Nigerian Project Develops DIY, Low Cost Radio Telescope for Teaching

This project developed an educational Do-IT-Yourself (DIY) low cost and portable hydrogen line radio telescope system for teaching radio astronomy techniques at university level in Nigeria. This telescope is capable of detecting and mapping the 21cm hydrogen line emission from the Milky Way Galaxy. The first phase of the project involved the preparation of a cook book detailing (a) the building from scratch a 21cm pyramidal horn antenna using materials and tools sourced from local hardware store (b) the assembly of the front-end electronics and (c) the use of open source python-based softwares for radio data acquisition and analysis. The second phase involved conducting a 3-day workshop held at the Centre for Basic Space Sciences from 1st -3rd Dec 2023 where lecturers from the various universities were invited and taken through a full suite of hands-on training sessions on the telescope’s assembly line, observation planning and execution, and data reduction as will be described in the cook book. A DIY radio telescope was handed over to each of the universities.

The project undoubtedly addressed one of the major obstacles in teaching astronomy in Nigeria, the low availability and high cost of teaching tools especially in radio astronomy, using its high quality and open source software development tools, low cost and effective antenna. Through its hands-on-sessions and lesson activities during the use of the radio telescope, the involved science students’ programming and mathematical skills were developed, also the students got familiarised with experimental and observational models in science that forms the basis of scientific investigation.

The hands-on training workshop was held at CBSS, Nsukka from 1st – 3rd December. The participants were 10 lecturers from Nigerian Universities. Topics treated in the workshop includes
(1) Introduction to Python Programming Language and Radio Astronomy
Instrumentation – Day 1
(2) Digital Signal Processing with GNU radio – Day 2
(3) Assembly of 21cm Horn Antenna by participants – Day 3
(4) 21cm line Observation and data analysis with python scripts – Day 3

Project deliverables:
– cook book/manuals of the assembly and use of the educational radio telescope
– lesson plans and activities with the radio telescope
– python source codes for radio data acquisition and reduction with the radio telescope