Diffraction in DSLWP-B lunar occultations

In February this year, the orientation of the orbit of DSLWP-B around the Moon was such that, when viewed from the Earth, it passed behind the Moon on every orbit. This opened up the possibility for recording the signal of DSLWP-B as it hid behind the Moon, thus blocking the line of sight path. The physical effect that can be observed in such events is that of diffraction. The power of the received signal doesn’t drop down to zero in a brick-wall fashion just after the line of sight is blocked, but rather behaves in an oscillatory fashion, forming the so called diffraction fringes.

The signal from DSLWP-B was observed and recorded at the Dwingeloo 25m radiotelescope for three days in February: 4th, 13th and 15th. During the first two days, an SSDV transmission was commanded several minutes before DSLWP-B hid behind the Moon, so as to guarantee a continuous signal at 436.4MHz to observe the variations in signal power as DSLWP-B went behind the Moon. On the 15th, the occultation was especially brief, lasting only 28 minutes. Thus, DSLWP-B was commanded to transmit continuously before hiding behind the Moon. This enabled us to also observe the end of the occultation, since DSLWP-B continued transmitting when it exited from behind the Moon. This is an analysis of the recordings made at Dwingeloo.

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Recovering an image transmitted by DSLWP-B

The image accompanying this post has a nice story to it. It was taken by the Amateur camera in DSLWP-B, the Chinese microsatellite in lunar orbit. On February 27, a download of this image was attempted by transmitting the image in SSDV format in the 70cm band and receiving it in the Dwingeloo radiotelescope, in the Netherlands.

The download was attempted twice, but due to errors in the transmission, a small piece of the image was still missing. Today, the Amateur payload of DSLWP-B was active again, and the plan was to download the missing piece, as well as other images. However, after the payload turned on and transmitted its first telemetry beacons, we discovered that the image had been overwritten.

The camera on-board DSLWP-B has a buffer that stores the last 16 images taken. Any of these images can be selected to be transmitted (completely or partially) while the Amateur payload is active. An image can be taken manually by issuing a command from ground. Besides this, every time the Amateur payload powers on, an image is taken. Of course, taking new images overwrites the older ones.

This is what happened today. The image we wanted to download was the oldest one in the buffer and got overwritten as soon as the payload turned on. This is a pity, especially because there was another activation of the payload last Friday, but a large storm in Germany prevented Reinhard Kuehn DK5LA’ from moving his antennas safely, so the satellite couldn’t be commanded to start the download.

After seeing that the image had been overwritten, Tammo Jan Dijkema suggested that I try to recover manually the missing chunk in the recording made on February 27. As you can see, I was successful. This is a report of how I proceeded.

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DSLWP-B camera planning for February 3 and 4

As you may know, I am on a scientific expedition in Antarctica until mid-February. Currently I am in the Spanish base Gabriel de Castilla, where we have relatively good satellite internet access. As I have some free time here, I have updated the DSLWP-B camera planning to reflect the upcoming observations announced by Wei Mingchuan BG2BHC on 2019-02-03 14:30 and 2019-02-04 08:20.

As we can see in the figure below, the Earth will be very near to the centre of the image, since there is a new Moon on February 4 (recall that the DSLWP-B camera points away from the Sun, so the Earth is visible on the camera when there is a new Moon, as the Earth is then opposite to the Sun, as seen from the Moon).

The observation times have been selected taking into account the orbit around the Moon, so that the Moon is also visible on the image. On February 3 the Moon should be completely visible inside the camera field of view. On the contrary, on February 4, the Moon will only be partially visible inside the frame.

The figure below shows the angular distance between the centre of the Earth and the rim of the Moon. This kind of graph can be used to compute the times when the Earth crosses the Moon rim, allowing us to take an “Earthrise” image. There is an Earthrise event on February 4, during the time when the Amateur payload is active. Generally, an image is taken whenever the Amateur payload powers up, but in this case it could be possible to command the payload manually to take an image near the Earthrise event.

The figure below shows in detail the Earthrise event, with both edges of the Earth plotted. It seems that a good time to take the Earthrise image is on 2019-02-04 10:00 UTC.

December DSLWP-B camera planning

It is again the beginning of the month, which means that the Earth will be in view of the Inory eye camera on board DSLWP-B. As usual, I have updated my camera planning notebook to compute the location of the Moon and Earth, as seen from the camera.

Wei has already scheduled observations on 2018-12-06 11:20 UTC and 2018-12-07 08:30 UTC. On each of these observations, an image will be taken at the start of the observation and the UHF transmitter will be activated for 2 hours.

I have used the 20181128 tracking file from dslwp_dev as orbital state for the calculations. As the date of the observations comes nearer, I might rerun the computations with updated ephemeris data, but this time it doesn’t seem critical to estimate the orbit with precision. In November, there were occultations of the Earth behind the lunar disc, and the times for these depended a lot on the orbital state. In December there will be no occultations, however.

The figure below shows the prediction for the camera view in the scheduled observations. On the 6th, the Earth will come close to the edge of the Moon. On the 7th, the Earth will be closest to the camera centre since we started planning and taking images in October.

Batch processing of DSLWP-B Moonbounce: part I

In previous posts I’ve talked about how the DSLWP-B 70cm signal can sometimes be received in the Dwingeloo 25m radiotelescope via a reflection off the Moon’s surface. I’ve studied the geometry of this reflection, the cross-correlation against the direct signal, and even decoded some reflected JT4G.

However, so far the reflection has been detected by hand by looking at the recording waterfalls. We don’t have any statistics about how often it happens or which conditions favour it. I want to make some scripts to process all the Dwingeloo recordings in batch and try to extract some useful conclusions from the data.

Here I show my first script, which computes the power of the direct and reflected signals (if any). The analysis of the results will be done in a future post.

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November DSLWP-B images of the Moon and Earth

In previous posts, I have already spoken about the chance of DSLWP-B taking images of the Moon and Earth during the beginning of November. The window to take these images was between November 6 and 9. This window included the possibility of taking an Earthrise image, with the Earth appearing from behind the Moon.

The planning for the activations of the Amateur payload made by Wei Mingchuan BG2BHC was as follows.

7 Nov 2018 08:13 to 7 Nov 2018 10:13
8 Nov 2018 09:40 to 8 Nov 2018 11:40
9 Nov 2018 12:00 to 9 Nov 2018 14:00
10 Nov 2018 14:00 to 10 Nov 2018 16:00
11 Nov 2018 13:30 to 11 Nov 2018 15:30

On November 7, from 8:13 to 9:33 UTC, a total of 9 images with 10 minutes of spacing between each would be taken. These images would be downloaded during the activations on the next days. As usual, an image would also be taken when the Amateur payload powered up on November 8 to 11, but the main focus was on downloading the sequence of images taken on November 7. This is a complete report of the images taken and downloaded.

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Updated DSLWP-B camera planning

In my last post, I detailed the DSLWP-B camera planning for the beginning of November. There, I used orbital state taken from the 20181027 tracking file to compute good times to take images of the Moon and the Earth, especially looking for an Earthrise-like image.

Now that the planned dates are closer, it is good to rerun the calculations with a newer orbital state. It turns out that there has been an important change in the mean anomaly, which shifts all the predictions by a few hours.

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DSLWP-B camera planning for the beginning of November

I have spoken in other occasions about planning the appropriate times to take pictures with the DSLWP-B Inory eye camera. In the beginning of October there was a window that allowed us to take images of the Moon and Earth. A lunar month after this we have new Moon again, so it is an appropriate time to take images with the camera.

This time, the Moon will pass nearer to the centre of the image than on October, and at certain times the Earth will hide behind the Moon, as seen from the camera. This opens up the possibility for taking Earthrise pictures such as the famous image taken during the Apollo 8 mission.

I have updated my camera planning Jupyter notebook to compute the appropriate moments to take images. The image below shows my usual camera field of view diagram.

The vertical axis represents the angular distance in degrees between each object and the centre of the image (Assuming the camera is pointing perfectly away from the Sun. In real life we can have a couple degrees of offset). The red lines represent the limits of the camera field of view, which are measured between the centre and the nearest edge, and between the centre and one corner. Everything between these two lines will only appear if the camera rotation is adequate. Everything below the lower line is guaranteed to appear, regardless of rotation.

We see that between November 6th and November 9th there are four times when the camera will be able to image the Earth and the Moon simultaneously. On the 6th it is almost guaranteed that the Earth will appear inside the image, and on the 9th it depends on the orientation of the camera. On the 7th and 8th it is guaranteed that the Earth will be in the image.

To compute appropriate times for taking an Earthrise picture, I have made the graph below. This shows the angular distance between the Earth and the rim of the Moon. If the distance is negative, the Earth is hidden by the Moon. We see that the Earth hides behind the lunar disc on each of the four days mentioned above.

In the figures below, we zoom in each of the events. In this level of zoom we can plot the “inner” and “outer” Earth rim, so we can see when the Earth is partially hidden by the Moon.

On November 6th the situation is the most interesting in my opinion. It turns out the the Earth will not even hide completely between the Moon. In theory, a tiny sliver will remain visible. Also, it will take more time for the Earth to hide behind the Moon and then reappear. As we will see, the next days this will happen faster. Here, it takes 15 minutes for the Earth to hide, and another 15 minutes to reappear. It spends 10 minutes almost hidden.

It can be a good idea to take a series of 10 images with an interval of 5 minutes between each image, and spanning from 12:40 UTC to 13:30 UTC, to get a good coverage for this event.

On November 7th the Earth goes deeper into the lunar disc, taking 5 minutes to hide, spending 70 minutes hidden, and taking 10 minutes to reappear.

On November 8th the Earth goes even deeper into the lunar disc. It takes around 7 minutes to hide, spends 105 minutes hidden and takes 10 minutes to reappear.

On November 9th the configuration is quite similar to November 7th, but the hiding speed is slower. It takes 15 minutes to hide, spends 100 minutes hidden and takes 15 minutes to reappear.

Overall, I think that the best would be to take a good series of images on November 6th, since this shallow occultation is a rarer event. The challenge will be perhaps to download all the images taken during these days. On average, I think we are downloading around 2 new images per 2 hour activation, taking into account repeats due to lost blocks and dead times. DSLWP-B is able to store 16 images onboard, and every time the UHF transmitter comes on, a new image is taken, overwriting an old image (more information in this post). Thus, if we take many images during these days, we have the danger of overwriting some when trying to download them over the next few days.

Perhaps a good strategy is to arrange for a series of 10 images to be taken on the 6th, and then programming the UHF transmitter to take an image as the Earth comes out of its occultation on the 7th, 8th and 9th. In this way, the 2 hour periods of these three days can be used to download some of the images taken on the 6th, and there are still 3 images of margin in the buffer in case something goes wrong during the downloads over the next few days.

Upcoming DSLWP-B Moon occultations

In my previous post I showed that during the DSLWP-B observation on 2018-10-27 17:20 UTC, the orbit of DSLWP-B would take it behind the Moon. This doesn’t happen every orbit (read as every day, since the orbit period is around 22 hours). It depends on the angle from which the orbit is viewed from Earth, and hence on the lunar phase.

Knowing beforehand when DSLWP-B will hide behind the Moon allows to perform radio occultation studies. These consist in measuring the RF signal from DSLWP-B as it gets blocked by the lunar disc. Interesting phenomena such as diffraction can be observed.

I have calculated the occultations that will be visible from the Dwingeloo radiotelescope in the remaining part of this year.

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