Recipient: Mr. Pietro Zucca, College Green, Dublin 2, (Sardinia, Italy)
Nominated by: Prof. Peter T. Gallagher, School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin
Mr. Pietro Zucca is a PhD student in Trinity College Dublin (TCD) supervised by Prof. Peter T. Gallagher of the School of Physics and Prof. Linda Doyle of the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering. The aim of his PhD is to understand the effect of the Sun on telecommunications systems in Ireland and further afield. In order to do this, he has been responsible for setting up and testing a remotely controllable radio spectrometer to observe the Sun at radio frequencies in the range 10-400 MHz.
The radio spectrometer was set up at TCD’s Rosse Solar-Terrestrial Observatory (RSTO), which was established at Birr Castle, Co. Offaly, Ireland in September 2010. Mr. Zucca has led the installation of the three Compound Astronomical Low-Cost Low Frequency (Callisto) spectrometers and the associated antennas and control systems. The receivers are fed simultaneously by a bicone and a log-periodic antenna. Nominally, frequency spectra in the range 10-400 MHz are obtained with 4 sweeps per second over 600 channels. The system has now been fully tested and allows scientists in Dublin to remotely control the operations of the antennas at the RSTO. Once data is obtained at the site, it is automatically made available to the international science community via the
Mr. Zucca’s primary contribution was to design the antenna mounts and the motorized antenna motor. The motor, thanks to specifically designed tracking software, is able to point the radio antennas to the Sun, tracking its motion during the day. Then, the radio spectrograph records the solar emission and automatically delivers the data to the website. Mr. Zucca had an important role in the development of the observatory hardware, the observatory website, and has recently submitted a paper to Solar Physics gives a complete description of the instrumentation at Birr.
In just over a year since starting his PhD project, Mr. Zucca has made an important contribution to the development and testing of the radio spectrometers at RSTO. Indeed, his expertise in instrumentation, control, and remote operations has been essential to the success of the project.