PART 1: Special report: star formation regions, dark clouds and telescience  


[Editor's note: Bob Loewenstein is flying this week on board the KAO.  
He will also be involved in the televised flights on Oct 12 and 13.
Since these reports are so timely, they are being distributed before
the regular Friday date. Together we can learn whether the Wednesday
evening flight was a success or not.]

Field Journal from Dr. Bob Loewenstein
Wednesday, September 27

It is the second week of flying on the very last data series of the KAO.
Last week we had 3 flights, and we had one flight last night. Last night's
flight was a late take-off, so we could observe (among other sources) M42,
the Great Nebula in Orion. It's a winter object and rises late in the
morning in the fall. That means we are taking-off between 10:00 and
10:30pm and landing 7 1/2 hours later, around 5:30 to 6:00 am. We have two
more flights to go, all late take-offs.

We are observing several types of star formation regions. M42 is a
tremendously large and interesting region of star formation. If you have
dark skies where you live, you can see it in the sword in Orion's belt.
Without a telescope, it is a fully area about midway down in the sword.
With a telescope, it looks like a brightly glowing cloud.

We are also looking at what are called 'dark clouds' which are regions of
dust that do not glow like in M42. Because the dust is not giving off
light, and is densely distributed, it blocks out light from stars behind
it. That's why these regions are called 'dark clouds'. Stars are likely
forming inside these clouds of dust and looking at them in the Infrared
can help discover something about these birth regions.

I am also testing out some things we will try in the realm of what is
called "telescience'. Several groups of people, during our flights and
during the Live from the Stratosphere program will be able to connect to
the KAO's computer system and control the telescope and a video feed.
During a flight on October 3, Al Harper and I hope to sit in our offices
back at Yerkes Observatory (in Wisconsin) and participate in the research
part of the flight. This type of remote observing is done in several large
ground based observatories and we hope to be able to do it on the KAO's
successor, SOFIA.

Today, before the flight, we have ACTS satellite time to test more of the
link from the KAO to the ground station. I hope to test more of the
telescience software, then get ready for the 10:30pm take-off tonight.

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