First Light for W. M. Keck Bistatic Radar Observatory


The Telescope Array Radar (TARA) project is happy to announce that construction of the W.M. Keck Bistatic Radar Observatory has been completed. Data taking will commence with a “first-light” ceremony on Saturday May 25th, according to University of Utah physicist and TARA project director John Belz.


The Observatory was created with the goal of developing a new technique for the study of the highest energy cosmic rays. A 40 kilowatt transmitter will broadcast a 54.1 MHz (corresponding to old analog channel 2) sounding wave over the Telescope Array (TA) surface detector in Millard County Utah. A high-gain transmitting antenna array will boost the effective radiated power to approximately 8 Megawatts. An array of receiver antennas 25 miles distant will search for evidence of radar scattering in coincidence with cosmic ray activity observed in the TA surface detector.

innovations in cosmic ray research at the University of Utah. The fluorescence technique, now employed in detectors around the world, was developed in the series of “Fly’s Eye” detectors built at Dugway Proving Ground starting in the 1980’s. The discoveries enabled by the fluorescence technique culminated in the first observation of the end of the cosmic ray energy spectrum by the High Resolution Fly’s Eye in 2008. Currently, University of Utah researchers are probing cosmic ray composition and arrival directions using the TA and TA Lowenergy Extension (TALE) observatories in Millard County, Utah. In addition, the upcoming NICHE project (led by Utah physicist Douglas Bergman) will give TA seamless coverage over more than four orders of magnitude in cosmic ray energy.

John Belz Research Assoc. Professor

“With TARA we are hoping to demonstrate a new remote detection technique which will allow cosmic ray research to proceed to the next order-of-magnitude in sensitivity,” said Belz.

Other TARA researchers from Utah include: Behrouz Farhang- Boroujeny, professor and associate chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Pierre Sokolsky, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Dean of the College of Science; and Gordon Thomson, the Jack W. Keuffel chair in experimental astrophysics at the Department of Physics and Astronomy. TARA project researchers from other institutions include David Besson, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Kansas; and Helio Takai, physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

The W.M. Keck Bistatic Radar Observatory is supported by funds from the U.S. National Science Foundation, the W.M. Keck Foundation, and by donated analog television equipment from Salt Lake City’s KUTV Channel 2 and ABC4.


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