Kent State students refurbish telescope donated by MIT

At the end of last semester, a group of Kent State physics students drove to Boston for what was not your average college road trip. The students were off to pick up a special donation: a radio telescope.

The summer before, senior physics major Aaron Slodov had taken an internship with the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence Institute. His job was to make lists of habitable star systems to be used for a new radio telescope that SETI had built with the University of California, Berkeley.

Slodov thought it would be a good idea for a senior research project to build a radio telescope for Kent State.

“I just figured we could build one from scratch,” Slodov said.

Slodov discussed the project with Bryon Anderson, chair of the physics department and a professor. Anderson thought it was a good idea and said the physics department would help the students with the financial part of the project.

“So it was really nice that they were actually, like, interested in helping us do this project,” Slodov said.

Through various people that Slodov had contacted, he found out the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had worked on a similar project. He contacted MIT and talked to a woman about his idea.

“She told me that she’d be willing to save me the hassle of having to build my own and just give me one that they had built already and then donated to Wellesley,” Slodov said.

Slodov said the new telescope will be going into the Kent State observatory, which is not in use. The physics students meet there periodically to dig the foundation for the platform where the satellite will go.

Brett Ellman, associate professor of physics, is also helping with the project.

“I’m basically overseeing the technical things,” Ellman said. “I’m helping with electrical hookup and the wires underground to the observatory.”

Ellman said the students had to wait for the ground to defrost before digging, but they hope to complete the project by the end of the semester.

Anderson said the radio telescope works somewhat like radar. It can zoom in on and get a radio image of a specific object.

The telescope will be used to measure the hydrogen arms of the Milky Way, Slodov said. The project is part of the physics major requirement of individual investigation.

“Nothing is more satisfying to a physics student than exploring the sky,” Ellman said. “They should be proud that they did this on their own.”

Contact sciences and technology reporter Kathie Zipp at [email protected] and news correspondent Allison Smith at [email protected].