11yo Wonderkid Astronomer Building His Own Radio Telescope

Blake Iscaro is a keen astronomer who travels all over Victoria to look at the night sky.

There aren’t too many 11-year-olds building radio telescopes in their spare time. But Blake Iscaro isn’t your average kid.He’s got his head in the clouds but feet firmly on the ground.

Not only is he building a radio telescope to listen to flares on the surface of the Sun, he regularly spends his weekends travelling across Victoria with his family to get the best vantage point of the night sky. Later this month the science wonderkid is even presenting a project on spectroscopy to Swinburne University’s Astrophysics Department, including to one of his idols, Professor Alan Duffy.

Wondering what spectroscopy is? “It is analysing the visual spectrum of the stars,” Blake said nonchalantly. When he was just eight, Blake developed a fascination with astronomy, devouring any books on the topic. His parents, Mark and Tara, decided to take him to the Melbourne Observatory and it was there, under its iconic domed roof, that Blake’s fascination became an obsession.

“I had a look at Jupiter, Saturn and the Jewel Box cluster and that’s when it struck,” he said. “I find most of the things very beautiful. “It’s just really interesting how they’ve formed and all the different intricate shapes that they make.

“They might be very simple geometric shapes or they could be very [complex], like the Butterfly cluster looks like a butterfly, or the 37 cluster looks like an upside-down 37 to us.” Blake’s latest project is building the radio telescope which he will use to listen to the sky rather than look at it.

The satellite dish portion of the telescope is complete but the electronic components are still being finalised. When it is up and running, it should be able to detect signals from space. “With the sun, it will be a large hiss and then when there’s a flare, for example, it will spike up in pitch and volume,” Blake said. “We analyse that data to find out how big the flare was.”

Blake has also arranged a stargazing night at his school to coincide with the ABC’s Stargazing Live event from May 22 to 24. The event will help contribute to the ABC and Australian National University’s joint Guinness World Record attempt for the most people stargazing at multiple venues at one time.

Blake’s 5 tips for amateur stargazers

  • Get a decent telescope. “Six or eight inch is probably the best to start with,” he said.
  • Buy a Telrad. “It’s kind of like a bulls eye target. It’s really helpful. I still use one now.”
  • Start by looking for simple things like the moon, Saturn and Jupiter. “Once you’ve got those down you can move to other harder to find things.”
  • Be patient.
  • Join an astronomical society. “I’m part of the Astronomical Society of Victoria.”
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