Amateur radio astronomy with SIMPLE 20 MHz arrays
Until 2005 I had, except for a bit of astrophotography, only been a professional astronomer. But from 2005 - 2007 I also engaged myself as an amateur radio astronomer, operating, on behalf of a friend, a simple radio interferometer, called "simpleton".
Being an amateur radio astronomer is technically even more demanding than being an optical amateur, just because there are no commercial telescopes for sale. Operating a single telescope is already a technical challenge and one needs a good working knowledge of electronics and software skills to make an instrument work. These requirements are what kept me out of this field... :) On behalf of a colleague from work, David Brodrick, I operated a self-made (by him, not me!) radio interferometer that operates at an observing frequency of 20 MHz (15 m wavelength).
The activities of a group of enthusiasts building their own radio interferometers (i.e. units that are yet more complex than "just" a single amateur radio telescope) are described on the Fringe Dwellers (external link) website. But there are other amateur radio astronomer sites around as well. And here a new addition to these pages, a short description of the Parkes SIMPLE array.
Some basic concepts of radio interferometry and a description of how a SIMPLE self-made radio interferometer works are presented in a Powerpoint slide show by David Brodrick and Tim Kennedy (2 MB file!). According to David and Tim, they tried to come up with a nice acronym for their "Simple Home-made Interferometer Telescope", but then who'd want to call his telescope....? So they left it at "SIMPLE", under the condition that others having their own telescope give it another, individual name. So mine (more precisely, David Brodrick's, operated by me!) is called after its operator, "SIMPLETON".
To answer the question whether it is worth the time invested, here an example of science with a SIMPLE array!
The Radio Society of Great Britain has approached me and asked to please point out to readers that they are now offering in their online shop (external link), amongst other things, a book by John Fielding on Amateur Radio Astronomy (external link). Why not check it out?