Radio Astronomy Observing Program

Radio Astronomy Observing Program Lead Coordinator:

Aaron Clevenson
19411 Cluster Oaks Drive, Humble, TX 77346-2918




Welcome to the Radio Astronomy Observing Program (RAOP). The Observing Program is a result of collaboration between the Astronomical League (AL) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) with support from Associated Universities Inc. (AUI).  Most of the Observing Programs in the Astronomical League are designed to encourage and promote looking at the heavens in the visible light part of the electromagnetic spectrum to which we are most accustomed to observing.  There are however, many other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum to which our eyes are not able to observe.  With a different type of sensor, we can observe in an entirely different realm, that of the radio spectrum.

The Radio Astronomy Observing Program (RAOP) is designed to introduce and encourage the building of, and observing with, radio telescopes or other detectors.  RAOP includes five types of observing that can be done with various radio equipment; Space Weather, the Sun, Planets, Meteors, and Galactic objects.  At the same time, there are several different methods or instruments you can observe with; the Itty Bitty Radio Telescope, Radio Jove, FM radio, SID or Super SID, and Radio Telescope Dish Antennas.  Although these are well-established instruments, however applicants are not prohibited from designing and building their own original equipment to observe in the radio spectrum.  The program will encourage diversity in observations and use of different detection methods.  For the purpose of this Observing Program the applicant must be actively engaged in the manipulation of the equipment used to make the observations.  Use of online streaming media from remote detectors is not acceptable as it is considered a more passive activity.


 RAOP Links to National and State Learning Standards

The Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics 5-Year Strategic Plan ( calls for the Nation to “increase and sustain youth and public engagement in STEM by supporting a 50 percent increase in the number of U.S. youth who have an authentic STEM experience each year prior to completing high school.” The RAOP works to address this national priority.

In addition to amateur astronomers, upper elementary school through college educators are encouraged to take part in the RAOP program with their students as well. Our goal is to introduce this new program into elementary, middle, and high school, as well as college environments through project-based learning.  The RAOP will introduce learners of all ages to a variety of earth, space, physics, and engineering concepts, as well as science and engineering practices and processes.  Listed below are a few examples of how educators can link learning from the RAOP directly to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  Links to additional NGSS standards can be found at

  • 4-PS3-2 - Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.
  • 4-PS3-4 - Apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another.
  • MS-PS3-3 - Apply scientific principles to design, construct, and test a device that either minimizes or maximizes thermal energy transfer.
  • MS-ETS1-3 - Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
  • HS-PS4-5 - Communicate technical information about how some technological devices use the principles of wave behavior and wave interactions with matter to transmit and capture information and energy.
  • HS-ESS1-2 - Construct an explanation of the Big Bang theory based on astronomical evidence of light spectra, motion of distant galaxies, and composition of matter in the universe.

NOTE: Depending on how the activities are structured, links can also be made to the Math and Language Arts Common Core State Standards (, as well as the ISTE Standards (


What radio sources can I observe as part of the RAOP?

Observing Space Weather

Sudden Ionospheric Disturbance (SID) Monitor – When energy from the Sun hits the ionosphere electrons are stripped away from their nuclei, creating the ionized region in the upper atmosphere. During periods of intense solar activity – solar flare, solar storm, or coronal mass ejection – the ionosphere reacts and we can detect changes in very low frequency (VLF) transmissions from Earth. SID can detect these changes providing the opportunity to monitor what we call space weather. The data can then be submitted to the Stanford Solar Center. If you are a high school or community college educator you can receive a SuperSID for free from the Society for Amateur Radio Astronomers. For more information, visit

Observations of the solar wind must include at least three (3) incidents which are at least 24 hours apart. For each observation you should include a screen capture (or video) of your chart recording of the event.  Include the date and time of the event, and location (latitude and longitude) of the instrument.  Include still images with written explanation of set-up/equipment used, or video with audio explaining the set-up of the equipment you used for the observation.  You may also print out paper copies (except for video) of these to submit if you so choose.


Additional Recommended Resources

SID Monitor Website -  - The website includes a wide variety of links that will help you understand space weather, and the instruments used to observe this phenomenon.  In particular there is a link to the SuperSID Manual. This is a very though manual that will help you understand the science behind space weather, as well as how to access a SID monitor, and how to construct an antenna.  You can retrieve the manual at the following location:

Building a SID Antenna -

AAVSO – Instructions on how to build your own SID Receiver.  (

Backyard Astronomy – Some great examples of actual observations and ideas on building your antenna.  (

Observing the Sun

The Sun generates radio waves that can be observed with the Itty Bitty Telescope (IBT). The IBT is a “starter” instrument that can be used to make observations of the sun, detect your own body radiation, or locate orbiting satellites.  Visit for more information and directions on how to construct the telescope. (Cost ~$100 or less depending on materials purchased)  Observations of the Sun must be made on three different occasions at least 24 hours apart.  Still images along with an observing log, including date and time of the observations, or video of the individual using the IBT to observe the Sun, should be submitted.

Additional Recommended Resources

Instructions on how to build the IBT and

Radio Observations of the Quiet Sun – This article by Christoph Keller ( at the National Solar Observatory and Sam Krucker ( Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley is a bit technical.  However, some may find it useful to help explain what properties of the sun you are measuring with the IBT at 12 GHz. (Radio Observations of the Quiet Sun).


Observing Jupiter

Listening to Jupiter – The Radio JOVE project is a project that allows you to learn about radio astronomy by building your own radio telescope from an inexpensive kit. Participants can also collaborate with other observers by submitting their data through interactions on the network. Visit for directions on building your own telescope and more information about participating in the project. (Cost ~$200)  Observations must include at least one (1) burst, either L-burst or S-burst.  Include a screen capture of your chart recording of the event.  Include the date and time of the event, and location (latitude and longitude) of the instrument.  Include still images with written explanation of set-up/equipment used, or video with audio explaining the set-up of the equipment you used for the observation.  You may also print out paper copies (except for video) of these to submit if you so choose.

Additional Recommended Resources

Radio-Jupiter Central – This is a great resource from the folks at Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers (SARA).  Lots of background information about observing Jupiter, and how to build the necessary equipment. (

Radio JOVE – RJ1.2 Antenna Kit Assembly Manual 2012 – (

Amateur Radio Astronomy Projects – Radio Signals from Jupiter – Article by Jon Wallace ( and Richard Flagg ( – (

Video of Example Radio Bursts from Jupiter – (

RadioJOVE at the International Space University – (


Observing Meteors

As meteors strike the Earth’s atmosphere the collision will generate ionic disturbances that will deflect signals originating from distant radio stations.  A high quality FM receiver can be used to detect meteors striking the Earth’s atmosphere.  Meteor Reflection Observations – Radio meteor scattering occurs when radio waves transmitted from locations on Earth are reflected off of meteor trails. The use of this technique to monitor meteor showers is increasing in popularity. For more information on the project visit and (Costs will vary) Observations must include at least ten (10) events.   The applicant should submit a log including the date, time, and radio frequency at which each meteor was observed, as well as an audio or video recording of each event.

American Meteor Sociaty – Radio Observing

Antennas for Meteor Radar – Good resource produced by Dr. David Morgan from the UK on how to build various antennas for meteor detection.  (

Tennessee SkyNet – Learn to use a using a Chrysler digital car radio from the late 70's to 90's to detect meteors.  (

Using Software Designed Radio (SDR) to Observe Meteors – (

Observing Galactic Radio Sources

Our galaxy contains many radio emitting objects that can be observed with Radio Telescopes. Most are too faint in radio to be observed with small radio telescopes.  You may use your own or someone else’s radio telescope to make observations of sources within the Milky Way Galaxy.  You may use online or collaborative resources, but you must obtain your own unique observations, and be actively engaged in the process.

Sources may include but are not limited to:

Cygnus A, Taurus A, Cassiopeia A, Sagittarius A, or cross sections of the Galactic Plane

Observe Hydrogen in the Galactic Plane – Thanks to SDR, it is now possible to observe the hydrogen in the galactic plane in both continuum and spectral modes using a dish less than 1 meter in diameter. Marcus Leech with Science Radio Laboratories, Inc. has a great article titled “A 21cm Radio Telescope for the Cost-Conscious” that explains the process. Visit, or other resources below for more information.  (Cost ~$200)

Green Bank 40 Foot Radio Telescope or the 20 Meter Telescope – The National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank-West Virginia will make available telescopes for use by student groups, as well as other amateur science groups and organizations (e.g. scouts, 4-H, amateur astronomy clubs, etc.).  Visit and and for more information.

Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT) – GAVRT now offers online training free of charge. The program allows educators and students to operate a 34-meter (112-foot) radio telescope remotely via the Internet. GAVRT teaches students to use radio astronomy; to control a huge antenna, and to collect science data from objects in the Universe. In addition, the program provides curriculum, and supports classroom implementation. GAVRT uses the Internet to connect students to Mission Control and the antenna. Students are actively involved in handling data for real science applications. Visit for more information.

Ten (10) observations must be made of at least three (3) different objects.  The same object may be observed on different days.  These observations may be made using equipment that you may or may not have built.  Remote operation of radio telescopes is acceptable for the purposes of this requirement, as long as the applicant is an active participant manipulating the telescope, as opposed to a passive observer, in the collection of data.

Additional Recommended Resources

A 21cm Radio Telescope for the Cost-Conscious – (

A Low Cost Hydrogen Line Telescope – (

An SDR Radio Telescope – (

Further Developments of an SDR Radio Telescope – (


The Awards

There will be three levels of Awards in the Radio Astronomy Observing Program; Bronze, Silver, & Gold.  There are five categories of observations 1) Space weather, 2) the Sun, 3) Jupiter, 4) Meteors, and 5) Galactic Radio Sources.  In general terms, completing one category will earn Bronze, two for Silver and four will earn the Gold level.  Certificates are awarded for all levels, however, pins are awarded for the Silver and Gold levels only.  To earn a certificate or pin, one must be actively engaged in the manipulation of the equipment used to make the observation.  Use of online streaming media is not acceptable for the purpose of this program. 

Bronze Level

The Bronze level is intended to introduce Radio Astronomy with a minimum of cost and equipment.  The applicant(s) must build/ assemble one Radio receiver/ antenna device and observe one of the radio sources listed above.  The device may be built by an individual or by a small group of no more than three persons, however all individuals must make their own observations.  You must submit all required documentation specified above for any observation to be considered.  You do not need to be a member of the Astronomical League to earn a RAOP Bronze certificate.

Completion will earn the Bronze certificate.

Silver Level Silver level is intended to take the radio astronomer to a higher level of experience in the Radio Spectrum In addition to the Bronze level requirements, the applicant must observe a second type of radio source in the radio spectrum using a different instrument than you used previously.   You may do this in combination with the Bronze level by submitting observing reports for the two different types of radio sources using the two different types of instruments, one of which, you must have personally built/assembled.

To receive the Silver Level Award, you must be a member of the Astronomical League, either as a club member or as a Member at Large.

Completion of two sets of different observations outlined in the five categories above, using at least two different instruments will earn the Silver certificate and pin.


Gold Level Gold Level is intended to take the Radio Astronomer to the advanced level of experience that has included a broad variety of observing and a sophisticated level of observing. To obtain this level, the applicant must have met the requirements of the Silver Level and

1. be a member of the Astronomical League, either as a club member or as a Member at Large.

2. have observed four of the five categories of Radio Sources; Space weather, the Sun, Meteors, Planetary, and Galactic. One of which must be the Observing Galactic Radio Sources category.

3. have observed with four different instruments; two of which, you have personally built/ assembled.

4. have observed galactic radio sources as outlined in the above Observing Galactic Radio Sources section. These observations may be done using equipment that you may or may not have built but you must be actively engaged in the operation / collection process.  Completion of the Observing Galactic Radio Source category is mandatory for the Gold level.


Submitting for Certification

Submissions for the Observing Program should be made to the Observing Program Coordinator.  Your club coordinator may assist and facilitate a part of the process but determination of the successful completion the award will be made by the Program Coordinators.

You must submit sufficient evidence that you have completed the necessary requirements for each award level.  This may include, but is not limited to, observing logs, computer screen shots, data plots, pictures and/or video of you engaged in instrument construction and/or making observations.

Note: Evidence of yourself with building equipment and/or making observations can be submitted by emailing video files less than 10MB in one of the five most popular video formats ( AVI, FLV, WMV, MOV, MP4) or uploading to one of the most popular sharing sites ( You Tube, Vimeo, Flicker, Vevo, Dailey Motion, Veoh, Metacafe)

Under no circumstance should a single email being sent to the Program Coordinator be larger than 10 MB.

Provide Links and/or files to the Observing Program Coordinator using the following form (feel free to cut and paste into your email):





Award Level:                     Bronze                  Silver                    Gold

Previous Level ? :                            Bronze                  Silver

Club Affiliation:

Name local club award coordinator for presentation (recommended but optional)

Address of local club coordinator:

Links to your submissions for:

Observing Space Weather

Observing Jupiter

Observing Meteors

Observing the Sun

Observing Galactic Radio Sources

 And/or files/images attached


Additional Radio Astronomy Resources:

Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers -

Ask an Astronomer -

British Astronomical Association – Radio Astronomy Group – (

Rosliston Radio Astronomy – A group from the UK that experiments around with radio observing in their backyards.  They’ve built a variety of instruments.  (

Tracking Solar Flares – Try searching archived data to find a solar flare. (

Deep Space Exploration Society -     


If you have any possible additions to this list, please contact the Coordinator at:


Radio Astronomy Observing Program Lead Coordinator:

Aaron Clevenson
19411 Cluster Oaks Drive, Humble, TX 77346-2918