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Basic Answers

We study both Jupiter and solar radio emissions to better understand their magnetic fields and their plasma [charged particle] environment. Studying other planets always helps us better understand the Earth, and this is true when we study Jupiter's radio emission. Earth also emits radio waves by similar processes, so we can better understand this process by listening to Jupiter from both ground-based and space-based radio antennas.

Not only can we learn about why the radio waves are created and how they move through space, we can also learn about the interior of Jupiter and about Jupiter's moons. Radio waves are generated because the planet has a magnetic field. This magnetic field originates deep in the interior of the planet, and the overall strength of the magnetic field directly affects the type of radio emission emitted by the planet. This helps us with the theory of how the magnetic field is created in the interior, and in determining the composition of the various interior layers.

Jupiter's moons are close enough to Jupiter that they interact electrically and magnetically with Jupiter's magnetic field. The moon Io directly influences the radio emission, so we can learn about Io as well. Recently it was discovered that some of the other large satellites are influencing the radio emission, so we are now learning more about their composition and magnetic properties.

By studying radio emissions from the Sun we can similarly learn about the magnetic field of the Sun. We cannot make direct inferences about Earth by studying the Sun, but we can better learn how our Sun works and thus how all other stars work. Studying radio emission also helps scientists learn about the 11-year solar cycle, because the amount and types of radio waves that are emitted change with the solar cycle.

Another crucial reason we study radio emission from the Sun is to better understand how the Sun affects the Earth. The solar wind directly impacts Earth by influencing our magnetic field and our space environment. The solar wind causes aurora and can also affect communications, our power grids, and even our astronauts out in space. We want to understand the connection between the Earth and the Sun so we can learn more about each body and more about how humans are affected by this interaction.

Jupiter produces a wide range of bursts with different sounds. The two most common types are L-bursts and S-bursts. L-bursts (long bursts) last from a few tenths of a second to a few seconds and sound like ocean waves breaking up on a beach. S-bursts (short bursts) have durations of a few thousandths to a few hundredths of a second and can occur at rates of tens of bursts per second. Groups of S-bursts sound like popcorn popping - or like a handful of pebbles thrown onto a tin roof. S-bursts are often associated with the Io-B or Io-C source. Many times the Jovian activity is a mix of L and S-bursts, making the sounds a little more difficult to identify. Jovian activity extends over at least a few hundred kiloHertz so if you suspect that you are hearing Jupiter bursts tune the radio slightly - if the signals persist then it is most likely Jupiter and not a station fading in and out.

Solar bursts typically last from half a minute to a couple of minutes and often sound like a rapid increase in the background noise followed by a gradual decrease back to the original baseline level.

You can hear recorded Jovian bursts at the University of Florida Web site , and Solar and Jovian bursts at the Windward Community College Hawaii Web site as well as on the JOVE Web site at

Please see the answer to the previous question.

Experience will make the sounds of Jupiter familiar and easier to identify. Listen carefully to the recordings of sample Jovian bursts several times. How would you describe those sounds? It may be helpful to listen to the various sounds picked up by your Radio JOVE receiver at times when you don't expect to hear Jupiter. Local machinery, electrical equipment, and atmospheric conditions produce a host of different sounding noise. The PC that you use may also make some noise that can be picked up by your receiver (the CRT monitor is a common source). Become familiar with these non-Jovian sounds, and you'll be able to distinguish Jupiter's decametric radio emissions.

We suggest that you listen carefully to the bursts as an aid to identification. Solar bursts sound like you had turned up and down the volume control - in other words the sound (character) of the noise is the same - it just gets louder during a solar burst.

Interference on the other hand has a different sound - power line arcing for instance has a raspy buzzing sound. During the daytime you may also be picking up station interference - you should of course tune the receiver to a clear frequency. Sometimes distant stations will fade in and out - making it a bit more difficult to find a good clear frequency.

Abrupt turn on and turn off of noise suggests that it is manmade - for example rotary machinery like an electric drill can generate radio noise. So can light dimmers, aquarium heaters, electric fences, electric blanket thermostats, automobile ignition systems, computers and just about a million other electrical appliances. But with a little practice you will learn to identify the pure sounding noise associated with a solar burst.

An order form for the Radio JOVE radio telescope kit can be found on our Web site by going to the Radio JOVE home page and clicking on the Order Form link. Follow the instructions on that form.

Yes! While our project is intended to make planetary radio astronomy an educational experience for students, many amateur scientists have joined Radio JOVE. Please fill in and submit an observing team application form with the information that applies to your situation. This will enable us to share information from the project and from other observers with you.

Many Radio JOVE participants share their interest in the project with scouts and individual students from their areas. Maybe there are some kids from your neigborhood, or local scout troops who would enjoy learning about Radio JOVE? Why not invite them to observe with you?

Several authors have contributed sophisticated programs suitable for use by Radio JOVE. These programs include functions such as chart recorder-type intensity plots, data logging, observing aids, audio spectrum displays, and even multi-observer data sharing.

You can find these programs by going to the Radio JOVE home page and clicking on the Data Analysis Lab link. From there, select the Useful Software link. Or enter in the location box of your web browser.

Please remember that you are bound by the license agreements for the software that you install and use.

Yes, and we are developing more materials for both background and classroom use. Please read "Radio JOVE at a Glance" ( and "How can My School Join In?" (

Next, go to our Web site and click on the link to "Education". Additional background reading can be found by going to Radio JOVE's Library page and clicking on the Reference Shelf and Publications links.

Your first course of action should be to re-read the construction manual carefully - especially the section on troubleshooting. The Radio JOVE project maintains an e-mail distribution list. This is useful for asking questions about any problems you encounter. If you've provided a contact e-mail address on your team application, you should have been added to our e-mail list.

Additional information can be found on our Radio Telescope page under "Testing Receiver & Antenna".

If you require hands-on assistance, you might find an electronics hobbyist or an amateur radio operator in your area who is experienced at building and trouble-shooting electronic circuits. See our Web page "Teaming with Radio Amateurs" for information on seeking help from ham radio operators or amateur radio astronomers.

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Science Answers

When you tune in a broadcast or shortwave station on your radio you find that the signal occupies only a small region of the radio dial. I could tell you to tune in WWV on 20 MHz, for example, and you would find the signal right there at 20 MHz. Just above and below 20 MHz, the signal from WWV would be absent. This is because radio stations are narrow band transmitters. Any one station occupies only a small chunk of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Most non-artificial transmitters of radio waves, like the Sun and Jupiter, send out emissions over broad segments of the electromagnetic spectrum. In fact, they tend to emit at least some energy at every frequency in the entire spectrum, though not evenly. The Sun and Jupiter have complex emission mechanisms that produce signals which may be quite strong over a range of frequencies, usually many MegaHertz wide. These broad emissions can drift, (usually downward), in frequency in a matter of seconds, so they can be moving targets. The answer to the question is that there is no one frequency where you tune in to find Jupiter or the Sun. You can tune your receiver around a bit to avoid interference but as far as the signals from Jupiter or the Sun are concerned, it will make no difference if you list at 20.10 or 20.150 MHz, for example. If you hear one of these sources at one of these frequencies, you will hear at the other.

Having said all this, you should understand that there are some ranges of frequencies that are better for listening for these signals. Below about 18 MHz, it is very hard to pick up signals originating from space because the Earth's ionosphere absorbs and reflects the signals at these lower frequencies. Above about 40 MHz, Jupiter does not produce noise storm signals. Solar bursts are best heard from about 200 MHz and downward to the 18 MHz band. Not all solar bursts cover this entire range and sometimes a burst will be heard at 50 MHz, for example, but not be heard at all 20 MHz.

Jupiter emits radio waves that can be detected here on Earth, but it is not continuous emission. These bursty radio emissions depend directly on the space environment around Jupiter. Fortunately some of these radio emissions are predictable because they depend on the position of the moon Io in its orbit around Jupiter. Knowing the correct longitude of Jupiter and the position of Io, we can make prediction tables that help you know when to observe Jupiter. These predictions are not perfect, but they give you the best opportunity to detect the radio storms.

To check the prediction tables you can go to three sources:
1. The University of Florida's Radio Observatory Prediction Tables
go to:
2. Astronomer Jim Sky from Radio JOVE has prediction reports:
go to:
3. Get the listing from our Radio JOVE bulletin

Now you have made an observation. What can you do with your data? First if you have made a tape recording of it, you can make a digital computer file by playing your tape recording into your computer via your sound card. This allows you to plot the data on an intensity versus time graph using the available software with your kit (Radio Jupiter Pro, or Skypipe). You can then do many things:

1. Compare your observations with others by looking at data archives on various websites:
2. Submit your data for our Radio JOVE archive
3. If your data is a solar burst, check the NOAA website to see if they observed the same radio burst:
4. Use the Radio JOVE Classroom page to look at Lesson Plans on how you can make interesting calculations with your data.

[ For additional information on this topic, please see our Projects and Experiments page. ]

If you are observing Jupiter, there are a number of questions about how consistent the patterns of emission are for a particular source. Of course, one obvious experiment is to see how well the predictions of storm probability match the actual occurrence of storms. The storms are not usually continuous, however. When listening to Jupiter on a particular night you will find that the Jupiter storms often occur in a periodic fashion, maybe on the order of every 5-15 minutes. The patterns of this emission will depend on the "storm track" through the high probability area of the radio sources as depicted by the CML-Io Phase plot in the Radio Jupiter Pro software. These periodicities give us information about how the storms are generated and "beamed" to us and we would like to know if they are consistent or vary with time. Thus, it helps to have multiple observations of a particular source with the same "storm track". We encourage observers to make these observations and submit their data to our archive and then compare to other observations of the same storm or other past observations of a similar storm track.

If others are including calibration signals in their data, you can use lesson 7 in the lesson plans on the CD or website to compute the power of the Jupiter storm. (Hawaii and the University of Florida regularly include calibration signals in the transmissions they send out.) In doing these comparisons you may note some consistencies such as the tendency of the Io-A source to start with an intense emission whereas the Io-B source often ends with an intense emission. There are other archives you can compare with, such as the one for the decameter array observations in Nancay, France. This array observes at multiple frequencies using a spectroscope so it gives even more information about what is happening than the single frequency Radio JOVE observations.

You might also consider comparing widely-scattered observations of the same storm to see how they differ from one observer to another. Solar storms often compare very well over a wide range of observers since they are so strong, whereas Jupiter observations may differ quite a bit for simultaneous observations since they are weaker and more greatly affected by the Earth's intervening ionosphere acting like a variable cloud layer between the observer and the source. Thus, the variations give us information about the Earth's ionosphere and how it varies from one place to another or from one time to another.

If you are observing the Sun, it is a much stronger source, but generally unpredictable. We believe for both Jupiter and the Sun that the emissions are generated by charged particles moving in magnetic fields. Jupiter has a very regular and fixed magnetic field whereas the Sun's is very dynamic and changeable. We can use the radio observations to learn about the nature of the radio emission sources that cause solar storms. For example, do you notice that solar storms generally rise to a peak of emission faster than they drop off afterward? What does that tell you about the source? What are the durations of the storms? What is the minimum and the maximum that might be expected? Jim Brown, director of the Stanback Planetarium at South Carolina State University recorded multiple years' worth of solar observations and has some interesting statistics in this regard.

If you want to get into some of the more technical aspects of solar radio storms look up information on Type II and Type III solar storms, what they mean, how they might be seen by Radio JOVE, and what might be going on at the Sun when they happen. How can your data contribute to the knowledge of these storms?

You could also just study the nature of radio transmission in general. How much interference do you get and how might that be related to current weather, season of the year, time of day, etc? When and when don't you get WWV signals? What might that be related to? What kinds of interference do you hear and are distant stations hearing the same interference? What might be the cause of such interference?

The constant background "hiss" is related to what we call the "galactic background", that is, the constant emission by charged particles moving in the galactic magnetic field. If you have a way of recording this over many hours in a very consistent way it is possible to note a gradual rise and fall in this background level related to whether the center of our galaxy is close to or far away from the center of the radio beam.

So, in summary there are a number of project that can be done with the data limited only by your imagination and willingness to dig a little into previous research that has been done and expanding upon it. Look at the references in the JOVE library area if you want possible sources of other ideas. Remember that even failure to have the data behave the way you would like or expect is telling you something that you should track and try to explain so that others might benefit from your experience. If you find that you are often frustrated in the science you are trying to do then you know you are doing real science. Happy observing!

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Technical Answers

Yes -- however, you must be able to turn off the automatic gain control circuit (AGC). Many ham radio transceivers have an AGC mode switch (slow, medium and fast), as well as AGC off. In the AGC off position the receiver gain may be manually adjusted with the RF gain control. High gain settings may limit the dynamic range of the receiver causing it to clip the tops off strong bursts. The proper gain setting may take some experimentation.

If your transceiver operates only in the ham bands then try either the 15 or 17 meter band for Jupiter. Solar bursts may be stronger in the 10 meter band where ionospheric attenuation is less. Of course you must use an antenna cut for the frequency of operation. A ham antenna such as a Yagi, or a quad can be used when Jupiter or the Sun is relatively close to the horizon.

A general coverage shortwave receiver could operate with the JOVE antenna at 20.1 MHz. One of the few new general coverage shortwave receivers with an AGC off switch is the ICOM R-75. You can feed the receiver audio to your computer sound card and use Radio-SkyPipe signal strength plotting software to record radio noise bursts.

No, your satellite dish was designed for microwave reception. Although Jupiter emits weak signals in the microwave spectrum they are not strong enough to be detected with a small dish. The radio Jove project monitors Jupiter and the Sun at 20.1 MHz. At this frequency Jovian signals are quite strong (and the Sun is even stronger). Most observers use the Jove dual dipole array. Some use Yagi antennas. A single dipole antenna is sufficient to pick up strong solar bursts.

An article published several years ago proclaimed that a small loop antenna (about 5 ft diameter) known as the DDRR was suitable for listening to Jupiter. Most seasoned observers doubt the claims made for this antenna. As far as we know there has never been a good scientific comparison made between the small loop antenna and full size antennas like the Jove dual dipole array. To be useful, such a comparison would require side-by-side operation with identical equipment using a common calibration source. While, this might make a nice project for an advanced amateur scientist, it is not suggested as your first project. We suggest you use the field proven JOVE dual dipole antenna. Antenna experimentation is an exciting and fun activity and if you are technologically savvy, feel free to give it a try. However, for the beginning Jupiter observer, you will probably find that there is challenge enough without adding another "unknown" factor into your experiments.

The first thing to do is test the receiver and antenna hooked up together. Make sure that you have a good radio quiet listening site. Learn how to connect your receiver to a computer sound card and display signals using Radio-SkyPipe software.

Jupiter observations are carried out at night, usually at specific times when radio noise storms are predicted. This web site posts information on predicted storms. You can also use Radio Jupiter Pro 3 software to determine when to listen.

Jupiter and the Sun are being monitored by professional radio observatories in Florida (UFRO) and Hawaii (WCCRO). These observatories stream Radio-SkyPipe data and radio spectrograph displays as well as live audio over the Internet. You can compare what you are receiving with your Jove equipment with on-line signals from these professional observatories and other observers.

Extensive information on observing Jupiter's emissions can be found in Richard Flagg's book "Listening to Jupiter" which is included on your Radio JOVE CD-R and available in hardcopy from RadioSky Publishing.

NO, it is not safe! One JOVE team member lost a receiver and computer to a nearby lightning strike. ALWAYS disconnect your antenna if there is a nearby lightning storm. The best practice is to disconnect your antenna from the receiver when it is not in use.

Radio noise bursts from the Sun can be very strong . a single dipole antenna should be adequate. The Jove antenna kit contains materials for two dipoles, so for the sun all you have to do is put up one. As for the height . the higher the antenna, the closer to the horizon it will look. If the sun is passing close to overhead at local (as it will in June and July in the northern hemisphere) then mount the antenna at about 10 feet. If you want to get the best performance in wintertime in the northern hemisphere (when the sun is closer to the southern horizon) then you could raise the dipole to 20 feet. However, you can still receive solar bursts with the dipole at 10 feet year round.

If you have no clear open space on the ground to erect the antenna then it may be worth trying it on a rooftop. The antenna pattern may be affected by metal in the roof structure and roof mounted air conditioning units may generate undesirable electrical noise. A rooftop antenna may also be more susceptible to lightning and should always be disconnected when not in use. (It is a good precaution to disconnect any antenna when not in use - particularly during lightning season.)

Yes, you can. A cable run of up to 200 feet should be acceptable. Use 75 ohm coax such as RG-59 or RG-6 (or RG-6 quad shield). RG-6 is slightly lower loss. If you are going to use a longer feedline we recommend that you completely replace the one wavelength piece supplied with the kit - rather than splicing another length of cable onto the end. Be sure to use type F connectors that match the coax you select.

A well-regulated 120 volts AC to 12 volts DC power supply such as the 12VDC Regulated 500mA supply from Jameco is recommended (part number 162996). It sells for under $10. This power supply includes the proper power connector that plugs right into the RJ Receiver (no danger of hooking it up backwards). The price may vary depending if it is ordered by phone or over the Web.

Many power modules that plug directly into the wall (known affectionately as "wall warts") are poorly regulated and can cause severe hum problems when used with the JOVE receiver.

The gain of each Jove receiver is probably a bit different depending upon how precisely it is tuned up. Usually the receiver volume control should be set between the 12 o'clock and 3 o'clock position. Low volume settings give the receiver more "dynamic range" than high settings. A large dynamic range is desirable for strong bursts. Since solar bursts can be stronger than Jupiter, use the lower gain setting for solar observations. The 12 o'clock setting may also work fine for Jupiter. Once the receiver gain is set, adjust the software (recording) volume control in Windows so the background trace on Radio-SkyPipe is at approximately 1000 on the Radio-SkyPipe vertical scale

No, your radio is not broken, but it is being overloaded by a very strong shortwave transmitter. The frequencies in the range used by the Radio JOVE receiver are very actively used by man-made transmitters. These are especially noticeable during the daytime and may temporarily overload the receiver. Other observers have had this problem, which has been traced to Radio Marti broadcasting on 21.5 MHz. One solution is to use a filter designed to reject signals outside the tuning range of the JOVE receiver. For information on such a filter send e-mail to .

You are hearing an ionosonde, which is used to probe the Earth's ionosphere. It transmits a signal that sweeps across the radio frequency spectrum. Each time it sweeps past 20.1 MHz it sounds like a chirp in the JOVE receiver. Ionosondes are operated all around the world by various government agencies and research groups.

The Radio shack #23-007 lantern battery will last on the order of 10 hours of powering the JOVE radio. The battery should be replaced if the DC voltage drops below 10.5 volts. Measure the voltage across the battery terminals with a DC voltmeter or a suitable multimeter. (Make this measurement when the receiver is turned on.)

Longer life options include the Power Station - a rechargeable 12 volt battery available at Radio Shack and other outlets. Also, with a suitable fused adapter the JOVE receiver can be powered from the cigarette lighter of a car. Note that there is no fuse inside the JOVE receiver and to exercise caution not to short out the power connection to a large battery! REMEMBER, ALWAYS OBSERVE WITH SAFETY IN MIND!

If the Jove receiver does not tune up properly it is likely due to a poor solder connection or an incorrectly installed component

Look at every solder joint, using a magnifying glass and a bright light. Each joint should be shiny and the solder must flow smoothly around both the component lead and the solder pad. Resolder any suspicious joints. Look for solder bridges, particularly between adjacent IC pins. Solder bridges are easily removed using solder wick.

Using a DC voltmeter, check for proper voltages as seen in Figure 19 of the Jove receiver manual. Incorrect voltage readings can narrow down the problem area. This schematic shows 6.1 volts at the output of IC2, which is the correct for early versions of the receiver (using R14 = 100K ohms). Recent receiver kits have shipped with R14 = 33K ohms. For this value of R14, the output voltage of IC2 should be close to 3.1 volts.

Review the location of each component, paying particular attention to the orientation of the integrated circuits, transistors, diodes, and polarized electrolytic capacitors. If you need to remove a component use either solder wick or a solder sucker. Solder wick (Radio Shack Desoldering Braid 64-2090) is the least expensive method. The more expensive solder sucker (Radio Shack Vacuum Desoldering Tool 64-2098) is a plunger-activated device that works by sucking melted solder off the board.

If you are unable to get the receiver working you may contact any of the Jove team members or the receiver designer at for additional assistance.

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