# Is it possible to have a strong antenna receiver pick up signal in great distance from a weak transmitter?

Well the concept is similar to a radio telescope, but with a twist.

Assuming I have a directional antenna, and I point it to a weak transmitter, and the two are separated by great distance. Is there a limit to the distance that a communication from a weak receiver, can be achieved that is only dependent to the weaker transmitter, as influenced by the conditions on earth?

Thinking about this on my own, I can identify that the noise caused by the atmosphere would have some self-imposed distance limit. And this is why radio telescopes are usually build in high altitude and where the atmosphere is thin. I am just not able to identify any formulas. To make things easier, picture a radio telescope and a wifi signal coming from within earth.

Is there a formula that takes into account both the antenna gain of the receiver and transmitter and determines the maximum distance based on atmospheric pressure and such weather conditions?

• Are you trying to stealing wifi from the mole people? Where does the atmosphere coming into it for a signal within the earth to a receiver on the surface? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_detectable_signal may be of interest.
– user118047
Dec 9, 2016 at 23:36
• I think the question is too open-ended stated like this. There are too many parameters and a successful communication is not well defined here (error rate, minimum bit rate, etc.). You can communicate on an extremely noisy line if your ready to have a very slow chat. The limits are fundamentally engineering trade-offs and cannot be put in a formula. Dec 10, 2016 at 1:35
• Actually it's relatively easy and within some statistical probabilities one can get rough answers. Look it up in any introductory book on communications systems engineering. Or maybe Wikipedia. Then think and ask here what you really want. Can one receive a signal from a well transmitter? Definitely, depends on the numbers but we receive radio signals from relatively weak transmitters on spacecraft probes that are further away that Saturn, and I believe Pluto. The main equation if Dec 10, 2016 at 7:17

Pr = Pt X Gt x Gr/4x pi x $R^n$, where The first two terms are power received and transmitted, the next two are antenna gains for receiver and transmitter, R is distance, and n is an exponent, which in free space is 2. In the atmosphere or water or any propagation media n will typically be larger and should be thought of as a model of the propagation loss in the media. It clearly depends on frequency. You can find models and parameters and get close enough unless you are trying to get real scientific or engineering numbers.