Sunday, 20 September 2009

A trip to Effelsberg

Last week Michael took Paulo and me to see the telescope in Effelsberg. I'd been to Effelsberg before during a conference in Bonn over six years ago but this visit was more interesting because I knew I would be using this telescope a lot over the coming years. Unfortunately, unlike the day six years ago, it was cloudy and rainy.

The Effelsbserg telescope on a sunny day The Effelsberge telescope on a rainy day

We were introduced to the local staff and shown around the main building before going on a tour of the telescopes. I say telescopes because a new LOFAR station has been built next to the 100m. While LOFAR will be an amazing instrument and this station alone has the same collecting area as Parkes, it's not exactly spectacular to look at. It is basically a lot of wire in a field with a big box-o'-electronics next to it. Still, it's going to be fun to use.

The LOFAR station at Effelsberg The primary focus cabin

Then we turned our attention to the 100m itself. It's a beautifully designed telescope which changes its shape in an entirely predictable way as it moves. This means that unlike the GBT it can maintain an accurate high-frequency surface without needing actuators. We took a lift up to the top of the towers. To get to the focus cabin the telescope was pointed nearly horizontally allowing us to walk along one of the support arms. This has the added advantage of not having to climb all the way. From the arm you get a good view of the primary and secondary focus cabins.

The secondary focus cabin The primary focus cabin and secondary reflector

Once inside the primary focus cabin the telescope was slewed so that it was pointing directly up. It was interesting how our perception of the space in the focus cabin changed as the floor slowly became the wall and visa-versa. Once we'd reached the zenith we climbed up to the roof to admire the slightly damp view of the valley.

The view from the top The cable wrap
The view down a cabin support arm The control room

Back on the ground we inspected the cable wrap before heading to the control room. In the rack of backends I saw a familiar sight, a PDFB from the ATNF. It still needs a bit of work before we can use it regularly. There was also the new multibeam backend which vital for the new survey.

The PDFB The multibeam backend

After a quick meeting we drove back to Bonn, stopping for a late lunch and a beer in a nearby village. I'm looking forward to going back to observe!

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