How to Make Use of the Calibration

Joachim Köppen DF3GJ Kiel/Strasbourg/Illkirch Summer 2004

(A) With the data from the calibration steps, we can convert the audio voltages measured by the sound card and recorded with the SkyPipe software into antenna voltages or more convienently into temperatures of thermal noise giving the same signal. This is done after the observations with some suitable software... (see here for more details)

(B) Straight comparison of the data readings with the readings of the calibration steps gives a rough estimate in which range the noise temperature of the signal lies. Here is a small table of the calibration steps for our calibrator whose maximum level is +38 dB over thermal noise (measurement by Keith Gooley VK5OQ). For convenience, the temperatures are given in kK (thousands of K - note that k for kilo is written in small letter!):

 attentuation [dB] noise level [dB(kT_0)] noise temperature [kK] 0 +38 1830 -5 +33 579 -10 +28 183 -15 +23 58 -20 +18 18.3 -25 +13 5.8

(note that for convenience only I list the attenuations as negative dB numbers ... of course, more properly a gain of -10 dB is an attenuation of 10 dB)

(C) But from taking just the readings during the calibration sequence, we can already well estimate these noise temperatures:

• Suppose the maximum of the calibrator (thus level of +38 dB over thermal noise, i.e. 10^(3.8) * 290 K = 1.83 million K) gave a reading of 2000 on the SkyPlot chart.
• Since the voltage of thermal noise is proportional to the square root of the temperature, we can now compute the SkyPlot readings for any other temperature:
U = 2000 * sqrt(T/1.83 million K)
This procedure is accurate for readings well above the internal noise level of the receiver.

So what is the level of night-time background noise you measure at your site?

• below 10 kK: there is a problem with the calibration of the calibrator. If that isn't the case, there's a problem somewhere ... because the radiation you pick up from the Milky Way is about 50 kK, and you are going to get that all the time!
• somewhere around 50 kK or a bit lower: congratulations, as you are blessed with a low-noise site
• around 100 kK: it might be tough to observe bursts from Jupiter, but you can easily pick up solar radio bursts, because they may have 1000 kK or more.
• more than 200 kK: there is a problem with external noise, it may be electronics (poorly screened computer equipment, leaky televison sets) or electric (fluorescent lights, light dimmers) ....
At ISU we have had something just below 100 kK on nights without interference. During the day, it can be about 100 kK, but also as large as 300 kK - most probably due to the computer electronics in the building.

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