Surveying the Skies for Both Stars and Satellites

Alex-2016 Alex, Astronautical, Viterbi Life Leave a Comment

Late one night, venture down to Stauffer Hall, a tall building dedicated to research just south of the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. Climb the steps to the southern-most door, and, if it is unlocked, step inside and take the elevator to the 7th floor. There, you will find a research office with elaborate computer set-ups and hardware used to track satellites as they streak across the Los Angeles sky. But do not stop there. Climb even higher, climbing the stars to the 8th floor. And as you step through the threshold onto the roof, inhale a deep breath of brisk evening air.

The roof of Stauffer Hall is my favorite spot on campus. I first visited Stauffer Hall’s roof to tour its gigantic satellite dish and was shocked by the amazing research being conducted right under my nose (or perhaps more fittingly, right above my head). USC’s Information Sciences Institute (ISI) developed a satellite-tracking antenna that could rotate 360 degrees to follow low-Earth orbit satellites as they rose from the Hollywood Hills and descended back across the horizon in the Port of Long Beach. Using radio frequencies, not optical tracking, the antenna could track satellites day and night, and its large diameter (~7 yards) provided enough precision for the antenna to block out frequency noise from the busy city surrounding it. I appreciated the antenna’s size and scientific goals and felt lucky to have the apparatus at USC.

But then I looked around at the surrounding scenery and quickly forgot about the antenna. Eight stories up meant beautiful views of campus and Los Angeles. Downtown’s skyscrapers looked crisp around the brown and gray hues of the surrounding mountains. The Hollywood Sign loomed in the distance, and miles and miles of residence neighborhoods stretched as far as I could see. To the south, I loved the bird’s eye view of the Los Angeles Coliseum. Atop Stauffer Hall, I felt peaceful, above the business of USC and Los Angeles.

Now a days, I venture to the ISI antenna whenever I need to take a deep breath and obtain perspective on life or a difficult decision. As the antenna works, I stand back and take it all in: the lights, the stars, and, just simply, how lucky I am.

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Alex-2016

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Astronautical Engineering, Class of 2016, Learn more on his profile here!

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