The Personal Space Weather Station Taps Into Ham Radio Fans for a Globe-Spanning Sensor Network

Available in low-cost simple-receiver and high-flexibility SDR forms, the PSWS units aim to provide detailed insight into space weather.

Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI) is looking to create a planet-spanning sensor network designed to investigate, and potentially predict, the weather out in space — tapping into the millions of amateur radio operators across the world to run low-cost sensor packages.

"The Personal Space Weather Station project ultimately aims to create a small, multi-instrument system that can make ground-based measurements of the space environment," HamSCI writes of the project. "The observations from this project will not only be useful to the owner of the system, but also aggregated into a central database for space science and space weather research purposes. Initial work focuses on the development of a scientific-grade high frequency (HF) radio receiver, as well as the necessary software and network infrastructure."

The PSWS project aims to create a globe-spanning network of space weather stations run by hams. (📹: Frissell et al)

"To fully understand variability on small spatial scales and short timescales, the scientific community will require vastly larger and denser sensing networks that collect data on continental and global scales," explain researchers Kristina Collins, David Kazdan, and Nathaniel A. Frissell in a piece for the AGU's Eos magazine which brought the effort to our attention. "With open source instrumentation cheaper and more plentiful than ever before, the time is ripe for amateur scientists to take distributed measurements of the ionosphere — and the amateur radio community is up for the challenge."

The present Personal Space Weather Station can take two forms: The low-cost variant is based on a standard radio receiver with GPS-disciplined oscillator connected to a single-board computer like the Raspberry Pi family with a magnetometer sensor added; a more flexible but higher-cost variant switches to a software-defined radio, allowing for direct sampling and capture of wide-band or multi-slice spectrum IQ data.

More information on the Personal Space Weather Station project can be found on the HamSCI website, while the HamSCI Workshop 2021 virtual event will discuss the latest work this March.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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