Cookies   I display ads to cover the expenses. See the privacy policy for more information. You can keep or reject the ads.

Video thumbnail
The observatory started or activity on
the hill where the observatory is located
started more than 50 years ago back in the
mid 1950s when Lincoln Laboratory needed
to do work associated with radar. In
particular radar for detecting inter-
continental ballistic missiles and var-
ious things associated with the Cold War.
Now in those early days Haystack was
built by the Air Force as a communications
facility and I was around when it was
first dedicated and somebody had a little
TV dish and they said, "What are you going
to use Haystack for, we can communicate
using a communication satellite." And the
Air Force at that time said, "Well maybe
there's general research work that could
be done with Haystack." And that's exactly
what happened. A huge, powerful megawatt
transmitter was built to do planetary
radar; that is to bounce signals off of
primarily Venus, Mercury, Mars; so that
was the big thing back then and this was
in the late 60s early 70s was planetary
radar. So now we have multiple facilities.
Some of them are Lincoln Laboratory
facilities because they maintain a strong
presence at the field site and some of
them are Haystack Observatory facilities.
Since its inception Haystack has been
known for the 37-meter antenna: the iconic
Haystack Radome but Haystack is a lot
more than that. Scientists and engineers
here are involved in a wide range of
different types of radio science. We have
two antennas used for atmospheric science;
we also have another smaller radome that
contains an 18-meter antenna that is used
for geodetic science. Haystack also
participates in radio science facilities
located around the world, places like
Chile and Australia for example.
So when people normally thing of an
observatory like Haystack Observatory
they think of something that operates in
wavelengths of light that you can see with
because most people are born with a sensor
that sees visible light. However here at
Haystack we actually look at the universe
through a number of different wavelengths
that are far outside the range that human
senses can directly measure. To do that we
need theses things called antennas.
They are very large pieces of metal and
they act kind of like the lens on a normal
telescope in that they focus radio waves
in a particular direction down to a point
where we can put a piece of electronics
that can sense them. For the work we do
here at Haystack the antennas have to be
very large for two reasons; not only
because we're trying to collect very faint
radio waves and so we need a very large
collecting surface, but also because those
waves have a size or a wavelength that's
much, much bigger than the normal optical
waves that we see by and antennas get
bigger or smaller as the wavelength or the
size of those waves. So we actually have
very large antennas here. One of them is
about the size of a soccer field and we
use those to sense very small waves that
are either generated by the natural
environment or that we make by bouncing a
very large signal from the ground off the
environment and recording the little,
faint signal that comes back.
At MIT Haystack we are advancing science
in many ways. Even the average citizen is
able to help us do science with tablets
and mobile phones in everyones pocket.
So how does it work? We are trying to get
to the point where we can image the entire
ionosphere of Earth in order to detect
interesting phenomena that are either
based in space or based on Earth like
potentially monitoring tsunamis and earth-
quakes. To do that we need people donating
us bandwidths and transport data via
mobile phones and different sensors. So
imagine going from hundreds of sensors to
billions of sensors.
For myself I find Haystack Observatory to
be a wonderfully exciting place to work
and a tremendously rewarding place to work
because of the people here and the
consistant, sustained enthusiasm and sheer
competence that exists here. I learned a
tremendous amount within six months of
walking in the door and that fact alone
speaks volumes about what Haystack is and
its really remarkable to see that
community and the quality of people
sharing their knowledge and integrating
people into the Haystack culture sustained
over decades. And one of the things I am
committed to as Director going forward is
to make sure that culture and that
community continues to thrive because
that's ultimately where excellence of the
technical and scientific work at the
observatory comes from.