Live from the Hubble Space Telescope
UPDATE # 19
PART 1: Upcoming live interactions
PART 2: Collaborative weather activity
PART 3: Taking pictures of galaxies
This coming week will feature two opportunities for your students to
interact with experts of the Hubble team. Please consider joining us in
On Wednesday, April 10, Alex Storrs and Tony Roman from the Space Telescope
Science Institute will be available on WebChat. Their topic will be "How
we prepared the HST to make your Pluto and Neptune observations". They
will cover this topic in two separate sessions, from 9-10am Pacific (noon-1pm
Eastern) and 11am-noon Pacific (2-3pm Eastern). To participate, point
your Web browser here.
On Thursday, April 11, Chris Wilkinson and his colleagues from the team
that operates the HST will be available on CU-SeeMe. They will discuss
the Hubble as a spacecraft and will get into details about what it takes
to keep the system operating safely. They will cover this topic in two
separate sessions, from 9-10am Pacific (noon-1pm Eastern) and 11am-noon
Pacific (2-3pm Eastern). The hour in between is reserved for classroom-classroom
interactions. To join the fun, use the following CU-SeeMe reflector sites:
188.8.131.52 (first choice) and 184.108.40.206 (alternate if the primary
One of the strengths of being a participant in online projects is the
opportunity for your students to collaborate with other students around
the nation through interactive data collection activities. As we have
said in Activity 3B "Watching the Weather Move," the Hubble Space Telescope
can be thought of as "an interplanetary weather satellite," capturing
images of weather on other worlds. Heidi Hammel and Mark Buie, our Planetary
Advocates for Neptune and Pluto, are looking for "seasonal" and shorter
term changes in their planet's weather as they analyze their HST images.
Here on earth, we can also be "weather watchers" and predict changes,
only we must do this from our own view--the ground up!
Your students are invited to participate in our online Weather Watcher
Activity by collecting data daily for a period of one week, April 15-19th
and reporting that data DAILY using the template included in the activity
description. The more DATA POINTS (Schools/Homeschoolers) involved, the
more reliable our results. This data will then in turn be transformed
into a series of weather maps which students will be able to analyze and
from which they can make predictions. The weather maps created from the
student data will be found on our web site under "Featured Activities,"
and the cloud cover maps will be featured during the April 23 program,
"Announcing Your Results."
The activity is fully outlined below, using basic and fairly simple
techniques and weather instruments. This is purposefully planned to encourage
a wider number of participants. Your school's name will be recorded online
and may be mentioned on air! In order for us to plan ahead, we would like
you to register in advance for participation in this project. Please send
the following information to me
(Jan Wee). BY APRIL 10th:
REGISTRATION FOR PARTICIPATION ---
WEATHER WATCHER ACTIVITY for week of April 15-19)
Name of School:
Latitude (given in degrees N):
Longitude (given in degrees W):
PLEASE NOTE THE TIME CRITICAL NATURE OF THIS ACTIVITY, EXTENDING FROM
APRIL 15-19. IF YOUR SCHOOL HAS A VACATION COMING UP, PLEASE PLAN ACCORDINGLY
IN TERMS OF ASSEMBLING EQUIPMENT. WE CHOSE THESE DATES TO AVOID AS MANY
VACATIONS AS POSSIBLE, WHILE STILL PRECEDING THE 4/23 PROGRAM. THIS SHOULD
STILL ALLOW SOME ANIMATION OF THE CLOUD COVER DATA. YOU AND YOUR STUDENTS
SHOULD EXPECT MORE RESULTS TO BE POSTED, ON-LINE, AFTER THE LIVE PROGRAM.
WE ALSO APOLOGIZE TO OUR INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATORS. WE DO NOT ANTICIPATE
THAT THERE WILL BE SUFFICIENT SITES BEYOND NORTH AMERICA FOR ANY MEANINGFUL
DATA TO BE COLLECTED. MAYBE "NEXT TIME... !"
Post your Weather on the Web
Get your School on the Map
Students will collaborate with other students across North America, via
the Internet, to collect cloud and other weather data to compare and contrast
the scale and structure of storms on Earth to those on Neptune.
Students will collaborate with other students across North America,
via the Internet, to collect temperature and other data, to compare and
contrast weather on Earth to that on Pluto and Neptune.
Through this exercise, students will better understand the role of weather
stations and spacecraft imagery in assembling the "Big Picture" of weather
across North America, as seen in newspapers and tv weathercasts.
Ask students to describe how the weather images they see in the newspaper,
or on tv, are created. (Activities 3B, 3C and 3D in the Teacher's Guide
provide related hands-on projects and other background.) Explain that
weather satellites operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) sit in geosynchronous orbit above certain regions of the Earth,
and take pictures, at different wavelengths, which provide snapshots of
different aspects of the weather. The moving pictures of cloud systems
which can be seen on television are the result of animating multiple still
pictures put together in timelapse sequences to show how clouds and fronts
travel across the country over time.
Tell students they now will have the chance to function as "weather
stations", looking UP at clouds from the surface of the Earth, not DOWN
from above as do satellites. They'll report their results for observations
made during the week of April 15-19 via the Internet. During the April
23 LHST program, "Announcing YOUR Results", they'll have the chance to
see their data incorporated with that of other students across America
and set in motion through video animation.
Their data will allow LIVE FROM THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE to track
a week of storms moving across North America, and to compare and contrast
the size and structure of the cloud patterns with those observed on Neptune
during the PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE observations first glimpsed during the
March 14 program.
On-line, each data point will be related to the school (or home- schooled
student) which or who reported it, putting their names, literally, on
the map. Students will realize the comparative advantages of weather satellites
in recording weather "top-down", and see the virtues and limitations of
"ground truth" observations.
A second on-line activity will allow schools to collect and report temperature,
one of the factors which drives cloud systems.
Explore/Explain The LIVE FROM THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE Teacher's Guide
points out that the Earth and many of the other planets of our solar system
are actually great "weather machines". This means that the Hubble functions
as a kind of "interplanetary weather satellite" when observing our neighboring
Weather is created when heat from the sun or the deep interior of a
planet wells up through the planet's atmosphere. These rising currents
combine with a planet's spin (rotation) to drive winds and create storm
systems that swirl in complex patterns across the planet. A few of the
Activities in the Teacher's Guide give your students the opportunity to
compare satellite images of the weather on Earth with spacecraft images
of the weather on other worlds.
In this on-line Activity, your students will be called upon to observe
the Earth's weather from the surface of our planet every day for a week.
In the process, they will come to better understand:
- what properties of the atmosphere it's important to measure
- how their observations can be combined with those of other students
across the country to create both Cloud Cover Charts and Surface Weather
- how data from a succession of days can be combined to analyze changing
weather patterns and help create weather forecasts
Depending on the weather instruments your school has, or may be able
to borrow (middle schools could check with their local high schools, for
example, or take a real field trip to a local airport, or might even be
able to adapt data broadcast by a local tv station), have your students
make as many of the following observations each day as possible. (If you
only have the equipment to make some of the observations, still do these
and report your data. All data will be recorded and will make a real contribution
to the whole. Even if only some is reported on-air, all will be displayed
It's important to have students make their weather observations carefully,
using the >same< procedures and at approximately the same time each day.
This will be 13:00 hours Eastern, 12 noon Central, 11:00 hours Mountain
and 10:00 hours Pacific, in other words, all data will be collected at
the same exact time, as defined by Universal Time..
Have them make as many of the following observations as possible:
- percentage of sky covered by cloud (10%, 20%, 30%, etc.)
- type of cloud
- wind speed
- wind direction
In making these observations, we recommend the following procedures
- Cloud cover observations should be made by estimating the percent
of the sky that is presently covered by clouds in increments of 10%.
Thus 0% means completely clear and 100% means completely cloudy.
- Cloud types and description: for this exercise, we are limiting our
categories to Cirrus, Stratus or Cumulus, pictures of which we assume
you should be able to find in easily-accessible texts. Data will be
reported as "CI", "ST", or "CU".
- Wind speed is measured with an instrument called an anemometer. Professional
quality anemometers are quite expensive but there are reasonably inexpensive
alternatives including a "Hand Held Wind Meter" (catalog #IN-4001) available
from Wind & Weather , P.O. Box 2320, Mendocino, CA 95460-2320, USA.
(800) 922-9463 for $15.00 +1.00 shipping and handling.
One PTK teacher recommends checking books to be found in school
or local libraries to see how a simple anemometer can be made from
ping-pong balls. You or your colleagues may already have similar ingenious
ideas. If so, please share them, via discuss-hst, so we may all benefit!
It's important to measure wind speed in an open area, as nearby
buildings and narrow alleys can significantly change the speed of
the wind -- Bernoulli's Principle at work. If winds are gusty, an
average of several readings taken over the course of a few minutes
should be made. (If taking such data is beyond your technical capacity,
adapt local media reports, averaging as necessary.)
- Wind direction is measured with a wind vane. If one is not available
atop your school, or a local church or city building, determine the
wind direction by tying a lightweight streamer to the end of a long
pole. Use a compass to note North, South, East and West, and intermediate
degrees. Hold the pole up in the air, in the center of the "compass
rose". The direction of the wind is opposite to the direction in which
the tail of the streamer is pointing. As with wind speed, measurements
of wind direction should be made in an open area away from nearby tall
obstacles which can greatly influence the local direction of the wind.
TEACHERS: PLEASE NOTE, THE ABOVE ARE THE KEY ELEMENTS FOR THE LIVE
FROM HUBBLE CLOUD WATCH. EVEN IF YOU CANNOT UNDERTAKE THE ADDITIONAL
OBSERVATION BELOW, PLEASE TRY AND ATTEMPT ITEMS 1-4. THE MORE SCHOOLS
REPORTING, THE BETTER THE DATA, AND THE MORE FULFILLING EACH INDIVIDUAL
SCHOOL AND STUDENT'S EXPERIENCE!
- Be sure to measure the current temperature in a shaded, well- ventilated
area about 4 or 5 feet above a dirt or grassy area. If you are bringing
the thermometer from inside a building, allow time for its temperature
to adjust to the outside temperature.
Note: For schools are a very tight budget, "Wind & Weather" also
sells a device called a "Five Way Weather Watch" (catalog #IN-5WW)
which contains simple devices to monitor wind speed, wind direction,
rainfall and temperature. This sells for $7.50 + $1.00 s & h.
Each day have students make as many of these observations as possible
at the assigned time. Then send us your results daily. If you have
Web access, go to the "Input Data" section of
this web page. (this page is not currently operating but it will
become available closer to the April 15 date). If you do not have
Web access, then please send your results to here.
Please use the following template:
Cloud cover % (in increments of 10%):
Type of clouds (Cirrus=CI, Stratus=ST, Cumulus=CU)
Wind speed (in MPH):
Wind Direction (0=North, 90=East, 180=South, 270=West):
During the April 23 LHST program, you will see some of the results
of your collaborative endeavors. All the results will be posted on-
line, together with school names. With enough schools reporting, the
maps should be able to chart the motion, speed and size of cloud masses.
This should enable Heidi Hammel to compare and contrast at least their
sizes with those on Neptune, though since she only had two orbits,
imaging opposite sides of Neptune, she will not have motion data from
the PTK observations.
Temperatures across North America will be contrasted by Marc Buie
with the current weather on Pluto!
In addition to such interplanetary comparisons, students will have
new insights on "highs", "lows", and fronts -- as evidenced by cloud
cover and motion -- graphing, plotting, geography, computer networking
Students will also be able to compare these maps and charts with weather
maps and satellite images seen in local newspapers or on tv weather
reports. As suggested in the Teacher's Guide, invite a local weathercaster
to visit to speak about his or her career, and maybe even do a news
report on YOUR junior weathercasters, sharing the results of your
hands-on activities with your local community. (Be sure to send PASSPORT
TO KNOWLEDGE copies of any coverage that results!)
Other guests might be amateur weather enthusiasts who have been
collecting and reporting data to the National Weather Service for
many years, as an informal but very useful network of amateur reporters.
Explain to students that there was, of course, a time before weather
satellites and computers, when all weather data came from ground stations,
or ships at sea. Perhaps have students research the difference in
warning time, preceding a hurricane, possible today in comparison
to 50 years ago.
Discuss with your students the differences between their collaborative
Weather Maps and those in newspapers or on tv, and especially the
corresponding day's satellite images seen in newspapers or on tv.
Ask them why they think satellites do a better job of recording overall
cloud cover than observations from the ground.
After the 4/23 program, and when the results have been posted on-
line, ask students to describe how weather moves across North America,
and point out instances where the weather in one part of the country
became the weather in another part of the country on the succeeding
day. (Again, for background, see Activity 3B) Once they see patterns
begin to emerge, challenge them to predict, retroactively, the next
day's weather in various parts of the country. Then have them apply
these insights to "tomorrow's weather" using that day's data. Explain
to them that they are actually doing basic weather forecasting rather
as professional meteorologists do. Have them keep a record of the
accuracy of their forecasts.
Explain that actual weather forecasting employs round-the-clock
observations like the ones they made, but derived from thousands of
locations across the country and around the world, and adding radar
and satellite images and data from instrumented weather balloons launched
into the upper atmosphere twice a day. Ask them to think about how
many "data points" all those observations represent (in comparison
to the numbers of schools which report) and ask them to explain why
high-speed supercomputers must be used for modern weather analysis
Students should also check out the wealth of excellent weather resources
to be found on-line, such as: GLOBE: http://rsd.gsfc.nasa.gov/globe
WeatherNET 4: http://wxnet4.nbc4.com/
March 27, 1996
Hmmm...we've got a problem! When we take pictures through the telescope,
it's very important for the telescope to keep up with the rotation
of the earth, otherwise the stars would streak across our images.
Here in the console room, there is a small TV which is attached to
a camera inside the telescope itself. This camera lets us see what
the telescope sees. We then use something akin to video game buttons
to move a targeting square on the TV screen to a bright star in the
field. This enables the telescope to lock on to the bright star and
keep up with its motion across the sky. That's where our problem is.
I used the targeting square to lock on to a bright star (called a
guide star) and I turned on the telescope tracking...but the guide
star just drifts right out of the target square. And as a result,
our first set of images are nothing but streaks! We called the observing
technicians, and they just came to help us. After about 20 minutes,
they determined that the mechanical components of the guiding circuitry
had become loose. Apparently the tracking and guidance equipment is
pretty old (older than me!), and it periodically becomes loose. Thankfully,
the technicians were able to fix our problem very quickly!
So, we're guiding now...but unfortunately it's too cloudy for our
observations! The sky is relatively clear, but the bright moonlight
makes it clear that there are high cirrus clouds all around the sky.
For many astronomers, cirrus clouds are OK-- obviously not ideal conditions,
but still manageable. But since we're working on a photometric star
catalog, the ice crystals in the cirrus clouds cause too much interference
in the starlight. For us, cirrus clouds are just as bad as thunderstorms!
We'll wait for half and hour or so, then check the sky again...
It's now 12:45am, and it's still too cloudy for our observations...
however, I have some exciting news! I've spent the last 2 hours or
so just taking pretty pictures of galaxies! As I said earlier, it's
too cloudy for photometry, but not at all bad for just taking pictures!
So, I loaded the Messier catalog into the telescope's guidance computer.
The Messier catalog is a huge compilation of galaxies--it was created
in the early part of this century by an astronomer named Charles Messier.
In all honesty, I've just been exploring tonight! I searched the catalog
for objects which are visible from this latitude and longitude at
this time, and I just practiced pointing the telescope and taking
exposures. I had no idea how to choose the correct exposure times,
so I literally started with a 60-second exposure and just went by
trial-and-error from then on! This has been tremendously fun for me!
These galaxies are absolutely spectacular... I know it's bad news
that the weather has been uncooperative for our photometry, but on
the other hand this has given me an opportunity to do some searching
on my own. I've learned so much about the practical aspects of observational
astronomy tonight!! These images are GORGEOUS!!! I've done a little
bit of data reduction on them, and they just look spectacular. It's
been exciting to direct my own learning tonight--after all, I had
no idea what most of these galaxies even looked like when I began...
I think I'll take a few minutes to walk outside and just stargaze...
Let's hope for better weather tomorrow night--that's our last night
:) a very happy Trisha