Hands-on Astronomy at Mauna Kea <ul><li>Stars and planets are too far away for us to visit (for now!), but being an astron...
On Location: Mauna Kea Mauna Kea, the 13,800-foot volcano on the Big Island of Hawai’i, is one of the best sites in the wo...
Pleased to Meet You <ul><li>Left to right: </li></ul><ul><li>•  Ted Kostiuk,   HIPWAC principal investigator </li></ul><ul...
Mauna Kea  ↑   and Mars  -> Looks Like Mars Red, powdery dirt. Dry atmosphere. Lava rock. The volcanic landscape of Mauna ...
Ozone on Mars The amount of ozone we measure tells us about the chemistry taking place in Mars’s atmosphere.   To learn as...
Here’s HIPWAC Ozone absorbs certain colors, or frequencies, of light that our eyes don’t see (infrared). HIPWAC can measur...
Visit to Nawahiokalani’opu’u School We came to share about planetary astronomy and our upcoming observing run. The student...
Setting Up Our Instrument We ship HIPWAC to Hawai’i and reassemble it on-site. This takes a few days because the instrumen...
Remote Control While we assemble HIPWAC, other astronomers use the IRTF telescope for their own studies. Many astronomers ...
Iced off the Summit Even though Mauna Kea is in Hawai’i, it’s at an elevation of almost 14,000 feet, so it is subject to w...
Finishing Touches The threat of ice was short-lived and soon gave way to a beautiful weather pattern that would last throu...
Ready and Standing By HIPWAC is installed on the back of the orange IRTF telescope. The instrument sits in the middle of t...
Our Turn on the Telescope Tim and me in action! I hold a control paddle to move the telescope by small amounts. This way, ...
Pictures and text by Kelly Fast/NASA   Design and editing by Elizabeth Zubritsky We are always grateful for the support we...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

Hands-On Astronomy At Mauna Kea

752 views

Published on

Ever wonder what it's like to go up a mountain and use a really big telescope? Join astronomer Kelly Fast in Hawaii, as she learns about native culture, gets chased off the summit by an ice storm, and finally observes Mars.

Published in: Education
0 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total views
752
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
2
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
6
Comments
0
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Hands-On Astronomy At Mauna Kea

  1. 1. Hands-on Astronomy at Mauna Kea <ul><li>Stars and planets are too far away for us to visit (for now!), but being an astronomer is still an adventure, especially when we get to use a big telescope like this one. Come, find out what it’s like to observe Mars from the top of a mountain in Hawai’i. </li></ul>
  2. 2. On Location: Mauna Kea Mauna Kea, the 13,800-foot volcano on the Big Island of Hawai’i, is one of the best sites in the world for astronomy and has 13 working telescopes near the summit. In December 2009, our group from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center came to the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) at Mauna Kea to observe Mars with Goddard’s special instrument HIPWAC. We measured ozone in the atmosphere of Mars to help us understand the chemistry of that planet’s atmosphere.
  3. 3. Pleased to Meet You <ul><li>Left to right: </li></ul><ul><li>• Ted Kostiuk, HIPWAC principal investigator </li></ul><ul><li>• Kelly Fast (me), Mars program principal investigator </li></ul><ul><li>• John Annen, HIPWAC engineer </li></ul><ul><li>• Timothy Livengood, Mars program co-investigator </li></ul>Our team, in the lunch room at the summit.
  4. 4. Mauna Kea ↑ and Mars -> Looks Like Mars Red, powdery dirt. Dry atmosphere. Lava rock. The volcanic landscape of Mauna Kea is similar in some ways to the landscape of Mars. It seems appropriate to go to a place that looks like Mars so that we can observe Mars. NASA/JPL/Cornell
  5. 5. Ozone on Mars The amount of ozone we measure tells us about the chemistry taking place in Mars’s atmosphere. To learn as much as we can about ozone on Mars, we move the telescope around to different locations. Solid colors: Where we took measurements with HIPWAC from the IRTF telescope Dotted tracks: Measurements by the Mars Express spacecraft At the same time we are looking through the telescope, the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft, which orbits Mars, also observes ozone. When our measurements agree with theirs, both teams are more confident about the results, and we can combine all the measurements to study chemistry in the Martian atmosphere.
  6. 6. Here’s HIPWAC Ozone absorbs certain colors, or frequencies, of light that our eyes don’t see (infrared). HIPWAC can measure ozone absorption in the infrared. One challenge for us is that Earth’s atmosphere also contains ozone. We need to be sure that we are seeing ozone from Mars, not Earth. HIPWAC stands for Heterodyne Instrument for Planetary Wind And Composition—a complicated name for an instrument that simply lets us study molecules such as ozone in the atmospheres of planets. Because of the motion of Mars relative to Earth, the ozone features on Mars appear at slightly different frequencies from those on Earth. This effect is called Doppler shift. A familiar example of Doppler shift is when the pitch of a siren seems to get lower as an ambulance moves away from us.
  7. 7. Visit to Nawahiokalani’opu’u School We came to share about planetary astronomy and our upcoming observing run. The students had many astronomy questions. After our presentations, the sixth-grade students gave us a tour of the school grounds. It was quite an honor to visit this unique school! Tim and I came to Hawai’i a day early to visit the Ke Kula ’o Nawahiokalani’opu’u school on the Big Island. We were greeted by students and staff with Hawai’ian chant, exchanges and song that welcomed us, related stars to life and honored Joseph Nawahiokalani’opu’u, the school’s namesake. Nawahiokalni’opu’u is a Hawai’ian language immersion school, for grades K–12. There, Hawai’ian tradition, culture and agricultural methods are taught and practiced in addition to the academic curriculum.
  8. 8. Setting Up Our Instrument We ship HIPWAC to Hawai’i and reassemble it on-site. This takes a few days because the instrument has mirrors, lenses, and lasers that have to be lined up very carefully. Then we test the instrument to make sure it is working properly. In this photo, John and Ted assemble the lasers. HIPWAC is sensitive enough to distinguish ozone features on Mars and provides the only direct access to ozone on Mars from the surface of the Earth.
  9. 9. Remote Control While we assemble HIPWAC, other astronomers use the IRTF telescope for their own studies. Many astronomers are able to make their observations from anywhere in the world, thanks to videoconferencing, internet connections and the staff at the facility. In this photo, telescope operator Paul Sears talks via computer to astronomer Adam Burgasser while he conducts remote observations.
  10. 10. Iced off the Summit Even though Mauna Kea is in Hawai’i, it’s at an elevation of almost 14,000 feet, so it is subject to weather that you might not associate with tropical islands. One night, as we were still assembling HIPWAC, we were forced to leave the summit early because of ice. This evacuation was ordered by the telescope operator for everyone’s safety. We walked out of the IRTF into high winds and blowing water droplets. Ice was beginning to form on the road. We drove carefully down to the dormitory, located about 5,000 feet below the summit. We stay there, rather than at the foot of the mountain, so that we have an easier time adjusting to the high-altitude conditions at the top.
  11. 11. Finishing Touches The threat of ice was short-lived and soon gave way to a beautiful weather pattern that would last throughout the observing run. The work resumed, HIPWAC was assembled and its components tested, and the day came to attach it to the telescope with the help of the IRTF day crew. (Left) Observatory Foreman Lars Bergknut tightens the bolts that hold HIPWAC to the telescope, and (right) Electronics Technician Imai Namahoe prepares the connections between the control room and HIPWAC in the dome.
  12. 12. Ready and Standing By HIPWAC is installed on the back of the orange IRTF telescope. The instrument sits in the middle of the large blue multiple instrument mount, just beyond HIPWAC’s blue electronics rack. In this photo, HIPWAC is flanked by IRTF facility instruments in stowed positions.
  13. 13. Our Turn on the Telescope Tim and me in action! I hold a control paddle to move the telescope by small amounts. This way, we can point to various locations on Mars and make our measurements. Before we looked at Mars, an IRTF operator (Bill Golisch, inset) pointed the telescope at some particular stars, such as Betelgeuse in the constellation Orion. The infrared light from the stars provided a final check of the alignment of HIPWAC’s many components. Next, we observed Mars for four nights and got some very nice data.
  14. 14. Pictures and text by Kelly Fast/NASA Design and editing by Elizabeth Zubritsky We are always grateful for the support we receive from the staff at the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, and we look forward to the next opportunity to observe from above the clouds on Mauna Kea. Aloha! We took HIPWAC off the telescope and packed it up. Then came the long trip home. Data analysis takes some time, but we look forward to what we will learn about the chemistry of the atmosphere on Mars. Our observing run was very successful, thanks to excellent weather and the excellent performance of HIPWAC. Over the four nights, we measured ozone at many locations on Mars and in coordination with the Mars Express spacecraft.

×