transcript of the PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE program
"LIVE FROM THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE"
#101, "THE GREAT PLANET DEBATE"
first aired November 9, 1995, over public television and NASA-TV
Underwriter acknowledgment: student announcer (female):
Live from Hubble Space Telescope is made possible in part by the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation,
PBS K-12 Learning Services and public television.
Narrator (Dr. WILLIAM A. GUTSCH) over NASA and STScI footage and
animations of the HST and its discoveries:
November, 1995: the Hubble Space Telescope reveals astonishing close-up
images of star forming regions in M-16, the Eagle Nebula, some seven thousand
light years from Earth -- amazingly detailed images that show organic-looking
columns of gas, light years long, sculpted by the pressure of light and
particles from nearby stars.
In the years since its launch in 1990, the Hubble has looked much further
out into our still mysterious universe, peering deep into galaxies and
the black holes which seem to power some of them, painting a portrait
of dark space dotted with myriad shapes, the abode perhaps of other astronomically-inclined
beings who survey the universe with their own space telescopes.
But Hubble itself has also looked much closer to home, revealing a colder,
drier Mars than that seen by the last spacecraft to come this way, twenty
years ago. Hubble also tracked the impact of mountain-sized chunks of
comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter and surveyed the results of this once
-in-a-thousand lifetimes' cosmic collision.
Hampered at first by a misshapen mirror, a highly successful Servicing
Mission in 1993 replaced one camera and inserted corrective lenses that
restored much of Hubble's promised eyesight. This demonstrated that further
improvements can be expected from new instruments to be installed in 1997
and on into the next century. This remarkable telescope, a cooperative
venture of America's NASA and the European Space Agency has helped rewrite
the book on our cosmos near and far, delivering block-buster images from
orbit nearly every week.
GUTSCH, on camera, in the lobby of STScI:
This is a model of the Hubble Space Telescope here at the Space Telescope
Science Institute in Baltimore. The real space telescope is five times
larger and orbits the globe every couple of hours more than three hundred
miles above our heads. Now I have a question for you. How would you like
to be able to use the real space telescope to observe objects across the
universe? Well, believe it or not, this coming March this largest telescope
ever put into space is going to be as close to you as your television
screen or your computer modem. Students like you from across the country
and around the world will be able to work with top research scientists
at deciding which of several objects in space we are going to be studying
next March with this very special telescope.
This program is going to tell you how to participate in this exciting
and totally unique experiment in science education and outreach. And outreach
is a good word because, via the Internet, you are going to be able to
reach out to this unique research tool.
Hi, I'm Dr. Bill Gutsch. Welcome to Live from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Passport to Knowledge presents Live from the Hubble Space Telescope.
TITLE SEQUENCE Narrator (Dr. GUTSCH) over NASA and STScI footage
and animations of the HST and its discoveries:
The Hubble Space Telescope is an amazingly complex observatory, forty-three
feet long, the size of a school bus, and weighing over twenty-five thousand
pounds. Every few hours it orbits the Earth, passing from dark night into
the heat of sunlight. Packed deep down inside the telescope's insulated
shell is its ninety-four-and-a-half inch primary mirror, which allows
scientists to see things ten times clearer than the telescopes on the
surface of the Earth. A secondary mirror bounces light from distant objects
down into an area the size of a dinner plate, where an array of cameras
and other detectors wait. In outer space, the Hubble can catch ultraviolet
radiation, and sometimes infrared, blocked by the Earth's turbulent water-laden
atmosphere. An array of filters can select different colors in different
kinds of light, giving Hubble great flexibility in the types of observations
it can do.
Hubble signals bounce from orbit via Tracking and Data Relay Satellites
down to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, which
controls the spacecraft itself, and finally on to the Space Telescope
Science Institute on the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore,
which is responsible for all scientific aspects of Hubble's missions.
GUTSCH on camera:
By now I think you can see how unique and exciting a research tool the
Hubble Space Telescope is for doing cutting-edge astronomy. In fact, for
every five astronomers who want to get time on the Hubble Space Telescope
there's only enough time to give one of those a chance to actually use
it. (editor's note: the current ratio is more like 10:1, which makes our
project all the more astonishing!) But this Spring, NASA and the Space
Telescope Science Institute are giving us and you three complete orbits
of the Hubble Space Telescope with which to do some exciting new research.
And they are giving us all of the facilities, the scientists, the computers,
that they normally give the top researchers around the world.
Now here is where you come in. Together, we have to choose which of
four planets the Hubble Space Telescope is going to observe next Spring.
We picked planets for several reasons: one, they are rather bright objects,
and that means that we can do some real science in only a couple of orbits
of the Hubble Space Telescope, and secondly because planets usually have
some rather interesting details on their surfaces or in their atmospheres.
Here at Passport to Knowledge we have also enlisted the services of
four top research planetary astronomers, we'll call them our "Planetary
advocates", who are going to work with you at trying to figure out and
trying to determine which one of the four planets we are going to be studying.
The Planet Advocates are seen: GUTSCH continues voice over: In
alphabetical order, our Planet Advocates are Dr. Reta Beebe, from New
Mexico State University, who will help us study the planet Jupiter.
For Pluto, Dr. Marc Buie, from the Lowell observatory in Flagstaff,
For the planet Neptune, we have Dr. Heidi Hammel, from the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology...
and for Uranus, Dr. Carolyn Porco from the University of Arizona. Our
thanks to all of them for their commitment to this exciting project. In
many ways, you students will be the co-investigators on this research
project with these scientists, and this program will show you how to participate.
graphics of the dates cited:
Through December 1995 you and the scientists will together develop potential
research plans that will decide which planet to look at and what you are
going to study about each planet. Then in December we here at Passport
to Knowledge along with science educators, research astronomers and you
participating students will decide which planet or planets to look at.
Now, there isn't going to be one winner in any of this. All of you who
participate are going to be part of that final decision, so everyone who
participates is a winner.
Then during January and February 1996 the people here at the Space Telescope
Science Institute who are in charge of actually pointing the telescope
to the correct place in the sky will write the complex computer commands
to do this for the planet or planets you've selected. On March 14th, you'll
see the actual information, the raw data, radioed down to the Earth from
the target planet or planets during a live television program, and maybe
even make a discovery in the process.
Over the next several weeks, the information will be processed by giant
computers and then on April 23 you'll see the final results, right here,
during our final live telecast.
Now there is more information about all of this on the Net (Internet),
and in a few minutes we'll tell you how to find it, so make sure you have
a pencil and paper ready. Over the coming weeks, you'll have a chance
to find out the latest information about each planet, and you can discuss
the various things you might want to actually observe about the planet
with Space Telescope, with your Planet Advocate and each other via the
ANNE KINNEY, Education Manager and Project Scientist for Education,
It's unprecedented. We've never used Hubble Space Telescope orbits for
classrooms... for the use of students before. Another unique thing about
the program is that we're really trying to have the students be very involved
in deciding which observations to make, which planet to look at.
ALEX STORRS, Planning Scientist, "Moving Targets", STScI:
Almost all the investigations that I've thought of can lead to something
useful, certainly something publishable. We, in the academic world, tend
to think of of whether or not a result can be published, and almost all
of these observations we talked about can lead to a publication. Will
it be the next great Nobel prize-winning research, I can't say!
Narrator, voice over:
Alex Storrs is a planning scientist for STSCI. His specialty is Moving
Targets, primarily the planets of our solar system. His position provides
an expert overview of all our options.
Jupiter is big, it's the biggest planet, it's got the gaudiest belts,
it fills your field of view, if you are taking a picture of it, an image
of it. It's dynamic, it's changing, it's interesting, we know very little
about it, even after Shoemaker- Levy, we really know very little about
what's going on below the cloud tops, and the cloud tops are just a very
small part of that planet.
RETA BEEBE (she speaks over Voyager and HST images of Jupiter):
There's basically two kinds of planets in the solar system: there's the
Earth-like planets, and there are the large gas planets, and I consider
Jupiter to be the most accessible of those large gas planets.
As you go farther and farther out into the solar system, the outer regions
of these planets get colder and colder and you have to stare deeper and
deeper through hazes to see the cloud structures. In Jupiter's atmosphere
you can see the active motions of the clouds which are marking what the
atmosphere is doing.
What I would most like to know is, what are the processes that make
the winds blow on Jupiter? The winds are much, much stronger and I can
rationalize the fact that well, yes, because it's such a dense bank of
cloud there is really no solid surface, there isn't all the friction like
there is on the surface of the Earth to destroy the wind.
But when I look at the wind pattern from the Equator up through 7 degrees
North latitude, 15 degrees, 23 degrees, I find jets and the wind increases
surprisingly rapidly and then drops off surprisingly rapidly, and I don't
understand the processes that create such narrow jets.
We have jet streams in the Earth's atmosphere, but they are quite broad,
and here the better the spatial resolution I get on my images the narrower
my wind jets are, and I do not understand that process and I really would
like to know.
ALEX STORRS, over animation of the Galileo spacecraft:
As well there is the Galileo spacecraft now. Voyager was a snapshot of
Jupiter, a couple of snapshots of Jupiter, but... but Galileo is actually
staying there over several months and observing Jupiter over a period
of time, and the Space Telescope observations would help to interpolate
between the observations... detailed observations of Galileo. There's
an awful lot going on with Jupiter and it would be an interesting topic
from that point of view.
We have the Galileo probe going in on December 7th, and we know the latitude
and longitude relative to the core of the planet; but the winds are blowing
across that from West to East in such a way that they are carrying the
clouds around the planet, and the clouds will be shifting eastward seven
and a half degrees a day, so that the nature of the cloud area that the
probe is going to go through is a big question.
We have Hubble Space Telescope observations in October and scheduled
for February, and we will assume that the winds do not speed up or slow
down and we will interpolate and say that is the cloud that it went in.
But if we had even just one orbit in March to compare with the February
and the October it would help to substantiate the fact that that assumption
is true and then the students who were collaborating here could also access
these images, and that would allow them to see what's happening, they
would be allowed to access the Web pages that have been assembled at Ames
Research Center about the analysis of the probe. Because by the time the
students get their observations in March the people at Ames will be reducing
the probe data, so there's a lot of interaction there. And this would
be a valid interaction because it would further substantiate the condition,
how rapidly it was changing.
ALEX STORRS introduces possible observations of Pluto and Charon:
imagery from Lowell Observatory and JPL and HST:
Pluto and Charon (Charon is Pluto's moon) are an interesting topic for
a wide variety of reasons. Pluto just passed perihelion, that's the closest
approach to the Sun, and in fact it was closer to the Sun than Neptune
was at that point. And this is the time when you would expect a lot of
changes in Pluto, and therefore it's good to keep a close look at what's
happening on Pluto over the period immediately after perihelion. It's
like the period right after Summer. Everything has been very hot and it's
going to start to cool down, we'll start to see things raining out, and
we expect to see some changes. We don't know what changes we'll see and
we don't know what time-scale they will occur (on), and therefore we have
to keep a close eye on it to see if there is anything that's changing
over a very short time-scale. After a few years, if we don't find any
changes, maybe we'll be able to relax a little bit, going into a longer
term monitoring program.
MARC BUIE (interviewed in front of the telescope at the Lowell Observatory
where Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh):
Pluto just in 1988 passed perihelion, which is the point at which it's
closest to the Sun and it's going to begin... it began then its hundred
and twenty-year voyage to its most distant place in its orbit. And over
this time Pluto is going to receive less and less of sunlight and basically
cool off, so we have now an opportunity to study Pluto when it's at its
warmest, and if we don't take that opportunity now to make these observations,
we'll have to wait another two hundred and forty years to repeat the experiment.
Pluto, for young people (and I consider myself still young even though
I may not look it anymore!) Pluto is one of the... it's sort of the last
"astronomer's planet". We haven't yet had a close-up view with a space
craft. We have an opportunity here to see the development of a science
and the knowledge base about Pluto develop in our lifetimes. And certainly
the past ten years have been very exciting watching what we've learned
about Pluto, and I'm sure we'll be learning a great deal more, but this
is sort of a ... the special epoch in human history where we are learning
for the first time what this planet is all about.
The most exciting thing that could come out of this observation, I think,
is that we could take a picture... let's say a set of three pictures...
get a map of the surface, and compare it against the map that we did three
years ago and look and find a real change, some patch on Pluto is now
brighter or darker. And this will start to tell us something very important
about how fast the surface might be changing in response to its changing
seasons. And I would consider that to be a very... a fundamental discovery.
ALEX STORRS introduces the possibility of studying Neptune: Neptune
has ring-arcs, as well. These have been discovered through occultation
observations and imaged to a certain extent by Voyager. It would be good
to observe them again, to see how they change with time. The time variation
is a recurrent theme in observations of the solar system.
One of the biggest surprises when the Voyager spacecraft flew by Neptune
was a huge dark spot on the planet, and we called it the Great Dark Spot.
We are unable to see it from Earth because Neptune is the most distant
planet from us right now, and it's very hard to see things there. When
you looked with the Hubble Space Telescope last year that Great Dark Spot
was gone, it had simply disappeared, it wasn't there anymore, which was
a big surprise! But when we looked very, very carefully we saw a different
big dark spot on the planet, in the Northern part of the planet -- the
other one was in the South. So that means Neptune's atmosphere just turned
When we would look at Neptune this time we don't know what we are going
to see. There might be a whole new dark spot, and that dark spot would
belong to the students, they would have discovered it.
One thing that we all care about is the weather, and we care about the
weather on the Earth the most. But what makes weather is gases and clouds,
and the reason the weather on the Earth is hard to predict is because
we have oceans and continents that interact with our atmosphere. That
makes it very hard to predict the weather, as we all know. But if you
take a planet like Jupiter or Neptune you don't have continents and you
don't have oceans. All you have is gas, all you have is atmosphere, and
therefore it's a lot easier to model the weather on those planets. But
it's the same physical process, it's the same kind of thing happening,
whether it happens on the Earth or whether it happens on Neptune. Therefore
by studying weather on Neptune we learn about weather in general, and
that helps us understand the weather on Earth better.
ALEX STORRS introduces the option of studying Uranus:
Uranus is a... fairly intriguing body. We just made some observations
of Uranus looking at some very faint satellites that Voyager discovered
as it flew by, but then Voyager left, and nobody observed them until we
hit them with Space Telescope and were able to refine their orbits a little
bit, tell what they are, get some... get a better idea of what color they
are, and therefore have a hint of what they are made out of.
As well, Uranus has rings, and nobody had really observed the rings
very much since... since Voyager flew by, and it would be very interesting
to again observe some of these small satellites now that we know where
they are, and to observe some of the rings and try to get a better idea
of their color and their composition.
CAROLYN PORCO over NASA JPL animation of Voyager at Uranus, and Voyager
Uranus is a very puzzling object. It's tilted, relative to its orbit,
it's tilted; its spin axis is tilted some ninety-eight degrees, so it's
one of the two or three oddball planets in the solar system that has such
an exaggerated tilt. But it's the only large gaseous planet that falls
into that category, so that obviously it went through a very catastrophic
event, people believe it got hit by an Earth... Mars- or Earth-sized object,
sometime when it was forming, which tilted the planet on its side and
caused it to have this bizarre rotation. And all the objects in it or
around it, the rings and the satellites, are all in the equatorial plane,
so they formed afterwards, obviously, or else they wouldn't find themselves
in the place that they do, so that's puzzling. Is that what really happened?
So you need to have the Space Telescope, for example, to get good visible
pictures of the rings, and to see some of the ten satellites that were
discovered by Voyager.
PORCO points out the objects on a recent HST still she holds up to camera:
OK, there are ten satellites in close orbit around Uranus. We have known,
of course, before that Uranus was encircled or orbited by five larger
satellites, but Voyager found ten smaller satellites, and they are close
enough to Uranus that in a ground-based telescope you can't really see
them because the glare and the scattering by Uranus in a ground-based
telescope prevents you from seeing them. But just recently images were
taken with the Wide Field/Planetary Camera, of Uranus and its satellites
that were impossible before, and this image -- although we are not resolving
any of these objects -- we can clearly see the rings of Neptune are not
resolved. OK, we can't make out details within any of the rings, but nonetheless
less they are pretty easy to see, and here are some of the ten satellites
that were discovered by Voyager, and we can also see Miranda, and Ariel,
which are the two satellites that we knew existed even before Voyager
HEIDI HAMMEL on the overall LHST project:
When the students are looking at the various options they have, whether
it's Neptune, Pluto, Jupiter or Uranus, they are going to be asking "what's
the most interesting thing that I can do?" and that's what science is
all about. That's what scientists do all the time. They say: `I want to
study this. What's the best way to do that? What's the right way to make
the observation, how can I best use my observing time to answer a question?'
That's what science is all about, and that's what this project is going
to allow the students to do.
Narrator BILL GUTSCH to camera:
By now you probably realized that Live from the Hubble Space Telescope
is not your usual "field trip". There'll be no packed lunches, and no
school bus, because you are not going to be traveling on regular highways
around your town; instead you are going to be traveling on the Information
SuperHighway, and here is when you need your pencil and paper, because
we are going to tell you now where you can find out more information about
the project on the World-Wide Web.
To participate via e-mail you can send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org
In the body of your message you should write subscribe and then
a space and then updates-hst
That's a dash, not an underline.
To become part of the Great Planet Debate and help decide which planet
we should observe next Spring, write subscribe and then a space
and then discuss -hst
Now as the traffic on our super highway continues to build we'll probably
break this thing up into separate discussion groups, one for each of the
planets that we are talking about. And it's... well just like a regular
road, the SuperHighway, you can drive anywhere you want to. As a matter
of fact, you can even visit the Space Telescope Science Institute here
in Baltimore via the Internet. You can explore its thousands of fantastic
pictures already taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, pictures of the
target planets we have been talking about, as well as stars, galaxies,
black holes, anything you want. The whole universe will be at your command.
The Space Telescope Science Institute address on the World Wide Web
You can gopher by using www.stsci.edu, or transfer files
from ftp using ftp.stsci.edu
RETA BEEBE on electronic communication:
I think the Internet is a fantastic device. Not only do I get communications
regularly from people who have just fundamental questions they need to
ask, I also get communications that are almost impossible to get any other
way. I can talk to a planetary astronomer in Alma Atta over by the Tibetan
border two to three times a day on the Internet, and if I tried... if
I attempted to send him anything in any other form it takes months for
him to get it. So that not only would the Internet provide a way of students...
for students to talk to working scientists in this country, it gives them
access to the world.
CAROLYN PORCO on the role of e-mail in the project:
I like kids! I teach a class here, it's undergraduates, so they are, you
know, older than the students I'd probably be interacting with on the
Internet, but I frankly think it's a blast! They are still fresh, they
are still curious about the... about the workings of the world, and it's
just a joy to be able to be the person in the position to be telling them
something for the first time, and see their lights just go aglow.
I won't be seeing lights go aglow over the Internet, but nonetheless
I'm an e-mail Internet fanatic, so I find this a natural, a pretty natural
way to communicate and I think it would be great to... you know, have...
I don't know... hundreds of pen pals -- that's what it would be, hundreds
of Internet pals!
MARC BUIE :
I think it's great, working with high school students, working with undergraduates,
graduate students. I was fortunate enough as an undergraduate to be working
in a laboratory rather than simply taking classes and that was very important
for me in terms of my getting into science and where I am in my career
today and I'm just trying to give a little bit of that back in any way
Science is ongoing. The greatest criticism about the way I learned science
is that it was always taught to us as if somebody else did it. They were
usually wearing a white coat, and of course they were usually male, and
they knew all the answers and, boy, they sure were a lot smarter than
any of us were, so what was the point?
In fact it's really not that way, if the answers... if you're going to
get to the answers you're going to be the one that's going to have to
do that. And that's every bit as true today as it was twenty years ago
or a hundred years ago, so science is ongoing, and if you want to know
the answer to something, you'd better be asking the questions.
I think a project like this is a great way for students to see how scientists
make decisions. It's not as easy as just saying "I want to take a picture"
there's a lot of decisions that have to get made, a lot of choices, a
lot of compromises. Sometimes you can't do things exactly the way you
want to do them, and I think it would be interesting for students to see
how that happens, to see how scientists really work on a day to day basis.
All you have to do is have an inquiring mind and be open , and be alert,
and be aware and don't accept as given everything that you've been told.
Don't accept as given that the universe is understood, but accept that
the universe is a big, beautiful mystery that we are all trying to unravel.
Narrator WILLIAM A. GUTSCH, to camera:
Remember, your suggestions will help determine where we go, what planet
we look at, and what we are looking for. Your curiosity will be your "Passport
to Knowledge". We hope you'll come along for this exciting experiment,
and become a co-discoverer of... well, what just might be the next great
discovery about our solar system.
Thanks for being with us. Stay cool, stay connected. I'm Dr. Bill Gutsch
for Live from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Closing Underwriter announcement:
Live from the Hubble Space Telescope is made possible in part
by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science
Foundation, PBS K-12 Learning Services and Public Television. end credits