Development of an Off the Shelf Methanol Maser Telescope
Methanol masers are some of the brightest radio sources in the sky with flux densities exceeding several hundred or a thousand of Janskys. This implies that they are very accessible to small (meter class) and low-cost radio telescopes, which can then be used to educate and provide hands-on experience with the fundamentals of a radio telescope and an insight into the realm of radio astronomy techniques to students and members of the public interested in radio astronomy. The 12.2 GHz methanol maser line in particular is accessible to Ku band satellite TV receivers and so it could be possible to construct a very low cost (a few hundred dollars or less) methanol telescope out of off-the-shelf satellite TV components. This could then be deployed widely as a teaching tool in schools or colleges, bringing radio astronomy to the wider public. This research work is to design, build, and commission an off-the-shelf methanol telescope. Readers of this work will learn a variety of technical skills in radio astronomy from hardware to software, and ultimately learn how to use a small telescope to monitor bright methanol masers and other astronomical radio sources. One of the most important part of this study is that we have demonstrated how to design, construct, and use a low cost portable radio telescope, which can help students and individuals interested in making small radio telescopes of their own and use them to do cheap radio astronomy experiments. The entire telescope system has room for improvement that can be achieved by doing away with low-cost. Therefore, a bit of investment could solve a number of problems that were encountered in this study due luck of a proper telescope mount and drive system. An inexpensive telescope mount and drive system could be the best solution for easy pointing and tracking of a source, since our meter class radio telescope is not that sensitive which is caused by the size of its antenna. Hence, we are limited to the brightest radio sources.
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