Public Star Night 15 January 2016 – The Invisible Universe: Radio Astronomy at LTO and BHS

The evening’s program will cover new developments in radio astronomy and demonstrate some of the radio science projects now being conducted at the Little Thompson Observatory.

Highlight of the presentation will be reports from two Berthoud High School teams who recently conducted radio astronomy experiments through an internship program with LTO as part of Berthoud High School’s initiative on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Scott Kindt, science teacher at BHS, will explain the STEM program and introduce the students.

Our eyes detect only the tiny region of visible light within a very large spectrum of radiant energy. Visible light, radio waves, heat, X-Rays and Gamma Rays are all electromagnetic radiation traveling with different wavelengths. Equipment that is specifically designed to receive and analyze radio waves coming from space is termed a Radio Telescope, and the science of using radio wavelengths to study the universe is called Radio Astronomy.
Radio astronomy is a relatively new field of science, emerging out of investigations into causes of radio interference in the early 1930’s and growing into its own specialization in the 1950’s. Today, original research and discovery are within the reach of even moderate radio telescopes.

Over the past nine months, BHS students conducted two radio astronomy investigations:
1) Radio signal reflections from meteors and meteor trails using fixed and portable equipment in and around Berthoud, investigated by Jake Fiechtner, Collin Miller and Lexia Wyse.
2) Neutral Hydrogen emissions from nebula using a 20-meter radio telescope dish at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in West Virginia by Zac Marquardt, Sierra Messick and Xander Pickardt.

The investigation into neutral Hydrogen emissions discovered unexpected aspects of the phenomenon that have not been reported previously, and which will lead to major scientific studies. As a result of their findings, the student team has been invited to present their findings to an international radio astronomy conference in Prescott, Arizona, in March 2016.

The BHS STEM program is coordinated by Kristal Domenico with the support of Principal Chris Garcia. This senior project was guided by Scott Kindt. Mentors from LTO who worked with the students were Dr. Terry Bullett, David Eckhardt and Jay Wilson, with Meinte Veldhuis and John Hiatt providing overall program support. NRAO support was provided by Dr. Kathryn Williamson through the Skynet Junior Scholars program.

Weather permitting after the presentation, visitors will be invited to look through our large telescope at various celestial objects. Public star nights are held the third Friday of each month (except July, when we are closed for annual maintenance). No reservations are necessary for these nights. Just come and join us for the talk and some observing afterwards.
If you have any questions, please call the observatory information line at 970-613-7793 or check the LTO web site at:

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