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Communications Network Science

No Wi-Fi Around Huge Radio Telescope 224

JG0LD writes "Students at a tiny Appalachian public school can't use Wi-Fi because any such network can throw the radio equivalent of a monkey wrench into a gigantic super-sensitive radio telescope just up the road. GBT's extraordinary sensitivity means that it's very susceptible to human-generated radio interference, according to site interference protection engineer Carla Beaudet. 'If there was no dirt between us and the transmitter, a typical access point ... would have to be on the order of 1,000,000 km [more than 620,000 miles, or about two and a half times the distance from the Earth to the Moon] distant to not interfere. Fortunately, we have mountains around us which provide lots of attenuation, so we're not seeing everything from everywhere,' she said. A standard Wi-Fi access point would wipe out a significant range of usable frequencies for the observatory. 'It simply ruins the spectrum for observations from 2400-2483.5MHz and from 5725-5875MHz for observational purposes,' wrote Beaudet."
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No Wi-Fi Around Huge Radio Telescope

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  • This is news? (Score:5, Informative)

    by dtmos ( 447842 ) * on Friday February 08, 2013 @08:07PM (#42839177)

    The National Radio Quiet Zone has been there since 1958 []. It's not like it was just discovered yesterday. People living in this zone have always had to live without radio transmitters. Not having 802.11 is just another of the services they cannot use, like wireless garage-door openers and cell phones.

  • by pesho ( 843750 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @08:27PM (#42839333)
    NSF plans to cut the funding [] for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank. So I guess the kids will soon have WiFi and cell phones. This is a good thing, right?
  • Re:This is news? (Score:5, Informative)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @08:32PM (#42839361) Journal

    There is a Naval listening station nearby in Sugar Grove, WV. That location was chosen because of the way radio waves reflected off the moon and a few other things. It is essentially a focal point if you want to listen in to Moscow.

    The observatory was a bonus.

    And back when the zone was created the operation of radio transmitters by the general public was minimal and restricted to pretty much HAM Radio. And there weren't a lot of those guys in the area to begin with.

    In short, it was a good spot and they weren't infringing on anyone at the time.

  • Re:Low power wifi? (Score:5, Informative)

    by v1 ( 525388 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @08:49PM (#42839543) Homepage Journal

    Can they not use lower power wifi so that their signal does not extend that far beyond the school? Typically in these cases we have more than 1 AP connected together but all of them with lower transmit power so that the signal does not go far.

    If conditions are right, I can have a contact with someone on CW running 5 watts, on the other side of the globe.

    Such is the sensitivity of tuned circuits. For untuned interference, like your cell phone trying to interfere with your TV, rejection is great. But when you're specifically tuned to receive a frequency, you've got such a high sensitivity to that specific frequency, (and very high rejection of any other frequencies) that a cricket fart of a signal a long ways away can sound like a lightning strike on your house, if it's on the same frequency you're straining to hear.

    They're a little better off than my CW example, being on a high frequency that's mainly line-of-sight, for which surrounding mountains would be a pretty effective shield, but still their receivers are just incredibly sensitive at their design frequencies. They just can't have anything anywhere near them or you will be all they can hear. It'd be like trying to listen to someone talking to you from a table at the other end of the restaurant, while you are seated right next to a table full of loud party animals. You'd have no chance.

  • Re:This is news? (Score:5, Informative)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @08:58PM (#42839621) Journal
    Liberty doesn't mean carte blanche for being able to do whatever you want. That region was designated a quiet zone by the people, for the people. If you don't like it, you are free to not go there. You are free to rant and rave about it in public forums. You are free to petition the government to change the rulings. However, you are not free to operate a transmitter there.

    Besides, the map shows that the quiet zone is more or less centered in the George Washington National forest, which makes it government owned land.
  • Re:This is news? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 08, 2013 @09:03PM (#42839665)

    That is a serious infringement of Liberty, IMHO. If the federal government wants to setup a radio free zone, they should do it on government owned land. (please dont go of the deep end about eminent domain). It doesnt surprise me that the zone was setup in the 'government can do no wrong' 1950's.

    Pocohontas County is at present sparsely populated. In 1958, it was even less so aside from all these wireless technologies existing. If you've driven through Green Bank, you'll see there's not much to it; I know, I grew up a mere 30 minutes north of there and passed through less than a week ago. The NRAO is life support in that area. If you take it out of the equation, the local populace would drop and businesses would close. Aside from Cass Scenic Railroad (EVIL coal fired steam engines killing the environment!), the only other spot on the map in that county is Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort, which while being an amazing place to relax and enjoy the mountains, suffers from the irregularities of the seasonal conditions. This ski season has been great, but the past 4 not so much...

    So please, kill of the exclusion zone, shut down a primary means of livelyhood and tell them how much freedom and liberty they can enjoy -- by being on unemployment!

  • Re:This is news? (Score:5, Informative)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Saturday February 09, 2013 @01:02AM (#42841135)
    Clean coal is like a filter on a cigarette preventing cancer. It might make the user feel better about it, but it kills them just as quick. Wind farms don't cause problems for birds. The fossil fuel companies pay researchers to find such things. Wind, water and solar can cover all the world's needs. But anyone who suggests this has it pointed out that any one of them alone is likely not an answer. Even when that's never what anyone says. You know what the truth is when one side has to constantly lie to attack the "other side". There is only one side, humanity. And it seems like the execs line themselves up on the other side of that,.
  • Re:This is news? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Saturday February 09, 2013 @02:49AM (#42841579)

    However as you mentioned, these liberties also come with the restriction that the transmission not interfere with other frequencies --

    Not entirely accurate. Some radio users are primary licensees. That means they get to interfere with everyone else. Not malicious or deliberate, but if there is interference it is the secondary, tertiary, or unlicensed users who have to put up with it.

    FRS, wireless baby monitors, and wifi are all unlicensed devices, and as such any interference to them from licensed users is too bad, so sad, but more important, any interference they CAUSE to licensed users is "shut it off" notice time.

    That's why people who have unlicensed garage door openers can't sue anyone when Air Force 1 stops them from working.

    There's one catch, though: modern TVs lack an input filter that they're supposed to have by design which would normally reject non-TV frequencies,

    If they are lacking the filter, then they were designed that way. Those devices are FCC approved and certificated, and if they were designed and tested for compliance with the filter but are being built without it, they are in violation of federal law (47CFR15) and can be confiscated and destroyed.

    In those cases filtering needs to be added back to the TV to isolate it from the Ham transmissions -- it's my understandnig that this filter can be provided by the TV manufacturer upon request.

    Since it is not really part of the design, and the manual for the TV clearly states that this device must accept interference (as part of the Part 15 Class B conformance statement), probably not. I think you can find commercial filters to use in this case, but the TV owner is stuck paying for them. And good operating practice says that the ham is not going to touch the TV to try to fix it, otherwise he becomes liable for any perceived failures of that TV. "Hey, the day after you installed your filter to stop your interference, the TV stopped working altogether, and I'm suing you, you basterd."

    And, sadly, most of the interference issues would not be solved by installing a filter on the antenna, since a lot of the interference issues comes from modern, cheap ass plastic housings on the low price consumer equipment. You can't stop an interfering signal that is leaking into the electronics through the side of the TV by installing a filter on the antenna lead. You need to install shielding on the TV itself.

  • Re:This is news? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Saturday February 09, 2013 @03:01AM (#42841635)

    Sol is one God almighty powerful AM radio station, forces even KGO in San Fran off the air nights in most other markets.

    The terms you are looking for are "propagation" and "ionosphere."

    In fact, KGO reaches much further at night than in the daytime, not because the Sun is such a good AM radio source, but because of the ultraviolet radiation that comes from it NOT being there at night. This allows the D layer to dissipate, and the D layer is what absorbs the AM radio signal during the day. Without the D layer, and with a weaker E layer, the AM signal can refract off the F (combined F1 and F2) layer and bounce long distances.

    And that improved propagation at night is why KGO has (or probably has, I'm not going to research it) lower power limits at night. They were, however, a clear channel station (three letter callsign tells you that) and thus had a protected frequency in the US. Now that clear channels have been done away with, there are smaller competitors, but still only one KGO.

    Why don't you hear the Sun during the daytime on your AM radio? You do, a bit. The same ultraviolet radiation that creates the D layer also causes the AM signal from the Sun to be absorbed before it reaches you. The satellite services certainly do "hear the Sun" whenever the Sun is positioned behind the specific satellite that a dish is pointed at, and that is the cause of the solar outages that happen every year.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 09, 2013 @04:38AM (#42841919)

    I'm a radio astronomer who frequently uses the Parkes radio telescope in Australia, and I really wish we had an exclusion zone around it like the one around Green Bank. It's not really something you can put in place retrospectively, though: you need to write the exclusion zone into law when you build the telescope, and fight to keep it from then on. At least we've been smart enough to put an exclusion zone in place around the new ASKAP telescope in Western Australia.

    I've got to say, though, that

    90% of what we know about the radio universe around us, came from Green Back, and to a certain extent, Aricebo.

    is a bit of an exaggeration. Even just in the US, you've got the VLA, which is arguably a more important radio instrument than Green Bank; and then you've got Effelsberg, Lovell, LOFAR and the WSRT in Europe, the GMRT in India, Parkes and the ATCA in Australia ... None of them are quite as good as Green Bank at what it does - broad frequency coverage and excellent point-source sensitivity - but each of them has something that it can do better than any other instrument in the world. Parkes, for example, is good at high-time-resolution surveys - it's found more radio pulsars than every other telescope put together.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982