How to make a dipole

Today continued much the same as yesterday, we built as many dipoles as humanly possible, laid down a bunch of tiles and had another good, productive day. We finished laying out the ‘alpha’ array, but didn’t quite get it all cabled – which works out perfectly to keep non-dipole builders busy tomorrow morning.

The view in the core of the MWA earlier on Day 4

The view in the core of the MWA earlier today.

We’ve worked out our average time for each dipole so far is about 2 minutes and 45 seconds. Student Teresa Slaven-Blair currently has the super-fast record at 1 minute 43 seconds, but even she admits ‘everything went right with that one!’

To give you a true appreciation of just how fast 1 minute 43 seconds is, Kim Steele starred in this great video yesterday afternoon showing off what goes in to building a dipole.

I quizzed engineer Brian Crosse about ‘science commissioning’ and it turns out there’s a thing called engineering commissioning that happens first, which is when all the tiles and beam formers are attached to the receivers and the electronics and engineering functionality is tested. So a beam former ‘forms the beam’ on the sky or determines where the telescope is looking – which all happens electronically in the MWA, one of the reasons it’s so unique. The receiver (one for eight tiles) turns the analog electrical signal into a digital signal that computers can understand.

After the engineering commissioning, the engineers hand over to the astronomers for science commissioning which involves taking some astronomical data with the telescope and making sure everything works the way we expect it to.

The dipole making competition is starting to hot up even more, with both Kim and Jarrod reaching 100 dipoles each today.  Some of the students are making sure to sign and number each dipole they make – brings to mind limited edition artwork!

Jarrod Ramsdale's 100th dipole!

Jarrod Ramsdale’s 100th dipole – captioned ‘Achievement Unlocked’. (Photo Kim Steele.)

Kim Steele's 100th dipole!

Kim Steele’s 100th dipole! (Photo Kim Steele.)

The students have renamed the antenna groupings ‘turrets’ to avoid confusing what is an antenna and what is two antennas (each spidery looking thing is two crossed dipole antennas).  We’ll see if it sticks!

We're getting there! This was the core this morning.

We’re getting there! This was the core this morning.

Comment with any requests folks – I’ve done a very dodgey tour of the site on camera which i’ll upload tomorrow, and we’re working on another timelapse of the core region.  Anything else you’d like to see?

I’ll leave you at the end of day 4 with a lovely timelapse of last night’s sky at wooleen – put together by student Malcolm Whinfield.  About two thirds of the way through the almost-full Moon sets and you get a good impression of how many stars are visible up here – the sky is simply stunning. See you tomorrow!

Day 4 Summary

Antenna Count: 1152/4096
Completed MWA Tiles: 30/128
Beam formers installed: 0/128 (0 on site)


About Kirsten Gottschalk

Outreach and Education Officer at The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR). I was lucky enough to join our engineers and 'student army' to build a good share of the Murchison Widefield Array, the low frequency precursor to the Square Kilometre Array on the future SKA site in WA. All images and content on this blog are copyright, unless otherwise attributed. If you'd like to use any of my photos, send me an email and I'd be happy to help -

5 responses to “How to make a dipole

  1. Bob Steele

    Well done to all [[especially Kim Steele] it’s ok I’m her Dad]]. The videos are really cool [especially the one by Kim Steele [it’s ok I’m her Dad]. The time-lapse of Wooleen Station night sky is really cool!

    Well done to you all and I’m guessing here, but by those numbers [and the competition between Kim and Jarrod ], you should have them all done and in place fairly well on time.

    We’re all as proud as could be Mo 🙂

  2. Great night sky time lapse! Shooting star at 39 seconds.

  3. Pratik

    Great work. Waiting for next post and the video.

  4. Pingback: Beam formers! « MWA Student Army

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Copyright Notice

All images and content on this blog is copyright. I'd be happy to help you out if you want to use any text or images that I've produced, simply send me an email - - and we can chat about it.
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