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Save the Radome

$11,350
113%
Raised toward our $10,000 Goal
103 Donors
Project has ended
Project ended on May 01, at 11:59 PM EDT
Project Owners

Save the Radome

The MIT Radio Society and the AeroAstro Department are fundraising for the restoration of the iconic Green Building large radome and 18-foot dish inside to enable current and future amateur radio, education, and research projects. The large radome (the “golfball”) and the 18-foot dish inside it are slated for removal—UNLESS we can raise funds by May 1, 2021 to refurbish this valuable asset in place

We are asking for help from the MIT community and beyond! This campaign is part of a fundraising effort to reach the $1.9M goal, which will ensure that the restoration is included in the current building-renewal project. Please show your support for amateur radio, radio astronomy, and student-led satellite missions by contributing to this campaign.

The large radome is not only an iconic part of MIT’s skyline—the dish it protects is an active scientific instrument used by both the MIT Radio Society and the Physics Junior Laboratory (J-Lab). For the Radio Society, it provides an unparalleled platform for students experimenting with radio astronomy, control theory, digital signal processing, and microwave communications. 

Radome and the big dish support remote learning during the Covid-19 pandemic

In spring 2020, the radome and dish proved their value as a remote learning facility in the face of Covid-19. With the support of MIT Radio Society members, the dish enabled remote radio astronomy experiments for the Physics Junior Laboratory (J-Lab). According to Dr. Sean Robinson, associate director of J-Lab, “The technical capabilities of the Radio Society’s big radome, coupled with its accessibility for MIT’s academic program, make it a uniquely valuable instrument for all manner of radio work. It was a critical element in our lab’s Covid-19 response, allowing time for student lab experiences that otherwise would have been lost.”

Student CubeSats

In addition to the success of remote operation for J-Lab, the Radio Society envisions expanded use of the dish for communications support for tiny CubeSats—satellites the size of a loaf of bread—for amateur radio communications and for supporting and enabling new student experiments in radio astronomy and signal processing. Pictured: BeaverCube, a student-designed-and-built CubeSat.

Future plans: Networked dishes

Preserving the 18-foot dish will enable exciting experiential learning opportunities in the fields of RF design, power electronics, control theory, and even interferometry. One project under consideration would link the dish on Bldg. 54 with multiple smaller radio dishes on campus to form an interferometric array—making a “virtual” telescope the size of the MIT campus!

 

This radio data shows the rotating spiral arms of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. The 18-foot dish inside the “golfball” radome was scanned across the galaxy and made measurements of hydrogen at 1.4 GHz. Hydrogen in spiral arms moving toward us shows a blue shift, or slightly higher frequency, while hydrogen in spiral arms moving away from us shows a redshift, or slightly lower frequency. In this image, those shifts in frequency have been translated into velocity. See a video of radio astronomy data like this being collected remotely with the dish at youtu.be/pAqwfcJXnMg

 

What your donation will support

After working closely with the MIT administration, we have been asked to fundraise $1.9M for the in-place renovation of the dish. The dish will get a brand-new radome to protect it from Boston weather, as well as much-needed structural repairs to the pedestal on which it sits. This renovation will enable the exciting projects described above and preserve this asset for future generations of students. 

Dish history

MIT commissioned two radomes in the late 1960s under the direction of Pauline Austin for MIT’s weather radar research program. Pauline Austin was one of the first women to earn a PhD in physics from MIT; she pioneered the application of radar to meteorology. She cofounded and later directed MIT’s Weather Radar Research Project, which commissioned the large radome and 18-foot dish (WR-66). Check out this video about her extraordinary life and work. 

As time moved on, the dishes fell out of use for weather radar research, and, accordingly, the Radio Society has adapted them for microwave experiments over the past two decades. In particular, the large 18-foot dish is currently used for Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) communication and contesting as well as radio astronomy.

 

MIT Radio Society: Who we are and what we do

The MIT Radio Society (W1MX) is the nation’s oldest continuously-operating college radio club, with a 112-year history and a flourishing, vital membership. 

Check out our IAP lecture series on YouTube: youtu.be/Yv8IuFiBw94.

Radio Society activities include:

  • Contesting
  • Field Day 
  • Fox hunts (team activity to locate a hidden radio transmitter)
  • Tech flea market (suspended due to Covid)
  • Operating and maintaining a repeater that covers the greater Boston area. The repeater supports emergency communication.
  • Administering amateur radio licensing exams through the W5YI VEC. The Radio Society has been a pioneer in offering remote exams during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve tested over 500 applicants, performing 1.2 percent of all testing in the US since remote testing began.

Questions, comments, suggestions? Please contact us at w1xm-fundraising-contact@mit.edu

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