BYU researchers build antenna for deep space exploration

Local News

PROVO, Utah (News4Utah) – Two Brigham Young University professors are on the cutting edge of developing new technology that could drastically change deep space exploration in the future. 

Dr. Brian Jeffs and Dr. Karl Warnick both teach at BYU’s Computer and Electrical Engineering departments. For the last ten years or so, they have been helping develop new technology for the Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico, one of the largest radio telescopes in the world. Radio telescopes can observe objects and phenomena in deep space that cannot be observed with light telescopes. 

The Arecibo Telescope has been featured in blockbusters like Goldeneye and Contact.

“It’s famous,” said Dr. Jeffs with a smile. But he’s about to give it another starring role. 

The pair, along with researchers from Brigham Young University and Cornell University, have developed a prototype for what is essentially a souped up antenna or a reciever, able to convert radio signals from deep space into images. Currently, it can take years to process a picture of deep space. 

The phased array receiver will allow for more pixels and higher resolution photographs of deep space, processed much quicker.

The telescope already takes photos of deep space, but this new tool will help it do so faster, surveying larger areas at a time. 

“We can look at a wider field of view,” said Dr. Jeffs. “We can observe bigger chunks of sky at a time.”

The technology could have vast implications for the future of deep space exploration, Jeffs said. The phased array feed will help in the search for extra-terrestrial life and tracking pulsars, the remnants of dying stars. 

Jeffs, Warnick and researchers at BYU received a $5.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop the technology. They hope to have it completed by 2022. 

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