L-band Patch antenna is a modified GPS antenna designed for receiving Inmarsat satellite stations such as AERO and STD-C. They have another version for receiving Iridium frequencies as well. The patch costs £12.90 inc VAT in UK, or approx US$14 for non-UK customers. 

Over on his channel Frugal Radio has uploaded a video where he tests this patch antenna with an RTL-SDR Blog V3. The built in bias tee on the V3 is used to power the antenna. In the video he shows how he's able to receive and decode AERO using the JAERO decoding software and how he uses a a metal backing to improve reception.

SDR-Kits frugal L-band Inmarsat patch antenna review decoding CPDLC ADS-C with RTL-SDR v3 dongle!

Trump Tweets about Pushed Buffalo Protestor Scanning to Jam Police Radios with an RTL-SDR and Android Phone

In political news 75 year old Buffalo protestor Martin Gugino has been generating controversy due to a video of him being pushed to the ground by a police officer, then subsequently lying motionless while bleeding from the head and being ignored by other officers.

Recently US president Donald Trump tweeted about a video news report by "One America News" (OAN) indicating that Gugino may have been trying to scan police with a "capture scanner". Whilst talking about the capture scanner they show an image of an RTL-SDR dongle and Android phone running the SDR Touch software. OAN go on to say that these capture scanners are designed to "skim microphones" in order to capture police communications, and are a tool commonly used by Antifa. Credit to @hackerfantastic for initially tweeting about the RTL-SDR being featured in the video.

Trump's tweet reads "Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment @OANN
I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?".

We're not entirely sure where this theory from OAN came from as there is no need to get so close in order to listen to police radio communications, since if unencrypted, they can be listened to from anywhere in the city. It's also unclear as to what microphones police would be using, and how these could be "skimmed" with an RTL-SDR. As for blacking out the equipment, an RTL-SDR cannot transmit so it would be impossible to use to jam the radios. An illegal jammer could be used after scanning, but police frequencies are already well known anyway, and there would be no need to scan for them so close even if low power comm links were used.

The video also shows that he appears to be filming police badge numbers with his phone before he was pushed, so it is unlikely that he was using an RTL-SDR and running SDR Touch at the same time as the camera app. No cables, antenna or dongle can be seen in the video either.

In the past we have seen a Slovenian researcher almost jailed for performing University research with an RTL-SDR, and a UN expert arrested for possessing an RTL-SDR in Tunisia. So this is a timely reminder to be careful as police and media do not always understand what an SDR is.

EDIT: Please note that this is not a political post or blog. We only post it to highlight the severe lack of understanding that can surround SDR and our technical hobbies. Comments inciting violence against protestors or anyone are NOT OK, and will be removed. Please keep discussions technical and civil in nature.

OAN indicates that Martin Gugino may have used an RTL-SDR on police
OAN indicates that Martin Gugino may have used an RTL-SDR "capture scanner" on police

Imaging the Milky Way in Neutral Hydrogen with an RTL-SDR

Over on Facebook Job Geheniau has recently been sharing how he's taken an image of our galaxy (the Milky Way) with a radio telescope consisting of a 1.5 meter dish, RTL-SDR and a few filters and LNAs. In the past we've posted several times about others observing the Hydrogen line with an RTL-SDR, and we have a tutorial here showing how to observe it on a budget.

In this case, Job went a step further than just a single measurement. He used a used a motorized dish and RTL-SDR to scan the entire Milky Way over one month, resulting in a full radio image of the galaxy. As his posts and pdf document are on Facebook and not visible to those without Facebook accounts, we asked for permission to reproduce some of them here for all to see. We have also mirrored his PDF file here, which contains more information about his radio telescope, results and setup.

To make a very long story short. After a month of angel patience (and that says something to me) I managed to take a 'picture' of our entire galaxy (galaxy) in neutral hydrogen! I attach some pictures. If you are more interested, please come after this and PDF with explanation. It was a hell of a job I can tell you. But here's the ' picture s' of the house (230 million light years wide) in which we live and in which we all have a big mouth......

Hydrogen Line Image of the Milky Way produced by Job Geheniau
Hydrogen Line Image of the Milky Way produced by Job Geheniau

For the Scientists among us... a beautiful plot of the Milky Way Graphically explained in neutral hydrogen....... In short, summarized... if you look up on a beautiful summer evening you will see a beautiful galaxy, this is graphically the same but then on a different frequency than the eye can perceive. own dates of course.....

A composite of Hydrogen Line readings at different points of the Milky Way
A composite of Hydrogen Line readings at different points of the Milky Way produced by Job Geheniau
An image of the Galactic Plane (longitude 20 to 240 steps of 5 degrees and latitude 0)
An image of the Galactic Plane (longitude 20 to 240 steps of 5 degrees and latitude 0)

His setup consists of a 1.5m dish, extended to 1.9m with some mesh. A 1420 MHz tuned feed, Mini Circuits ZX6-P33ULN LNA, Bandpass Filter, NooElec SAWBird LNA, Bias-T, RTL-SDR V3, PST Rotator Dish Software, VIRGO software, SDR#, Cartes due Ciel sky chart and a home made netfilter.

He uses a modified version of the VIRGO software to read sky coordinates from a text file, and this points the telescope at each predefined coordinate. He then uses VIRGO to record data for 180 seconds before moving on to the next coordinate. The data is then plotted in Excel, and the highest peak is taken at each coordinate and put back into an 8x21 matrix in excel. Conditional formatting is then used to generate a color gradient resulting in a rough map. Then a Gaussian blur is applied, and it is projected over the Galaxy, resulting in the images above.

Job Geheniau's Radio Telescope Setup
Job Geheniau's Radio Telescope Setup

In the past we've seen a very similar project performed by Marcus Leech from ccera.ca. However, his measurements use 5 months of observations resulting in much higher resolution data.

The Hydrogen Line is an observable increase in RF power at 1420.4058 MHz created by Hydrogen atoms. It is most easily detected by pointing a directional antenna towards the Milky Way as there are many more hydrogen atoms in our own galaxy. This effect can be used to measure the shape and other properties of our own galaxy.

A Self-Executable version of TempestSDR is now Available

TempestSDR is an open source tool made by Martin Marinov which allows you to use any SDR that has a supporting ExtIO (such as RTL-SDR, Airspy, SDRplay, HackRF) to receive the unintentional signals radiated from a screen, and turn that signal back into a live image. This can let you view what is on a screen through a wall without using any physical cables.

We first posted a demonstration of TempestSDR back in 2017 when we were finally able to get it to compile. Compiling the software took a fair amount of work for those without experience, and even running it was a chore. However, getting it to work is worth it as you can do some really interesting demonstrations.

However these problems are over and recently Erwin Ried @eried has made a self-executable version of TempestSDR. This means that no compilation, java installs, mingw or extra dlls are required to get the program to work as now it's just an exe that you can run. You will still need the appropriate ExtIO dlls for your SDR. The video in his twitter post shows it working with a HackRF.

Decoding HIRS Instrument Images from NOAA Weather Satellites

Thank you to Björn Schnabel who has written in to notify us about a website he's created for a program written by Zbigniew Sztanga called NOAA-HIRS-decoder which might be of interest to some RTL-SDR users. Most of us are familiar with the the ability to use an RTL-SDR to receive the APT signal on the NOAA 15/18/19 weather satellites. The APT signal provides a live image of the Earth. If you haven't tried to receive APT yet, we have a tutorial here.

Apart from APT there is also the HIRS instrument data which is transmitted in the Direct Sounding Broadcast (DSB) telemetry signal that is spaced at a slight offset from the APT frequency. According to NOAA, the HIRS instrument is "a discrete stepping, line-scan instrument designed to measure scene radiance in 20 spectral bands to permit the calculation of the vertical temperature profile from the Earth's surface to about 40 km". The SDR# screenshot below shows what the HIRS signal looks like, and to the sides you can see NOAA APT signals.

The NOAA HIRS Signal
The NOAA HIRS Signal (Center Signal)

NOAA-HIRS-decoder makes use of the Project-Dessert-Tortoise NOAA satellite telemetry decoder that we posted about previously which can be used to decode data from most of the other scientific instruments on the NOAA satellites. The HIRS decoder by Zbigniew uses the raw text data produced by the Project-Dessert-Tortoise decoder and converts it into images. Full instructions on setting up the decoder on Windows is provided on the NOAA-HIRS-decoder website, just click the menu icon on the top right of the page, and go to "usage".

The received data contains 10 channels of long wave infrared, 9 channels of medium wave infrared, and one visible light measurement. The software will plot the 20 channels as images that are 56 pixels wide. This is not a high resolution picture, but it is nevertheless valuable data that can be used for scientific or weather prediction purposes.

All 20 NOAA HIRS Channels (Image enlarged from 56 pixels)
All 20 NOAA HIRS Channels (Image enlarged from 56 pixels)