Live from the Hubble Space Telescope


PART 1: Today's CU-SeeMe: live from the NSTA convention

PART 2: An Imaging lesson so your kids can play scientist

PART 3: Manually running a telescope

PART 4: Working in teams to get the job done


LHST #15 mentioned a special CU-SeeMe session from the exhibit floor of the NSTA convention. Alas, I neglected to include the date of the announcement in the message (oops!). In fact the event is later today on Friday, March 29. The time was originally announced as 11:30-1:30PM, but that will have to be shortened due to a conflict with a Passport to Knowledge presentation. So look for us between 11:30AM-1:00PM Central (9:30-11:00AM Pacific; 12:30-2:00PM Eastern) on CU-SeeMe reflectors at either or If you are at the NSTA conference, join us in the NASA IITA booth to partake in the fun.


The Internet is a revolution for learners indeed. Learners can surf, going for a broad swath of knowledge because the net yields information on a seemingly infinite number of subjects. Or the learner can drink deeply on one subject. One computer is powerful, many connected computers are profound. Yet another revolution is occurring with use of the same tool set. This is the revolution of Imaging in Education.

Visualizing information with computers is quick and richly expressive of abstract concepts and complex ideas. Complex concepts may be more easily understood using Imaging tools.

Scott Coletti has designed four mini-lessons for learners (and their teachers) that will introduce the concept of imaging in Education. The lessons are designed to enrich, expand and enhance the Teachers Guide. Once you have learned the concepts and tool set, you will be ready to analyze images as the LHST Planet Advocates might. To use the lessons in the classroom you need a Color Macintosh with at least 6 megs of RAM. You will also need access to the World Wide Web.

For all the lesson materials (software, images, lesson plans, student handouts and teacher primers), go here
Or find the materials at the LHST homepage under the Featured Events section.

Scott is interested to learn how the lessons worked out for you. He says:

"I ran all four lessons, twice, through two of my 7th grade classes before publishing them to the project. So while I am sure they are sound classroom activities, I am just as sure that they are not perfect."



Trisha Borgman

March 26, 1996; 12:40am
We're well into our observations for the night now. It's beautifully clear here tonight, but VERY windy and cold. I learned a lot today from the one of the observatory techs about how to operate the telescope, and once the sun sank below the horizon I opened the dome for the telescope. Even though that whole process wasn't too much more than pressing the right buttons, it was quite a thrill!!

It took us awhile to get used to the controls and procedures for this telescope, but things are going pretty well now. Unlike the 4-meter telescope I visited last night, this telescope (0.9-meter) is controlled exclusively by the observers--me! At the 4-meter, an "observing assistant" acts as a liaison between the observers and the computers which control the telescope. Here, though, it's just us and the telescope's control systems! I was a little nervous at first about actually being the person to operate the telescope, but now I'm really enjoying it!

One of the neatest things about being here in the "console room" (a room set off from the actual dome of the telescope, in which all the computers and telescope controls are located) is being able to hear the telescope responding to our computer commands. The dome itself makes a deep, loud groan as it turns to follow the telescope, and we can hear the 'click' of the shutter in the telescope at the beginning and the end of our exposures. We can also hear the different filters rotating into place. It almost seems as if we're inside a miniature spaceship, listening to the sounds of our vessel. Well, I guess that's an analogy I could only make at almost 1:00 in the morning!

I hope to go outside in a little while to look at Comet Hyakutake. The moon should be setting soon, so I'll have a great view of it! So far, though, it's been so cold and windy that I just couldn't stay outside too long!

Well, I'm going to go set up our next set of observations! I'll be sure to keep updating y'all about our adventures at Kitt Peak! Have a great day!



Tom Comeau

March 25, 1996:
Well, no sooner do you finish something than somebody wants something new. ;-}

Suzanne and I have finished the first chunk of work we were doing on the Servicing Mission software changes. Now it goes to an independent test team.

The testers will try to find problems with the new software by running normal data, and "known bad" data through the system. We should correctly handle the good data, and report errors with the bad data.

This is basically the same testing Suzanne and I did before we delivered our changes, but we want somebody who _didn't_ work on the code to take a fresh look, and find things we might have missed.

While that's going on, we're starting on new things.

Suzanne will be working with Mary (another person on the Archive Team -- not my wife Mary.) on a new validation program, and I'll be working with Scott on what we call "multi-subrequest ingest."

Scott and I are going to have a conference about it right now....

...and we're done. Scott and I talked for about half an hour about how we want to handle "multi-dataset" requests.

Remember the "phone book server" example? We had one "server" looking up phone numbers. You gave the "server" a request on a 3x5 card. What we're going to do is like letting you put more than one phone number on the 3x5 card.

Currently when we add data to the Archive, we do so one dataset at a time. (A dataset is a collection of files for one observation.) For the new instruments, we're going to let related datasets come in together.

For example, to make a color picture with HST's greyscale cameras, you would have to take three or four images through multiple filters. That would make three or four datasets, and the Archive would get three or four Ingest Requests.

For the new instruments, all those datasets would come in a single Ingest Request called an Association. That way we can put information in the database to tell astronomers that this group of images is related. Then they'll know that to get all the information about an observation, they should retrieve the entire Association.

Scott will be working on the program that takes this request and starts it through the system; I'll work on the other programs that do the rest of the work of validation, writing to optical disk, and putting information in the database.

But complicating all this is that Suzanne and Mary are working on the new Validation system, and to make the new and old Validation programs compatible, Suzanne needs to change parts of the old Validation program!

Suzanne and I have already talked about those changes, which I'll be working on while she's away at a training class this week.

This is how we usually work. We have small teams of two or three people working on each little project, and then we have to integrate our changes with the other little teams. There are nine of us on the DADS part of the Archive Team, and three on the Starview part, so there are typically four or five little teams working on four or five projects!

This is why communication among the team is so important. We almost never work alone -- we always are working on a problem or project with two or three other people -- and the teams may be working on the same or related programs.

So in addition to knowing some math, and lots of programming skills, we have to be good communicators. We send each other e-mail, have little conferences among team members, and (as a last resort) have a team meeting where we all get together to go over somebody's design proposal. For those meetings one of us will prepare a presentation, and then we'll all discuss the design, problems, and possible improvement.

So in addition to learning math and computer skills, we have to learn to write well, communicate ideas, and give presentations.

I go around telling people that while writing code is what we do much of the time, it is the least important thing we do. The most important is communicating innovative solutions that meet our users' needs.

After all, if our stuff doesn't work, nobody can get the pictures!