Atmosphere And Weather

How to Make a Homemade Weather Satellite Receiving Station



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Making your own fully functional weather satellite receiving station is as easy as creating an extensive high school science project. Its hardware and software requirements are relatively easy to acquire and the cost for the set-up is quite reasonable for an average person with keen interest in satellite weather reports to spend on.

1

List down the hardware requirements for your weather satellite receiving station. If you are completely new to it, it is highly recommendable to buy a Radio Amateur's Satellite Handbook published by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) to get a basic idea of how things work and which hardware and software components best suit your needs.

2

Set up a radio receiver for the satellite receiving station. You can actually use a regular broadcast FM receiver as long as it can be tuned to up to 137MHz. However, for better reception and functionality, it is better to buy a wide bandwidth FM radio that can be controlled by a computer so that you can assemble a fully automatic station that periodically switches between frequencies utilized by different National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites.

Lower frequencies than 137MHz FM already results in a receiving bandwidth that is too narrow to receive a full signal. Such cases already indicate poor sound quality and absence of high-pitched tones, which result in the computer's picture conversion already showing visual problems.

3

Set up an antenna that can receive NOAA signals at 137MHz. Also, take note that NOAA satellites transmit signals around 5 watts of radio power. As receiving directly from a NOAA satellite provides relatively weak signals that can easily suffer from interference from local radio noise generated by computers, TVs, VCRs, and broadcast TV transmitters, it is important to put up the antenna farthest away from any such interference. A long coax feeder and a TV-grade masthead VHF preamplifier may be required especially in cases where the interference is really unavoidable. Good quality coax cables, TV masthead preamplifiers, and coax connectors are mass-produced and typically available in electronic stores and super centers.

4

Set up a computer (WIndows, Mac, or Linux) with minimum technical requirements: Pentium I processor, sound card, 64MB RAM, and 2GB of free disk space. You can actually use any new computers available in the market. However, your choice must keep up with the other essential need of the set-up: the computer needs to run full-time so as to acquire all required data from the NOAA satellite passes. Ideally, this means that the computer would always require a non-stop operation day in, day out.

5

Choose a weather satellite program that can get raw NOAA Automatic Picture Transmission (APT) "tick-tock" sounds for conversion of the sound data into images. One popular example of this software is WXtoImg. This program also features automatic publishing of fresh data and imagery from your system to the web.

6

Put a cable between your receiver and the computer's sound card through the "line-in" port of the computer. Ideally, the receiver and computer both utilize 3.5mm jacks for the connection. For low-end sound cards, you may also need an attenuating cable so that the "line-in" port to the sound card doesn't get overloaded. This cable is typically available in electronic and computer stores.

7

Connect a GPS receiver to your computer's serial or USB port, then synchronize the computer's clock with it. A GPS receiver can show your geographic position. It can also generate accurate time that is crucial in downloading NOAA satellite imagery. To get the satellite's exactly defined satellite orbit and location, the computer program must precisely calculate what strip of the earth is being observed by a NOAA satellite at any given time. A discrepancy of a few seconds can already result in misplacing the overdrawn map by about 70 to 100 kilometers.

8

Make sure that the entire system is properly interconnected, then open the computer program to start the operation of your newly assembled weather satellite receiving station. 

Tips

If it's your intention to already publish the weather information you receive online, you may want to readily configure your computer's Internet set-up and your target website to broadcast what your weather satellite receiving station receives.

"Physics - Home-brewing Your Own NOAA Weather Satellite Receiving Station," The University of New South Wales.

"Weather Satellite Systems 101," Automated Sciences.

"Frequently Asked Questions About NOAA Satellites and NOAA Satellite Pictures and Data," NOAA Satellite and Information Service.

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