Launch Day

Subject: Launch Day
Date: Fri, 11 Apr 97 18:16:14 EST

     Mike Reynolds
     Cranbrook Kingswood MS
     Grades 7 and 8
     56 students
     Our launch day was nearly a complete success.  I woke up to sleet, 
     clouds and snow on the ground but by late morning the sun was shining 
     and the snow had melted away.  Typical weather in Michigan were we say 
     if you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes.  
     I have a group of about 19 students who meet with me every other day 
     to work on the P.E.T.  For launch day, however, we decided to invite 
     the entire class to help collect data.  We went to our site four times 
     throughout the day, three times during school and once at night.  
     During our first two trips we were able to use the core sampler, 
     protractor, thread and weight to get a sighting on the sun.  We used 
     these two readings to calculate solar noon, when the sun was directly 
     overhead.  We calculated it to be 12:36.  (We posted a picture of us 
     taking a solar sighting)  We confirmed this by using sunrise and 
     sunset times also.  The actual solar noon was at 12:35:30 so we were 
     very close.  When we got back to the school and tried using this 
     information to calculate our longitude we discovered that we made some 
     errors in our directions.  We were still on daylight savings time so 
     we were one hour off from our GMT.  We also discovered that our 
     formula for the correction factor for time were totally wrong.  
     Instead of adjusting three hours of correction we were to adjust three 
     minutes.  After making this correction we calculated our longitude as 
     84W.  Our actual longitude is slightly less.  
     After school we all went to play on our school sports teams and then 
     met for pizza before walking back to the site for our evening data 
     collection.  Temperatures began to drop and a new weather front moved 
     in.  We left our site at about 19:00 to walk up to our science museum 
     and observatory.  We have a 6 inch refracting scope mounted in a 
     rotating observatory on our campus.  It is very cool.  Our plan was to 
     observe Halebopp and Mars but the skies clouded over and so we had to 
     cancel that part of our day.  It was a shame as many of our parents 
     joined us at the museum to share in that experience.  We were also 
     unable to sight Polaris and get a reading to calculate our latitude.  
     It remained cloudy for the next four nights but we finally did 
     calculate our longitude as 43N which is pretty close.  Despite our 
     disappointment we were able to learn about rocks at the museum's 
     geology hall which has one of the finest rock and mineral collections 
     in the midwest.
     I have some really terrific kids in my group and it has been great fun 
     working with them on this project.  We all wanted to express our 
     gratitude to everyone who has worked so hard to make this program