Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Pawnee connection - Part 1

Dave and I started the move to the Pawnee radar site today, and remembering how the place looked the last time I was there, I took my camera along.

Pawnee EntranceThe CSU Pawnee radar is CSU's "other" radar. The flagship (CHILL) is much more capable, and that's where I usually work. The move involves getting some of the new stuff I've been working on, like transmitter waveform shaping, to Pawnee.

Pawnee's up about 40 miles north of Fort Collins, smack in the middle of northeastern Colorado, i.e., nowhere! The first thing that hits you after you step out of your car is the silence. It's like nothing we city folk are used to, all you hear is the hinging in your ears. Then you dare to look around, and there is literally nothing around for miles. Here's a brief idea:

A few miles up to the north is Wyoming. Anyone who's watched Brokeback Mountain will need no further introduction.

To the west is... well, a farmhouse! You can just make out the Rockies behind the clouds. I like the sunlight filtering through the clouds, what Rush referred to as Jacob's Ladder

East of the site is the biggest dose of nothingness, and if you look close, you can even see Tito and Dorothy... but don't worry, click your heels thrice and you'll be back at Pawnee in time for supper.

This is what a part of the inside looks like. The signal processor rack (on the left) is currently being filled in, this is the "before" picture :D I took the picture from where the radar displays are usually located. Behind the processor rack you can make out the archaic MicroVAX that serves as the antenna positioner. Behind the wooden door is the transmitter room, with the same FPS-18 klystron transmitter CHILL has, but running at around 400kW. The processor rack contains (from the top), the calibration signal source, antenna position indicator, antenna positioner, yawning open space :) and a UPS.

Interesting trivia: the site's apparently in the path of a moth migration route, and every year, they come in by the millions, shed their wings, scales, dead relatives... ugh, it's quite a mess! Most trips to the site involve at least one "debugging" session with either a broom or a vacuum. Grace Hopper, you got nothin' on me! Let's hope I don't unleash something as horrific as COBOL on the world!

This is a view of Pawnee's antenna from inside the radome. Unlike the spacious, inflated CHILL variety, Pawnee lives inside a cramped, fixed dome. This makes repairs difficult and taking pictures damn near impossible! The dish is about 7 m across, with a vertically polarized feedhorn at the prime focus. The dome unfortunately leaks quite a bit, and the rainwater leaves quite a mess inside. Luckily, we've been in quite a dry spell this year, so it's not so bad. In it's former life, this antenna used to operate without a radome, which is why it has a mesh structure, unlike CHILL's solid dish. It is, however, generally quite disconcerting to see a big 7-meter dish pointing in your general direction, so we've got a dome. Here's a funny story about the dome: the dome base (see the first photo) is made of wood, and one day during a routine check, Bob (the CHILL tech) found an arrow stuck in it :)

Here's the best part about the site: the road home :)

This one's for, uh, her. The flowers are everywhere! The madness, the torture... ack!


ToOothlEss WOndeR! said...

came by..
after a long time , that is..

Grafxgurl said...

ah my gad! i 'd DIE in a place like that!!!.... bring on the plague of bugs already!~!!!

Jim said...

Thanks for stopping by!

I'm glad I don't have to be around when that plague comes around. Well, if Egypt survived it... :D