"LIVE FROM THE STRATOSPHERE" P R O J E CT U P D A T E #14 PART 1: Thursday's "Pre-Flight Briefing" program PART 2: Sending email questions to the Kuiper team PART 3: Star Census: collect and share data with other classes PART 4: Follow the activities in Spanish PART 5: Results of last Thursday's flight: first it's broken, then it's fixed PART 6: Trip to the top of Mauna Kea _______________________________________________________________________ There is a lot of activity at the NASA Ames Research Center (home to the KAO) these days in preparation for Thursday's live broadcast. The program promises to be exciting and we hope that you are able to view the show live or on tape delay or via videotape (from CORE). The program will air live from noon-1:00pm Eastern on October 5th. Check local listings to see if your local PBS station will be carrying the program and at what time. Or the program will be available from the PBS satellite. The schedule for NASA TV remains in flux due to the delayed launch of Space Shuttle mission STS-73. If the mission launches at 8:40 CDT, 10/5 as presently planned, Live From the Stratosphere is in turn scheduled for a 7pm Eastern playback. Changes in the Shuttle launch may effect this schedule. Check online for the latest information. See the archive on Quest for details about how to view the program. The program will focus on the Kuiper aircraft and its special equipment which turn it into the world's only flying astronomical observatory. By the end of the program, you will have a much better feeling for how the different people and systems work together to produce extraordinary infrared astronomy. During the program, questions will be accepted via email. A few particularly relevant questions will be read aloud during the broadcast. To have your question considered, send a message DURING THE PROGRAM (NOT BEFORE) to firstname.lastname@example.org _______________________________________________________________________ Questions which are not answered "on the air" can be still be answered. A process for answering every question from classrooms will be available from October 5th through November 17. In order to have your questions addressed, a specific procedure will need to be followed. Explicit directions for this process will be emailed by noon (Pacific time) on October 5. Questions which are not answered during the broadcast via the onair-lfs@quest address will need to be resubmitted through this process in order to be answered. Past experience has shown that students really enjoy sending messages to NASA and getting answers. Hopefully you can use this tool to motivate students for focused learning. _______________________________________________________________________ Shortly you will receive a special message which details a star counting activity. The number of visible stars in the sky at your location is determined by local light pollution, intensity of moonlight, weather and other factors. We would like to begin an activity in which many classrooms record their observations and share data. We hope to be able to show some preliminary results during the October 13 program. So please stand by for more detailed instructions on how to participate in this hands-on data gathering and collaboration activity. _______________________________________________________________________ For Spanish language bilingual educators or ESL teachers, a new maillist is now available. It is a place where some Field Journals written in Spanish will be shared. In addition, the maillist will support a discussion between those interested in connecting Spanish speakers with the activities of the KAO group. To participate in this activity, start by sending a mail message to In the message body, write these words: subscribe espanol-lfs _______________________________________________________________________ [Editor's note: Bob Loewenstein flew last week on board the KAO (as described in LFS#12. This Field Journal provides information on the results of those flights. Dr. Loewenstein will also be involved in the televised flights on Oct 12 and 13.] Thursday 9-28-95 I'm sitting on the KAO, taxiing down the runway, waiting for takeoff. So during this moment while I'm strapped into my seat and unable to do any more work, I'll add to this journal. We flew last night and consequently I didn't get much sleep in order to get ready for tonight's flight. I also spent more time today working on some software for the remote control of the telescope and video switching from the ground. A few nights ago, an interesting thing happened during observing. The motors that drive the telescope and hold it steady require it to be accurately balanced. Suddenly, the telescope went out of balance and we could no longer control it. We could not determine what had happened, but very definitely it was out of balance. After several minutes of trying to make it work by doing various things, we finally decided to just try to re balance it. The only thing we could find was someone's briefcase, which weighed about 7 pounds. So we placed the briefcase onto the telescope and we were back in business and began taking data again. ------- We're in flight now. We have another problem with the telescope and have been working on it for the last hour. Rick Doll, the telescope operator is now on his hands and knees under the console trying to check all the electronic components. While he does this, I have a chance to write some more. The telescope drive system is malfunctioning and can't hold the telescope still. That means that we have not been taking data and are probably going to have to abort the flight and head back home early. This is the LAST data flight of the airplane, with the 3 remaining flights dedicated to the Live from the Stratosphere educational project. Our other flights of this series have been really smooth, with very minor problems.... I hear through my intercom that the problem may have been found. If this is the case, we can pick up the flight plan and continue to take data, having missed only one object plus some time on Saturn. .......YESSSS. It's fixed! The problem turned out to be some bug in the tracker computer. For some reason, the tracker was trying to control the telescope even though it had been told not to. Looks like we go back to taking data and I'll stop writing now. ------- The flight is over now. I'm flying back to Yerkes Observatory where I live. The remainder of the flight went very well. We lost only one object (however an important one for Jackie Davidson) and some time on one of our calibrators, Saturn. The flight, being the last data flight, did strike some emotions for many of the people on the flight. It's hard to let go of twenty years of flying on the world's only airborne observatory, but the gains from SOFIA, the replacement plane in about six years will really be a major advance. This plane will have almost twice as many flights per year and stay up longer per flight; the telescope will collect six times as much light as the KAO's. Much more science can be done on SOFIA than on the KAO. We are all looking forward to a brief six years until SOFIA is ready to fly. _______________________________________________________________________ [Editor's note: This continues a Field Journal started in LFS#11; that first half described observing aboard the Kuiper. Here it is contrasted with observing at Mauna Kea in Hawaii] RNASA 714 Heavy Jack, you are cleared for take-off on runway 8 southS by Steve Kliewer Phase II: Mauna Kea Tuesday, August 8, 1995 After taking Monday to sightsee, Judy & I flew to the Big Island. It was a beautiful day to fly and Molokai, Maui, & Lanai were beautiful. However, as we landed at Keahole Airport near Kailua-Kona, I was fascinated yet disappointed by the desolate moonscape appearance. This area was covered by a'a lava flows. Nothing green, no lush plants, or flowers were to be seen. I wanted to see volcanoes but not everywhere, all the time. As we drove south into Kailua it started to become more lush. It turned out that farther south and on the east side of the island, especially near the current active volcanic vents it is an extremely lush rain forest, at least where the lava hasn't covered it yet. We checked into the Royal Kona Resort, a beautiful hotel right on the beach-- correction: rocky shoreline. I set up the Compact Cosmic Ray Telescope (CCRT) and took baseline readings in the hotel. The readings were somewhat low. I wonder if that could be due to shielding from the floors above me? I will research that later. Tomorrow: Mauna Kea Wednesday, August 9, 1995 First thing, I rented a 4-wheel drive Isuzu Trooper from Harper's, a company that advertises as "The only way to the top." Apparently this is due to the fact that all other rental companies specifically prohibit driving on the "Saddle Road" which is the "only way to the top." The Big Island of Hawaii is the top portion of an immense shield volcano. This means that it doesn't have steep sides but that it rises at a gradual but steady rate up to two separate peaks. Mauna Loa, the lower (13,677 ft) and southernmost of the two, is currently inactive but expected to erupt again soon. Low on its southern flank is the currently active vent named Pu'u O'o near the immense caldera of Kilauea. Mauna Kea, the highest peak at 13,796 ft, is considered extinct and is the site of a collection of the world's premier observatories. The Keck I and II are the world's largest optical telescopes. The United Kingdom Infra-red Telescope (UKIRT) is housed here and tonight we are scheduled to observe with John Davies, an astronomer from England during the first part of his observing run. I loaded the equipment in the rear cargo area of the vehicle and strapped it down so that I could readily access it from the tail gate without having to reset it each time. We began driving inland up highway 180. It rose rapidly though lush vegetation, into the clouds and a light misting rain. Thirty-five miles later we turned onto the saddle road and have risen to an altitude of 2800 ft. We stopped and took measurements for about 30 minutes and enjoyed the peaceful, rolling, green, & grassy countryside. We drove another 19 miles to an elevation of 6600 ft and stopped in the middle of an immense dark reddish-brown a'a lava flow that was overlain in places by a grayish pahoehoe lava flow. Both, obviously had originated from Mauna Loa far to the south. We were now above the clouds, the rain had stopped but it was quite windy. Again we took about 30 minutes of data, enjoyed the wide view, and then continued. Soon we turned left onto "Burns Way" and after driving 9 miles we arrived at Hale Pahaku at an elevation of 9500 ft. Hale Pahaku is the astronomer's mid level base camp. It is like a hotel, except that the guests sleep during the day instead of at night. All astronomers using telescopes on top of Mauna Kea are required to spend one full day at Hale Pahaku, acclimating to the extreme altitude, before doing an all-night tour of duty at the top. In our case we would only spend part of the night at the top and were required to acclimate at Hale Pahaku for at least one hour. We took another half hour of data, met John Davies, our host for the evening, made plans to continue to the top in order to see the summit while it was still sunlit, return to Hale Pahaku to meet with John again and then return to the summit at sunset. Immediately above Hale Pahaku, the good highway that we had followed so far suddenly becomes a dusty, unpaved, windy, extremely steep route up the face of the mountain. I quickly had to put the vehicle into 4WD-Lo in order to negotiate this road. At this elevation there is little or no vegetation anywhere to be seen. The landscape is steep and desolate; a uniform reddish-brown, jagged moonscape. Six miles of this and we reach an intermediate level where the road changes to a superhighway and proceeds another 4 miles to the very top of the mountain where sparkling observatory domes ring the crater. We drove directly to the Keck observatory. At this point I was so excited that I forgot I was on top of MK. I jumped out of the 4WD and started to run over to see if the visitor center was open. I quickly realized that was not a good idea as I began to feel lightheaded and decided to stop and take time to just breath. The view was superb. We were literally "on top of the world." After quickly touring the Keck gallery, and slowly walking around taking pictures I moved the 4WD into the sun and began taking data again. The temperature at this elevation at 4 pm was near zero Celsius. We both were having second thoughts about tonight's observing run. Time quickly ran out and we laboriously returned down the road, back to Hale Pahaku. It turned out that through a misunderstanding we had missed John and he had already left for the top. We turned around and arrived at the top again near sunset. John gave us a quick tour of the telescope and the control room. Apparently a ritual, everyone steps outside just as the sun sets to watch the outstanding show and hopefully to catch sight of the "Green Flash". It was a beautiful sunset, but just a hint of green was visible this time. While waiting for the sun to set, I looked the opposite direction and saw Mauna Kea's strangely triangular shadow stretched across the world below with a full moon boldly shining above Mauna Loa in the distance. It was a marvelous sight! We quickly returned to the warm control room as the evening wind picked up and began this night's observations. Normally, John shares the dome with but one other person: the telescope operator, who's job is to aim the telescope and make sure it is pointing at the correct object and that it tracks that object smoothly. Initially, there is a flurry of activity as the team hurries to test the system on a few known objects for calibration and verification and then to start the observation of their first new object. Initially the incoming data must be compared to what is expected, tested, and parameters changed in order to be sure that the data is real, and relevant. After this period of confidence building, the astronomer settles into a routine, letting the equipment collect ample data before changing filters or moving on to a new object. Although the pace slows, the astronomer is constantly watching the data, and rechecking to make sure that the data is still good. The night passes quickly. Judy & I have a long drive ahead of us and by 10:00 pm we excuse ourselves and start down the mountain. We are cautioned to use parking lights only until we are out of sight over the edge of the crater. It is a beautiful moonlit evening. The stars are so sharp and close and it is frigid! We don't tarry long. Thursday thru Saturday, August 10-12, 1995 The next three days we explore the island. We take a "Circle Island Deluxe", 1-hour helicopter tour. This is in a 6 passenger ASTAR touring helicopter. The tour is superb, originating at Keahole airport, flying over the northern slope of Mauna Loa (at 10,000 ft) dropping down for extraordinary views of Kilauea caldera and then the currently active Pu'u O'o vent. We saw a "skylight" where the roof of the main lava tube had collapsed allowing us to see the red-hot lava flowing beneath the expanse of recently cooled lava crust on its way to the ocean. Farther down the slope we could see the surface flow slowly but inexorably overrunning the rainforest. Individual trees being bulldozed down and burning as they are slowly covered. While circling for a better view, I saw a brilliantly colored rainbow corona formed tightly about our shadow in a cloud beneath us. The tour continued, flying north along the lush eastern coast, over Hilo, and along the gorgeous Hamakua coast. Near the northern tip of the Island, we crossed the primitive Waipio valley and then explored an even more remote valley called Waimanu valley. This is a steeply- sided flat-bottomed valley carved into the abruptly cliff-edged side of the island. Several streams make sheer drops of 300 to 400 ft into this valley. We flew alongside one of these majestic waterfalls. We then proceeded up the Waipio valley over Waimea and back to Keahole airport. We were speechless! This was the best!