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Voyager antenna operator: 'I was the first human to see images from Neptune'

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Sounds like a dream job

First in line for seeing what other planets/moons/comets are like, seeing Saturn's rings or Io's volcanoes up close before anyone else, and all that in a beautiful country environment. What's not to like ?

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Re: Sounds like a dream job

Add another perk to this... I daresay we'll never, ever see a Friday "On-Call" from him. Truly a dream career. Seriously, I'm in total awe at what he does and sees.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sounds like a dream job

He has to live in Canberra, which is the penalty he pays for such a cool job.

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Paris Hilton

First in line, along with the other dozen nerds crowded around the screen. Sounds like he's bigging up his job to explain it to his kids what he does all day.

Paris? Space cadet, also seen completely and explicitly in detail by most people, thanks to cameras :-)

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This may come across a bit rude, which is frankly my intention. You're a bit of a knob.

It's rare to find someone who's still enthusiastic about their job, and while you might hate yours (after all, you're on El Reg even as the working day begins), but that's no excuse for the ignorant cynicism you're demonstrating.

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Anonymous Coward

First in line, along with the other dozen nerds crowded around the screen. Sounds like he's bigging up his job to explain it to his kids what he does all day.

I'm afraid you merely show your ignorance. Do you have any idea just how weak a -168dB signal actually is? Incredible that they can still pick it up.

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Given that an audio signal attenuated to -78dB gives silence, even with my amplifier cranked to maximum. -168dB is a billion times weaker. Even with cryogenically cooled amplifiers, getting a signal that weak is an immense achievement.

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Our alien overlord is a bellend. Who knew.

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"Silence" is relative

A typical DBS system in the US has incoming signals at -90 dbm, and they can be received with an 18" dish and LNA that costs less than a buck. ATSC antennas can receive signals even weaker than that if you add a good low noise preamp. Your ears are just not engineered as well I guess :)

But -168 dbm, damn that's impressive!

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Reminds me of the following video, Voyager I:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb4WhNvLRFw

Love, peace, and understanding

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Coat

Anntenae (not anntenas)

Opps, a little slip in there -- antennas -- but you corrected yourself afterwards with the correct form: antennae. At least you didn't commit that heinous crime of saying indexes when you meant indicies (or use matrixes for matrices).

Nice to see people still really know how to spell.

BTW, excellent article on the unsung heroes (from the Greek) that make everything else work.

(I'll get my coat.)

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Re: Anntenae (not anntenas)

Etymologically & classically aware commentard» indicies. oh dear. Nominative plural non-neuter third declension is what now?

John Cleese for you, I'm afraid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAfKFKBlZbM

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Facepalm

Re: Anntenae (not anntenas)

"you meant indicies "

And you meant indices. Pedantry is brilliant weapon to deploy, but maybe not do it while standing in a greenhouse.

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Re: Anntenae (not anntenas)

@ RegGuy1

At least you didn't commit that heinous crime of saying indexes when you meant indicies (or use matrixes for matrices).

Pedantically, 'indexes' is a valid, alternate form of 'indices' but both are pronounced as 'indices'.

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I3N
Pint

What, not Aerials ... Re: Anntenae (not anntenas)

Re-calibrated the elReg translator to American English - indicated a reference to software bug appendages

Sources say that both of these forms - antennas/antennae - are used in Australia

Spanish translator comes in with antenas

Honored to up-vote both John Cleese and Socrates in the same post!

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Re: Anntenae (not anntenas)

"when you meant indicies"

Well that must be embarrassing.

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To see what no man has seen before

Not talking about Nun's knickers.

The only way to beat his job for this kind of excitement is by actually going to these places and that possibility is a few decades off at least.

How nice to have such a rewarding job.

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Re: To see what no man has seen before

Many jobs have their rewarding moments, e.g. -

- When a teacher sees the penny drop in one of their pupils.

- When a salesman sees the customer sign on the dotted line.

- When a manager sees the work completed on time and budget, and signed off.

- When a politician wins an election.

I think of James Clerk Maxwell, who predicted electromagnetic waves. He also calculated their speed, based on measured constants in the lab, and it was as near as dammit the speed of light. That was the first clue to what light really is.

But the Voyager man has every right to be happy in his job.

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Joke

Re: To see what no man has seen before

<quote>When a salesman sees the customer sign on the dotted line commission check

There!!!

FTFY.

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Pint

Re: Many jobs have their rewarding moments..

..And when an IT worker picks up his or her first pint of the evening when the day is over :)

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Unhappy

Unfortunately...

...this still won't get him laid.

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Happy

Re: Unfortunately...

Shirley, there's got to be a nerdette out there who digs this stuff?

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Ogi
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Re: Unfortunately...

> Shirley, there's got to be a nerdette out there who digs this stuff?

There are, but they are a rare minority in my experience. The nerd/nerdette ratio is far skewed towards the male gender from my experience, unfortunately.

If the current push of getting more women interested in STEM results in more nerdettes in 15-20 years time, that would be great for the next generation of nerds, if a bit late for me though :-(

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Re: Unfortunately...

@Magani and @Ogi,

So women should be encouraged into STEM so they can be nerdettes to lonely heterosexual nerds in a few years time? What an enticement! And clearly this thinking has created the sort of tech world where women are few and far between.

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Re: Unfortunately...

>So women should be encouraged into STEM so they can be nerdettes to lonely heterosexual nerds in a few years time? What an enticement!

Well - one of the reasons girls haven't (traditionally) gone in for STEM is the fear that boys won't like them, if they appear too clever.

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Unhappy

Re: Unfortunately...

It won't. I promise you.

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Re: Unfortunately...

"Well - one of the reasons girls haven't (traditionally) gone in for STEM is the fear that boys won't like them, if they appear too clever."

Citation needed. Seriously; I've heard this (as hearsay) a bunch of times, but have honestly never ever met a guy who finds clever girls a problem (in fact quite the opposite) - and I've never heard a girl actually say she experiences it as a problem. And I work in IT.

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Facepalm

Re: Unfortunately...

You've bent the needle in my Wrongometer when it pegged off-scale high.

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Re: Unfortunately...

@Tom Paine

Who are you aiming your wrongometer at?

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There's someone there?

I'm sure I heard a documentary - "War of the Worlds" or something - when they were calling "Can-berra, come in Can-berra ..." and nobody answered ... dum dum dum, da da da, da da da

Mr Stephenson must have been on tea break ... :-)

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Pint

Wow - that's fast!

"Even Voyager 1 can beat that, regulalry hitting 160 bits per second and reaching 1,200 bits per second when emptying its memory."

Around that time (40 years ago) I remember the step up from 110 bps on a teleprinter to 300 bps on a termprinter was like amazing. And doing on an acoustic modem was absolute magic. I remember the thrill of communicating as far as a BBS in Hull ...

Whereas these guys and guyesses were building something that can do that from beyond the solar system to a receiver only 20 minutes from where everybody and a dog is leaking emr across the spectrum.

More than a pint is deserved!

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Thumb Up

Re: Wow - that's fast!

I've read up on the science of how they pick out that one particular signal and it's crazy. Seems like even with the best methods, it's so week it shouldn't be detectable, especially inside the Earth's radiation blocking atmosphere stuff.

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Re: Wow - that's fast!

El Reg needs to sort its units again. What on earth (or your chosen planetary object) does -168db mean?

How does that equate to the distance a 40 year old NASA designed fondleslab could see my wifi?

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Re: Wow - that's fast!

Nothing wrong with the units, although there technically should be a suffix to tell you what is being measured as the decibel scale can be applied to many things.

Essentially what it is saying is we need a big-ass antenna to detect this very weak signal though.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decibel

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Re: Wow - that's fast!

dBm is power relative to 1mW.

0dB is 1mW

for each -3dBm, reduce the relative power by half

for each -10dBm, reduce the relative power by 10 times.

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Devil

Re: Wow - that's fast!

I think -168dbm is about the same as a "gnat fart", though -168db would be roughly 1/10^17 [I said 'roughly'] as 'db' is a ratio, but 'dbm' is the log10 of a signal's strength (in milliiwats).

So I guess if someone can quantify "gnat fart" in milliwatts, then we'll be able to translate -168dbm into "gnat farts".

I think a gnat's ass is around 0.1 mm [that is mostly a guess, gnats are hard to measure with calipers].

also, when the noise floor level is hundreds or thousands of times the signal strength, which is actually somewhat common with cell phones, you need some tricky techniques to demodulate it accurately (edit: at the tower, not the phone itself). but yeah, we do that kind of thing pretty well, now.

one thing worth mentioning - how come nobody said "V'ger" yet?

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Re: Wow - that's fast!

WAT.

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"...uses a Solaris workstation running version 8 of the OS"

Which according to Wikipedia was released in February 2000.

A few years ago, I was talking to an RAF engineer, who told me that they still used Windows 95 as it was the last version of Windows capable of running the originally-written-in-the-70s code, used for diagnosing and configuring the Tornado's on board systems.

Is it the same thing here? Are they relying on a 17 year old OS as the only thing that can still run the 40 year old code written to communicate with Voyager?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "...uses a Solaris workstation running version 8 of the OS"

Is it the same thing here? Are they relying on a 17 year old OS as the only thing that can still run the 40 year old code written to communicate with Voyager?

Yes, that comes from that almost forgotten era when software was production ready when it was released. That was partially because it was supplied on CDs and they'd otherwise have a massive amount of coasters, which would have gotten them sued by AOL for stealing their business model.

Sorry, drifted slightly aside there :).

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Re: "...uses a Solaris workstation running version 8 of the OS"

I know of one scientific software vendor who once posted "faulty" CDs to a customer as they were late finishing the software for a strict deadline, I believe it bought them another week to finish.

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Re: "...uses a Solaris workstation running version 8 of the OS"

Overnight shipping, world-wide, has certainly been an option for as long as software on CD has been an option. I don't buy your story.

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Re: "...uses a Solaris workstation running version 8 of the OS"

Well, it's what happened!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "...uses a Solaris workstation running version 8 of the OS"

Overnight shipping, world-wide, has certainly been an option for as long as software on CD has been an option. I don't buy your story.

Depends on which overnight you choose. In the colder parts of the world that can buy you *months* :)

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Boffin

DSN now

Slight side track, but if you'd like to know what the Deep Space Network is doing right now go have a look at NASA's DSN Now page.

It shows all the different dishes around the world, and which spacecraft each one is communicating with.

It's also visible on the wonderful Space Dashboard, which has all kinds of interesting up-to-date space nerdery :)

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Re: DSN now

This may have been a movie or book I read but I seem to remember that recently, a group of hobbyists got together to piece together the software to communicate with an old probe that had recently become active again.

Military has no excuse, they have the funding, they should remake the software. Space sector has 2p to its name, so it's fair to say they might not have the resources for a massive new emulator dealie that will, itself, become redundant as soon as the probes using these old protocols die or drift away. (/cry)

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Re: DSN now

I think you are talking about the ISEE-3 Reboot Project.

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Re: DSN now

That's the one, thanks!

Awesome stuff. I wish I had done that.

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Bah!

Every aspect of this is cool, with the exception of the bit about replacing scientists with automation.

Robots can fuck off. Space is for humans.

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Re: Bah!

Exactly. This is the single field I won't like to get automated. If we're not exploring, and experiencing, and diversifying ourselves, then what's even the point of building up all of this wealth and technological knowledge.

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Re: Bah!

What do you think all the probes he's communicating with are? I'll give you a clue, there's no people on the Voyagers!

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