Foil-lined foam insulation board, scraps of lumber, and a paint-thinner can hardly sound like the tools of a radio astronomer. But when coupled with an SDR, a couple of amplifiers, and a fair amount of trial-and-error tweaking, it’s possible to build your own hydrogen-line radio telescope and use it to image the galaxy.
As the wonderfully named [ArtichokeHeartAttack] explains in the remarkably thorough project documentation, the characteristic 1420.4-MHz signal emitted when the spins of a hydrogen atom’s proton and electron flip relative to each other is a vital tool for exploring the universe. It lets you see not only where the hydrogen is, but which way it’s moving if you analyze the Doppler shift of the signal.
But to do any of this, you need a receiver, and that starts with a horn antenna to collect the weak signal. In collaboration with a former student, high school teacher [ArtichokeHeartAttack] built a pyramidal horn antenna of insulation board and foil tape. This collects RF signals and directs them to the waveguide, built from a rectangular paint thinner can with a quarter-wavelength stub antenna protruding into it. The signal from the antenna is then piped into an inexpensive low-noise amplifier (LNA) specifically designed for the hydrogen line, some preamps, a bandpass filter, and finally into an AirSpy SDR. GNURadio was used to build the spectrometer needed to determine the galactic rotation curve, or the speed of rotation of the Milky Way galaxy relative to distance from its center.
We’ve seen other budget H-line SDR receiver builds before, but this one sets itself apart by the quality of the documentation alone, not to mention the infectious spirit that it captures. Here’s hoping that it finds its way into a STEM lesson plan and shows some students what’s possible on a limited budget.
[JBeale] squeezed every last drop of performance from a $5 Doppler radar module, and the secrets of that success are half hardware, half firmware, and all hack.
On the hardware side, the first prototype radar horn was made out of cardboard with aluminum foil taped around it. With the concept proven, [JBeale] made a second horn out of thin copper-clad sheets, but reports that the performance is just about the same. The other hardware hack was simply to tack a wire on the radar module’s analog output and add a simple op-amp gain stage, which extended the sensing range well beyond the ten feet or so that these things are usually used for.
With all that signal coming in, [JBeale] separates out the noise by taking an FFT of the Doppler frequency-shift signal. Figuring that people walk around 2.2 miles per hour, [JBeale] focuses on the corresponding 70 Hz frequency bin and finds that the radar will detect people out to 80 feet. Wow!
This trick of taking an el-cheapo radar unit and amplifying the signal to do something useful isn’t new to Hackaday. [Mathieu] did it with the very same HB-100 unit way back in 2013, and then again with a more modern CDM324 model. But [JBeale]’s hacked horn and clever backend processing push out the limits of what you can expect to do with these cheap units. Kudos.
So you’ve built yourself an awesome radar system but it’s not performing as well as you had hoped. You assume this may have something to do with the tin cans you are using for antennas. The obvious next step is to design and build a horn antenna spec’d to work for your radar system. [Henrik] did exactly this as a way to improve upon his frequency modulated continuous wave radar system.
To start out, [Henrik] designed the antenna using CST software, an electromagnetic simulation program intended for this type of work. His final design consists of a horn shape with a 100mm x 85mm aperture and a length of 90mm. The software simulation showed an expected gain of 14.4dB and a beam width of 35 degrees. His old cantennas only had about 6dB with a width of around 100 degrees.
The two-dimensional components of the antenna were all cut from sheet metal. These pieces were then welded together. [Henrik] admits that his precision may be off by as much as 2mm in some cases, which will affect the performance of the antenna. A sheet of metal was also placed between the two horns in order to reduce coupling between the antennas.
[Henrik] tested his new antenna in a local football field. He found that his real life antenna did not perform quite as well as the simulation. He was able to achieve about 10dB gain with a field width of 44 degrees. It’s still a vast improvement over the cantenna design.
If you haven’t given Radar a whirl yet, check out [Greg Charvat’s] words of encouragement and then dive right in!
We see a lot of Halloween projects attempt to scare people. Many of them work with the element of surprise, jumping or flashing lights when triggered. We’ve noticed though, people have come to expect those things. This project is a real sleeper. No one expects a couple car horns to blare in their face when they push the pumpkin’s nose. We know it would make us jump. You can see it in action as well as get the entire circuit from his site. We doubt his neighbors will find it as amusing as we do.
[via Hacked Gadgets]
Artist [Ariel Schlesinger] has managed to replace an air horn‘s compressed air tank with butane fuel. This hack manages to change the pitch of the horn slightly, as well as making one very noisy flamethrower. While not as impressive as other flamethrowers, this would probably take the cake for most achievable. Currently the site containing the how-to is down, but we would have to recommend not doing this at home anyway. Video after the jump.
Continue reading “Fire Horn”
The Griffin AirCurve Dock is a nifty gadget that uses a coiled horn to increase the volume of your iPhone’s speaker. Griffin’s marketing claims that their passive device delivers “amazing amplification” and “you’ll swear there are full-sized speakers in there.” Meh. It does look like an interesting project for someone with a 3D printer. You could experiment with different passage and dock shapes. At least it gives us an excuse to post two massive DIY horns.
Continue reading “IPod Loaded Horn Boosts Your Tunes”