Notes on home brewing your own NOAA weather satellite receiving station.
During November 2002, I was contacted by an Australian school teacher who
was interested in building a weather satellite receiving station for his
school. The following is my reply. Sometime I'll work these notes
up into a more detailed account, including photos, but in the mean time should
you be considering growing-your-own satellite receiver station for educational
purposes, and require further information, please contact me.
Text of my email, November 2002
Further to your inquiry regarding a weather satellite receiving station for
your high school, I have recently put together such a system for myself (at
home), and have some suggestions. The quality of the imagery I an now receiving
is stunning, and the cleverness of the image processing, and overall simplicity
with running the station, is largely due to a superb piece of software called
'wxtoimg'. My recent tests have been so successful that I will shortly be
setting up an automatic receiving station at the UNSW's Automated Patrol
Telescope here at Siding Spring Observatory, to give astronomers a better
indication of incoming cloud. Initially I started receiving satellite pictures
with an old VHF receiver that I happened to have, but this week I took delivery
of another receiver much better adapted to weather satellite transmissions.
The results are superb. So... if you seriously wish to put together a system
for your school, my suggestions are:
* Download the satellite tracking/observing program called 'SatScape' from
www.satscape.co.uk, and become familiar with the motion of the NOAA series
of low-earth-orbit weather satellites. SatScape is also handy when running
wxtoimg, as it gives an excellent graphical indication of the terrain being
* Download the wxtoimg program from www.weather.net.nz/wxtoimg. Once you
have determined that this program does what you wish, I strongly suggest
you pay the US$49.95 'Standard Edition' licence fee. This makes the program
somewhat more versatile.
* Buy a receiver, Icom model IC-PCR1000. Details of this receiver are linked
on the wxtoimg site. It can be purchased for around $890 from:
Amateur Transceiver Radio Centre
141 Gilba Road Girraween Sydney, NSW 2145
tel: (02) 9896-2545
Talk with Les Bercich. I've bought several things for this outfit before,
and the prices are reasonable, and sales service very good.
* You may need to make a simple cable to connect the receiver's speaker jack,
to your computer's line-in jack.
* Use a computer running Linux, MacOS X or Windows 95/98/ME/XP/2000/NT. It
doesn't need to be a particularly flash machine, but the image processing
could take a very long time on a 'dunga heap' especially one low on memory.
Also a hard disk with at least a few Gb capacity would be useful, as automatic
operation (where one wishes to retain data/images), quickly generates a lot
* Build yourself a Lindenblad [fencing-wire] antenna (for Right Hand Circularly
Polarised VHF reception). I'll shortly write some notes for this. In the
mean time, and while you are getting the rest of the system together, you
can use the little antenna which comes with the ICOM receiver. You can see
what a Lindenblad antenna looks like at: http://www.amsat.org/amsat/articles/w6shp/lindy.html
* Buy a television masthead preamplifier. The Kingroy brand unit sold by
...for $90, can be recommended. If you're shopping at Dick Smith, buying
an in-line lightning arrestor...
... is probably a wise move. And that should have you on the air. This
should make a slick little educational system, as well as providing oneself
with a genuinely useful forecaster of incoming weather... or at least incoming
cloud. Let me know how you get on.
Siding Spring Observatory