Frank Hill WebChat March 12

Frank Hill: Hi all, Iím here

Eileen Bendixsen: Hello, Frank!

Frank Hill: Wow, Eileen, that was fast!

Eileen Bendixsen: The classes will be coming in at different times this morning based on schedules. We have about 25 minutes before the chat actually begins.

Frank Hill: Thatís fine, I just wanted to make sure everything worked!

Frank Hill: Iím going to try a smiley face :-)

Eileen Bendixsen: I like the smiley face. Iíve got to read the instructions to figure out how to do them.

Frank Hill: Faces are easy. Just type an "emoticon". I typed the characters ":", "-", and ")" (all in a row, no quotes)

Eileen Bendixsen: :-)

Frank Hill: Great!!!

Frank Hill: B-)

Frank Hill: That last one was a failed scientific experiment to see if the chat tool could do a smiley face with sunglasses.

Actually it was a successful experiment since it had a clear conclusion!

Eileen Bendixsen: Oh! I will have to remember that the next time one of my labs doesnít work.

Frank Hill: Hi, Sherri!

Eileen Bendixsen: Hello, Sherri! Frank Hill is here if you would like to ask any questions.

Sherri Pergrem: I have a group of seventh graders with me. We have just started the PTK program.

Frank Hill: Hi to Sherriís class! Hope you kids are OK today :-)

Eileen Bendixsen: My students really liked your BIO. The big question was the name of your cat until one of my students in my tenth period class had read your favorite book and solved the mystery.

Frank Hill: Eileen, glad you figured out the origin of the catís name!

Sherri Pergrem: Iím Brittany from Mrs. Pergremís class. I would like to know, what exactly does a data scientist do.

Frank Hill: Hi, Brittany. A data scientist analyzes data, stores it and distributes so everyone can use it for research and education.

Eileen Bendixsen: Hello, Diane! We have just started. Does your class have any questions?

Sherri Pergrem: Hi! :) Iím Megan from Mrs. Pergremís class!!! Uh, how does Math relate to your job as a data scientist?

Frank Hill: Hi Megan: math is very important in my job. Data is just an arrangement of numbers, and data analysis is mainly doing math on those numbers.

I also work with computers a lot since we store the data and send it out over the Internet.

Diane Sartore: This is our very first chat (ever!) Weíre just "spectating" at the moment. This astronomy class is only 1 week old, so weíre learning everything.

Frank Hill: Hi Diane--there is a LOT of astronomy to learn! :-)

Sherri Pergrem: My name is Kyle and I have a little question. If you canít get satellites out of the galaxies how do you take pictures of it?

Frank Hill: Hi, Kyle. If you mean how do we take pictures of our own galaxy (the Milky Way) all we can do is take a picture of its edge from inside.

If you mean how do we take a picture of other galaxies (which are usually the ones you see) then we use telescopes and electronic cameras called CCDs.

Sherri Pergrem: Then how do you know what the galaxy looks like?

Frank Hill: Hi, Sherri. We can see other galaxies pretty easily, and we assume that our own is a typical example. The fact that we see the Milky Way as a narrow band across the sky indicates we are in a spiral galaxy with a flat disk similar to the Andromeda galaxy.

Sherri Pergrem: Hi Iím Blair, How are the color and temperature of the Sun related?

Frank Hill: Hi, Blair. Great question--the color of the sun (like any star) is a direct indication of how hot its surface is. In fact, astronomers use the colors of stars to measure their surface temperature. A blue-white star (like Sirius) has a temp of 100,000 degrees, yellow (like the Sun) about 6,000 degrees, red (Betelgeuse) about 3,000.

Sherri Pergrem: Blair: Whatís a Coronal Mass Ejection?

Frank Hill: Blair--a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) is a gust in the solar wind, caused by an explosion on the Sunís surface. If the gust is pointed at the Earth and hits it, it can shake our magnetic field, damage satellites, disrupt telecommunications.

The corona is the Sunís outer atmosphere and it is MUCH hotter (2 million degrees) than the surface of the Sun (6,000 degrees). Itís a mystery as to why the corona is hotter since things generally cool off at their edges.

Sherri Pergrem: Howdy! My Name is Richmond and I am from Mrs. Pergremís class. I have a Question. What is the GONG Project?

Frank Hill: Hi, Richmond. GONG stands for "Global Oscillation Network Group". GONG is a set of 6 instruments distributed around the world to observe the Sun 24 hours a day instead of having to stop at night. We do this because the Sun rings like a bell, itís a huge musical instrument filled with sound and we can use that sound to deduce what the inside of it is like.

Using this technique (called helioseismology), we now are learning how the inside of the Sun rotates. Since the Sun is not solid, it rotates in a complicated way with some parts going faster than others. This "differential" rotation sets up currents that probably somehow cause sunspots, but the details are still unclear.

If you want to learn more about GONG, hereís a link:

Diane Sartore: I thought you could do 24 hr observations from Antarctica. Is GONG better because itís on different continents?

Frank Hill: Hi, Diane. Yes, you can do 24 hour a day observations from Antarctica, but only for 6 months a year. GONG has already been running for 3 years continuously, and is less sensitive to weather interruptions since we always have 2 widely separated instruments observing.

Sherri Pergrem: Hello, my nameís Matt from Mrs. Pergremís class. Does the Sun emit most of the parts of the electromagnetic spectrum?

Frank Hill: Yes, Matt, the Sun emits everything from the shortest wavelength gamma rays during flares through x-rays, UV, visible, Infrared and radio waves. We use all these electromagnetic waves to study the Sun since each type gives information about different parts of the Sun. UV means ultraviolet, by the way.

Eileen Bendixsen: We have about 10 minutes left of the chat. Does anyone have any more questions?

Sherri Pergrem: Hi! My nameís Danielle. I was wondering how scientists estimate the number of stars in a galaxy.

Frank Hill: Hi, Danielle. We estimate the number of stars in a galaxy by measuring how bright the galaxy is. We then divide that by the average brightness of stars.

Diane Sartore: Arenít we headed toward another sunspot maximum? If so, how is this maximum comparing with the last maximum cycle?

Frank Hill: Hi, Diane. Yes we are headed towards another sunspot maximum, we are about half way there. We expect it to occur sometime in 2001. Right now, it looks like an average strength cycle.

Diane Sartore: Is there any correlation between El Nino and the sunspot cycle?

Frank Hill: Hi, Diane. Thatís been an active research question for decades. There have been many tantalizing hints of a connection between the Earthís weather and the sunspot cycle but most of them have disappeared as more data has been added. Plus itís hard to come up with a physical connection. BUT, the El Nino does seem to be connected through something called the "biennial oscillation" of the sea temperatures on the Earth.

Eileen Bendixsen: Thank you, Frank, for chatting with us today and for teaching me how to make :-)s.

Frank Hill: Sure, Eileen, it was fun! Thanks to all the students and teachers! I have to go to another meeting, so good-bye!

Eileen Bendixsen: Students and teachers thank you for joining us today. We had some great questions. The chat transcript will be edited and placed on the LFSUN website.