E pur si muove

Antiope Associates recently completed restoration of the drive system of the historic 20 foot horn antenna at Bell Laboratories.

The horn antenna, originally built for the Echo satellite project, was used by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson to detect the cosmic background radiation, radio noise left over from the Big Bang. For this discovery they were awarded the 1978 Nobel prize in physics. The antenna itself was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 1989.

The antenna continued to be used for radio astronomy into the 1990s. However, several years ago the half century old drive system which pointed the antenna became too unreliable to operate. The antenna looked as if it might not move again. Antiope Associates, under contract to Alcatel-Lucent, Bell Labs's corporate parent, accepted the challenge of updating the drive controls with modern electronics.

"This work was out of the ordinary for us, but we're very pleased that Alcatel-Lucent put their trust in us to repair one of the most historic artifacts of twentieth century science," said Jacqueline Ma, Antiope's president. "The antenna once again can scan and track the sky precisely and smoothly. We are very happy with what we've been able to deliver."

Clicking on the photograph above or the following link shows a short movie of the antenna moving during testing:

Horn antenna movie (1.2 MB gif)

Wikipedia has more information about Bell Labs's horn antenna.