A simple to build and use, hand-held solar radio telescope can be made with a few dollars worth of parts and an hours worth of time. Will it work as well as Jodie Foster's large radio telescope array in the movie "Contact?" Probably not, but you can still explore the radio spectrum of the sun and measure solar radiation.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- 6 volt solar panel from an old solar powered calculator
- 3.5mm stereo cable
- Wire cutters
- Audio amplifier with microphone or line input jack (a portable boom box will work)
- Multimeter (voltage/amps)
- Soldering gun & solder
- Electrical tape
Cut off one of the plugs of the 3.5mm stereo cable and expose about an inch of the red, white and black wires. Remove about 1/2 inch of the plastic wire coating on each wire and twist the red and white copper wires together.
Determine the positive and negative terminals or wires on the solar panel by exposing it to sunlight and checking with the volt meter. Connect the red and white twisted copper wire from the stereo cable to the positive terminal of the solar panel and attach the black wire to the negative terminal.
Insert the stereo cable's plug into the audio amplifier's microphone or line input jack. Place the solar panel in direct sunlight and turn up the volume on the audio amplifier.
Adjust the volume of the amplifier until you hear noise that may range from a quiet hiss to a loud droning buzz. This is the sound of the sun detected by your solar radio telescope.
Connect the positive terminal on the solar panel to the red test probe of the multimeter and the negative terminal to the black test probe. Set the meter to read DC current and place the solar panel back into direct sunlight.
Measure the electrical current as it changes throughout the day. You may wish to plot the measurements on a graph and compare to atmospheric events that occur during the day, week or months ahead.
Building a solar radio telescope
Tips and warnings
- Solder the wires and cover with electrical tape.
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