Photo: Astrogazers

Collaboration with Croydon High School for Girls Astrogazers

Croydon High School’s Astrogazers (a co-curricular club for 10-16-year-olds at Croydon High School) invited open-weather to lead a DIY satellite ground station workshop over two Saturdays on 23rd and 30th September 2023. After successfully launching a weather balloon to the edge of space in early September, the Astrogazers group was curious to learn how they could capture images, sounds and data from low earth orbit.

Anaiya S, Year 9 student and Crew Operations and Resources Engineer at Astrogazers, wrote of the first workshop day:

At the beginning of the day, we all headed outside onto the field to set up the first ground satellite station of the day. We found out that the radio frequency spectrum is extremely crowded and we heard some very unpleasant sounds, vaguely resembling the school fire alarm!

Since the 1960s our planet has been imaged by artificial, earth observation satellites. Satellite images are one of the many materials shared over the radio spectrum. The radio spectrum is home to many different signals, information, noises made by individuals, institutions, machines, the earth, our sun, and other celestial bodies and is therefore an extremely congested space.

So after a little bit of playing around with which frequencies we wanted to capture, we finally landed on the correct ones to collect data from the satellite we were trying to track – NOAA. By the end of our observations, we had recorded enough data to produce a satellite image of a section of the Earth and were trying to guess which sections were which countries.

We learnt about how the radio frequencies are shared out between different groups of people and how you can apply for an (amateur radio licence) to project your own broadcasts into the world.

After setting up our antennae, we tuned into various radio stations. Here are a few that we found…

“I came across a funny station called “Unlimited Sound Effects” where there was the sound of a rubber ball being bounced on repeat!” (Aarya P.)

“I came across a podcast telling stories of witches and demons and angels.” (Alisha A.)

“There’s lots of music playing and we get to explore all of the stations. I enjoyed finding interesting stations like the USA navy! I felt a bit like a spy! ?” (Ava P.)

It was really fun and interesting to be learning so many new skills in such an interactive way and it was an incredible experience for everyone. It was fascinating to go through the process to obtain satellite images of Europe and dive into the radio part of the Electromagnetic spectrum.

We cannot wait for tomorrow’s workshop as our antennas will be receiving radio waves transmitted by antennas on NOAA satellites. We will be receiving radio waves that originate from the antenna of the NOAA satellite, pass through earth’s atmosphere, and arrive at earth’s surface.

Thank you so much to our host, Dr Sasha Engelmann, from open-weather and Royal Holloway University for taking the time to present us with this exciting opportunity.  It has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I am sure that we will all value the fact that we now know how to hijack and hack into other radio stations and how you can literally tune into any radio you would like to at any time!


Thank you Arabi Karteepan for inviting open-weather to collaborate with Astrogazers!

Thank you Astrogazers for your brilliant energies, enthusiasm and kind words!

Follow Astrogazers on Instagram (@_astrogazers_) and YouTube (@Astrogazers) to get all the updates on their missions.

Photography by Arabi Karteepan and Sasha Engelmann.