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Updated March 14, 2011

Identifying Radio Interference

Radio interference from lightning, car ignitions, computers, light switches and a host of other terrestrial sources can cause signal strength bursts in meteor observations. Interference often looks like meteor reflections but aren't.

A way to determine if interference is affecting observations is to find out what interference "looks like" in your data. For example, test the effect of turning the computer monitor on and off while you are running a data session on Radio Sky Pipe. Take a close look at the trace and write down the characteristics of the trace. 
Does it rise immediately or take some time to rise to the maximum? 
Does the spike remain for a long time or does it immediately drop off? 
How does interference caused by turning the monitor on  differ from turning it off? 
Does flipping a light switch cause interference? 
Does it make a difference if it is a lightswitch connected to a light bulb or a fluorescent light?
If someone has a cell phone, try making a call with the cell while holding it close to the FM radio while observing.

You can think of each type of interference as having a unique "signature" that you may be able to see in the characteristic shape of the data trace. Some interference may look like other interference. Does it in your experiments?


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