Those of you who have known and visited the www.skywatch.co.za website since its launch in 1996, may have wondered what happened to the site. Well, about two years ago the site was compromised by Russian hackers and I decided to remove features such as the contact form and download area. Nothing happened since then, and the site lay dormant.
I have decided to give it a new lease of life, and here it is, the new South African Skywatch Observatory website. There is not much content on the site yet, and I don’t intend to repeat what was on the site before, i.e., general educational astronomy content. Although I may add some general and topical content later, for now I want to start with a project that I have been trying to get off the ground for almost two years, but never advanced further than a fit here and a start there: monitoring of Sudden Ionospheric Disturbances (SID) by means of very low frequency (VLF) radio. SID events are caused by solar activity, therefore my observing activities will mainly focus on our star, the Sun.
I’ll be saying more about SID and the progress of my project, which is now at the stage where I do not even have a working VLF receiver, although I have a design and a somewhat unprofessional-looking finished PCB without any components. I am an electronics engineer, and the PCB that I made about a year ago has been a thorn in my side ever since—I simply do not find the quality of a home-made PCB satisfactory. So, part of my project plan is to redesign the circuit and to have a professional-quality PCB made once I have bread boarded and tested the receiver part.
In the meantime, I’ll be making the current design available here for free to those SID enthusiasts with more than just a smattering of electronics knowledge and who have a penchant for venturing where angels fear to tread.