Thursday, January 29, 2009

ACES launch!

Yesterday I decided to stay out at Poker Flat with the ACES science team. This is another rocket team that was nearing the end of their launch window. They are working nights, so I hadn't really been a part of any of that action, but I had been meaning to stick around and check it out. The only problem was that they work until 3am, and we start work at 8am, so that wouldn't be great for sleeping. I managed to sleep 10 hours on tuesday night in preparation though. Plus they have couches in the science center glass room for taking naps viewing the aurora.

Here is a view of the glass room that I took a few days ago.


So anyhow, I am hanging out, trying to not get in the way of the ACES team too much. For practically the first time in 14 days there were clear skies, no high winds, and some aurora. Each of these things had continued to prevent a launch. I have also been checking out weather forecasts and space weather predictions quite regularly while I have been here, so I was getting the idea that wednesday night would be the last chance for this team to launch.

All night there was visible aurora. For the most part it was a stable arc very far north of us, beyond where the ACES rockets could reach. So we were just waiting and waiting for the arc to move far enough south to be able to give the team good science. Sometimes the auroral arc would gradually move south and then we would see a small substorm breakup and the arc would move north again. Here is a photo that was taken a few nights earlier, but shows the type of aurora I am talking about.

This photo, along with all other aurora photos in here are from Craig Heinselman, who is a space physics genius.

The following are photos of the aurora from last night that the ACES rockets were launched into.


This was seriously the most beautiful and dynamic aurora I have ever seen.


ACES consisted of two rockets, a high-flier and a low-flier. I think the high flier went to maybe 400km and the low flier to 150km or so. I am mostly making those numbers up, but I think they are fairly accurate. This would put one rocket above the aurora and one below it, which is pretty cool. Here are long exposure photos of each of the rockets.

On each of these photos you can see a red line near the rocket trajectory line. That is the red light that is on the weather balloon they launch at around t-10 minutes in order to make sure the winds are fine for launch.

My favorite part was when the second rocket flew through the smoke from the motors of the first rocket and you could see the smoke completely clear out.

Also, if you want to check out more of Craig's photos here is his rocket album.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Highlights

I don't have my pictures uploaded yet because my camera battery died, but I am working on charging it now. We are currently reading a weather forecast for the next few days and it is hilarious. This is why.

"THE UPPER LEVEL LOW WILL THEN RESIDE RIGHT SMACK IN THE
MIDDLE OF THE STATE."

"THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT IT WILL BE A VERY GOOD COLD SPELL
THAT IS NOT ONLY LIKELY TO RIVAL THE ONE PREVIOUSLY FELT IN THE
MONTH BUT LIKELY TO SURPASS IT IN TERMS OF EXTREME LOWS. THERE IS
ABSOLUTELY NOTHING THAT SUGGESTS MOVEMENT OF THE COLD AIR OUT OF
THE AREA FOR A MINIMUM OF A WEEK."

"THE LOW LYING TYPICAL COLD AREAS THAT WILL BE CLOUD FREE WILL
LIKELY SEE TEMPERATURES IN THE 60S BELOW...OR COLDER IF THE
CURRENT MODELS MAINTAIN THE TREND. THIS WILL BE A VERY INTENSE
DEEP COLD."

It is a good thing we got our sledding in today before the cold weather rolls in. The hill doesn't look very steep from the bottom but once you get to the top it is a little frightening. Mostly it is frightening because the hill is covered in small trees. We are using the giant inner tubes and the only way you have to slow down is to drop your butt through the hole into the snow. On my first run I did this a lot because I'm kind of a pansie like that. For my second and final run Hanna and I decided to go on one tube together. There was speculation that this would slow us down and we would get stuck fairly quickly. This was not the case. We flew down the hill in an uncontrollable way, because two butts didn't fit in the center of the inner tube to slow us down in the snow. Also, we spend the entire run spinning around or going backwards. If we were about to hit a tree we never would have seen it coming. Eventually we got to the end of the sled run that had been carved out and we were both flipped off the tube into the snow. All of the above was amazingly fun. I didn't have my camera but the other four were all taking photos, and Steve even has video, so I'll try to get some of that in here eventually.

Oh and we saw three moose today. I didn't get pictures of those guys either, but I think Erik and Steve did. I am good for nothing lately.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

So Busy

The title of this post is something I am not. Basically today is full of sitting around, so I did some good internet research on various things. Also, on the drive in we almost got hit by a moose. He was supremely large and moving about as quickly as I could imagine a moose moving.



He didn't really look anything like this moose, but this was a cute moose so he is now in my blog. I'm pretty sure the moose we saw was much darker in color and also much larger.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Arrival in Alaska

My arrival in Alaska was largely uneventful. And uneventful travel is largely a good thing, except when you want your blog posts to be more interesting. I haven't taken any photos yet either, so again my blogging is uninteresting. Things are pretty chilly and dark, although we do get a few hours of sunlight. I was under the impression that we would have zero hours of sunlight, and just a few hours of twilight. It is incredibly dry here though. The humidity in my apartment is 16% and the humidity in the assembly building is 10.3%. In Hanover the humidity is 64%.
We ate dinner at Pike's Landing. The landing is on a river that cars drive on in the winter. Apparently a car went through just a few weeks ago, so we were a little surprised to see someone using the "ice bridge" while we were eating. Also, our waitress asked, "why is it that when you whistle the aurora come and dance around you?" This was after she asked us if the really cold weather made the aurora stop dancing. Please don't ever ask me these questions.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pre-AK Blog

It is possible that Roton has been spending more and more time sitting on me because cats just like to be in the warmest place possible, but probably, the more likely explanation is that he knows I am leaving for six weeks and just wants to spend as much time with me as possible. Obviously.

My lists lately have gotten a little carried away, which means my departure is near. The biggest dilemma is figuring out what shoes to bring, which probably requires the start of a new list of times I have never felt more girly. Seriously though, the big blue snowboots, the hiking boots, the regular nice boots, running shoes (I've got big plans for those guys!), and then possibly some sort of regular shoe. Oh and I might get to go to a contra dance, so possibly shoes that I can dance in without getting blisters. Six shoes is insanity, but none are easy or apparent to eliminate.

The other thing that may need reducing is number of books. I think right now I want to bring at least 6 non physics books. And I really ought to have a few physics books along, so we are looking at 8 to 10 books. sheesh woman. Also, Roton is perched on my arm in a horribly cute way.

I think my last big decision is whether or not to bring a mansuit. I do have my own snowpants, which will be smaller and more manageable but there is just something about those mansuits...