Category Archives: Instrumentation

Using equipment to collect and analyze data.

Citizen Science Musings: Amateurs and Astronomy

Addressing the Peninsula Astronomical Society at Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, CA.

The bottom line of my presentation was that this column began as an amateur astronomy column in 1928, and remained so for the next 24 years. During that time, it was the go-to place for new innovations in mirror grinding, telescope mounts, and all the thousands of details that lie along the way. Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Astronomy, Citizen Science Musings, Community, DIY, Events, Instrumentation, Makers and Making, Observation, Publishing, Space, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Sky Temperature Sensor

The first sensor to go on my instrument platform may be an infrared sky temperature sensor. The sky temperature can be used to determine if the sky is clear or cloudy and when the sky is clear the temperature is a measure of the total column water vapor above the sensor. The sensor electronics consists of two modules from SparkFun Electronics,  an evaluation … Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Climate, DIY, Electronics, Experimentation, Imbedded Software, Instrumentation, Measurement, Programming, Sensors, Software, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Wanted: Raspberry Pi Columnist(s)

Image: PC Magazine

CSL is looking for one or more people who are conversant in using Raspberry Pi and other types of microcontrollers who would like to share their expertise and enthusiasm with our readers. Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Community, Computer Science, CSL News, DIY, Electronics, Engineering, Instrumentation, Invention, Makers and Making, Open Science, Open Source, Publishing, Research Tools, Software, Tools | Leave a comment

Nuclear Fission and Radioactive Fallout: Fukushima samples retested 2 years later

Gamma spectrum analysis with simple equipment can differentiate fallout from weapons vs. reactors; it can tell if the fission was via uranium or by plutonium, tell the relative age of the sample or determine certain environmental conditions at the time of release. Continue reading…

Posted in Breaking News, Environment, General Interest, Instrumentation, Measurement, Nuclear, Observation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

ISON Fizzle? Maybe Not

Comet ISON appears as a white smear heading up and away from the sun on Thursday, November 28. Scientists initially thought the comet had been disintegrated by the sun, but images suggest a small nucleus may still be intact. Image: CNN

It now looks like some chunk of ISON’s nucleus has indeed made it through the solar corona, and re-emerged. It’s throwing off dust and (probably) gas, but we don’t know how long it can sustain that. Continue reading…

Posted in Astronomy, Breaking News, General Interest, Instrumentation, Measurement, Observation, Photography, Space | Leave a comment

A Viewer’s Guide to Comet ISON

Comet ISON on the morning of Oct. 8, seen with the 0.8-meter Schulman Telescope at the University of Arizona SkyCenter atop Mount Lemmon. Credit: Adam Block /,

The comet is already visible in some areas with binoculars or a telescope, and is starting to become visible to the naked eye, particularly away from light pollution and on a clear night. Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Astronomy, Breaking News, Instrumentation, Observation, Optics, Photography, Space | 1 Comment

Magnetic Fields and How to Measure Them

Figure 2. Circuit diagram for a simple magnetic field readout.

There aren’t a lot of fields in physics to study beyond gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Since the last two are essentially impossible for an amateur to study, that only leaves gravitational and electromagnetic fields. Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Electricity, Electronics, Experimentation, Instrumentation, Magnetism, Measurement, Physics, Sensors | Leave a comment

A Cheap, Quick, and Dirty SDR Radio

SDR dongle

A new computer TV tuner came on the market a few years ago. The computer “dongle” (NOT dangle, for those of you with dirty minds) allowed European users to tune their TV on a computer. But… it also contained troubleshooting mode that allowed tuning radio signals for Software Defined Radio or SDR. Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Radio, Computer Science, DIY, Electronics, Instrumentation, Makers and Making, Software, Tools | Leave a comment

Apps That Turn Citizens into Scientists

Smartphones can automate data collection and incorporate many important data-gathering functions—such as capturing images, audio and text—into a single tool that can “stamp” the date, time and geographic coordinates associated with an observation. Continue reading…

Posted in Activism, Community, Environment, General Interest, Instrumentation, Measurement, Observation, Research Tools, Tools | Leave a comment

Alter Type Windscreen

It can be fairly windy here especially in the spring, fall and during snow storms. My CoCoRaHS rain gauge does not catch all the precipitation it should when it is windy. This is a common problem and a WEB search or two turned up a number of different solutions. Most involve some sort of screen around the gauge to block the wind. The … Continue reading…

Posted in Amateur Science, Climate, DIY, Environment, Instrumentation, Meteorology, Projects | Leave a comment