Friday, July 10, 2015

Share the occultation experience: see the movie!

We are busily crunching through lots of data, but in the meantime, enjoy this movie of the occultation event as seen with the HIPO camera aboard SOFIA.  The slight shakiness comes about because it was taken from an airplane barreling through the sky.  Watch carefully when the star is at its dimmest, and you can see that it brightens up a bit in the middle of the dimmest section; this is the central flash that we caught!

The data resolution has been intentionally reduced because, well, we're still working on the analysis.

Data from HIPO (red) aboard SOFIA
Program PI:  Dr. Michael Person (MIT)
HIPO PI:  Dr. Ted Dunham (Lowell)
Video by:  Luke Weisenbach (MIT)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Mt. John photos, day of and day after the occultation

[posted for Stephen Levine]

A few photos from the day of and day after the occultation.  The day of the occultation started off windy, which did not bode well, with clouds coming and going.  A couple of hours after sunset, the wind died down, and then a little later the clouds left, leaving us with very nice observing weather for the duration of the occultation.

An early glimpse of the telescope domes
on Mt. John.  This is the view 
from part way up the access road
looking to the south.
From the summit of Mt. John, looking down to
the south at the 1-meter Mc.Lellan 
telescope and support building.
The Astro Cafe up on the summit of
Mt. John serves up thematically 
appropriate drinks, which we sampled
on the afternoon before the occultation.

Looking down from Mt John to the town
of Tekapo, which is on the south end of Lake Tekapo.

The Optical Craftsmen telescope dome.

Me, standing with the 
Optical Craftsmen
telescope and the near IR camera 
(blue box on the end of the

Jupiter and Venus are 
visible over the MOA
telescope dome at sunset on 
the night of the occultation.

The control room for the 61-cm Optical
Craftsmen telescope.  The telescope 
control computer is the one on the
desk on the left. The black, 
silver and blue instrument on the left
edge of the middle desk is a fiber fed spectrograph.

Photos from the Williams team

[posted for Jay Pasachoff]

Visiting SOFIA after the event.  (L-R):  Jay Pasachoff,
Naomi Pasachoff, Tina Seeger, Becky Durst,
Bryce Babcock, Rob Lucas [all from Williams College],
and Stephen Levine [Lowell Obs.]
In the control room at the 1-m at Mt. John:  Bryce Babcock

In the control room at the 1-m at Mt. John:
Tina Seeger and Rebecca Durst monitor the data.

Monday, June 29, 2015

T+3 hours: Success!

Posting in a bleary-eyed haze is generally a bad idea, but I want to get the news out:  last night's Pluto occultation was a success!  Unfortunately several groups on the ground were clouded out, but others were able to obtain data and see an occultation, including the group aboard SOFIA.  Read the SOFIA press release HERE!

Images from SOFIA's Facebook page.  [The flight plan (bottom) has a glitch,
the sharp spike to the left isn't real.]

T-7 hours: SOFIA is airborne!

Follow the flight in real time here!

This is the occultation flight!  It's scheduled to be 8h 11m long.  They'll fly to the southwest, then turn around and catch the occultation on their way back to Christchurch.

The flight status at the predicted occultation time.  I love the wiggles to the south on the approach leg,
designed to use up extra time and get SOFIA at the predicted point at the right time.  Fingers crossed!

At UT17:55, SOFIA has turned and is heading back to Christchurch for landing.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

T-12 hours: The observing team at Mt. John in New Zealand

[posted for Jay Pasachoff]

Naomi Pasachoff, Jay Pasachoff, Stephen Levine,   Allen Gilmore, Pam Kilmartin, Bryce Babcock, Rob Lucas

Overlooking Lake Tekapo:
Stephen Levine, Pam Kilmartin, Alan Gilmore, Rob Lucas, Tina Seeger, Rebecca Durst, Jay Pasachoff, Bryce Babcock

Photo credit:
Maryrose Fowlie, Mt. John University Observatory

T-1 day: SOFIA check flight

[posted for Michael Person]

Last night, we finished our check out flight on the SOFIA.  There were some problems, and lessons learned all around, but we are confident for tonight’sflight that we’re as ready as we can be.

The flight crew practiced hitting our timing marks by introducing small maneuvers into the timing legs to adjust time where needed.  The first one ended up with us hitting the mark several minutes off.  Then they decided to go for the “aggressive” maneuvering plan.  This second one hit our projected timing mark almost dead on according to the flight crew.  So they’re having a lot of fun, but I’m definitely taking some airsickness meds tonight.   Things got a little wobbly there for a moment during the aggressive maneuvering... ;-)

SOFIA preparing for Twilight Check Flight Takeoff: