Friday, June 18, 2010
The journey from Hawaii to Lancaster was taken in record time due to heavy tailwind. This ment we could go for another calibration attempt, but now at the DC-8's home base. Conditions were perfect, but now TERAS was giving us troubles again. Only partial calibration results were obtained. In combination with the observations of a setting Venus, which is also useful for determining atmospheric extinction, we should however be fine.
After getting our equipment removed from the airplane it was moved into the lab for a final calibration round under perfect conditions. At the moment we have everything packed up so we can send our equipment on its way back to Europe tomorrow morning.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
Calibration images were taken, the window was checked for icing, and then we could do nothing else than wait. Entering the observation track In Coma Bernices, the star field to aim for, was easily found. The second round went fine too. Waiting for the final round felt like taking an eternity. We were able to pick up Hayabusa quite early on its track. The was predicted accurately by computational models. Tracking went perfect and we could follow Hayabusa's path for a long time. The brightness of the capsule was a bit higher then calculated. Something we were prepared for with our high framerate cameras. All cameras acquired data, but after only half a second the camera with the big lens stopped recording. It had not given us any problems during preparations, unlike the other cameras. The other three cameras did give us very nice data. Today we will do the final calibrations for that.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
First footage was published through the NASA website. A small outtake was already published through YouTube:
As you can see the capsule separates cleanly from the rest of the vehicle that then disintegrates. I can't wait to see the rest of the data that has been gathered by the LIME team and the other teams! A sharper version of the footage can be found as an AVI and on this webpage.
Setting up the equipment and recording went fine. Finding the star cluster where Hayabusa should first be visible for us needed a couple of rounds on the race track because our pointing camera was not able to spot the brighter stars that we would like to have used to fix our orientation. The window frame was in the way. Realizing this we could finally find the star cluster, which appeared rather dim on the virtual reality headset. The recordings looked fine.
When we left the racetrack to head back in a 90 minute flight to Melbourne the system failed again on us. Possibly because of a power glitch. We will have a few hours left to get it all sorted out before the actual re-entry of Hayabusa. This will take place on June 13th around midnight. Live video feeds will be available. For more information see the Official SETI blog.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Soon after takeoff the instruments were mounted in front of the optical grade windows to get ready for testing the equipment. After a few hours of testing the ball mount got disconnected. We took the cameras away from the window and investigated what the problem was. A missing bolt… The result was that we could not do any further tests with the cameras an we had to go find the bolt somewhere in Australia. After landing at the airport in Melbourne 5 canisters of DEET were emptied before anyone could exit the airplane. An empty airport awaited us when we entered Australia.
June 11th, we found the bolt in a specialized shop and installed everything in the airplane. It had been raining all day and, probably due to condensation, the floor around the rack holding our equipment was completely wet. We were happy to find out everything is still working. The rain was also the cause of cancelation of the calibration for that night.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Monday June 7th started off with reinstalling everything we took out of the airplane back into its original location. The DC8 was already parked outside for the tarmac tests that would be done later that evening. The blazing sun made the airplane into a sauna and the washing of the flight suits, which occurred over the weekend, spurious. Nevertheless we had our system back up and running in time for the calibrations. Although, so it seemed.
Having the windows and lenses cleaned, we did a final check of the recording system - leaving us with the following image on the screen:
a blue screen of death… After that not all cameras came back up. As a result the night ended with only 2 cameras calibrated. The high speed camera with the 400mm lens (the large one) did however work and we will most likely have another chance to calibrate our system later this week in Melbourne.
In the middle of the night, on our way back to the hotel, we had a conversation with Tech5, the developer of the TERAS instrument to figure out how to solve our problems. They responded immediately, so we can now try to get things sorted out during the transfer flight to Hawaii.
Hawaii will be the place where we will spend the night and refuel, after which we will head for Melbourne. During these flights some extra time is available to get our setup, called TERAS (monster in greek), back into shape.
Monday, June 7, 2010
Friday's test flight led us to dismount a part of our setup so we could work on it over the weekend. At Sunday night 1:00 we finally had everything working. Cameras are nicely aligned and we can pick up the spectra of the lights acros the street. The grating is now neatly attached to the lens of one of our cameras. This camera is tilted upwards such that we can observe high resolution spectra.
Tomorrow the tarmac calibrations will take place. Before those tests we will need to reinstall all equipement we took out back into the airplane. It will be an exciting day!
Saturday, June 5, 2010
On June 3 the pilots needed the DC8 for some time. Not being able to work in the airplane, we had a tour in the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). This Boeing 747SP is stationed in the same hangar as the DC8 we use for our observations. It captured its first light, imaging Jupiter, just a week ago. The tour was kindly guided by prof. Eric Becklin, chief scientist of SOFIA.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Because of the jetlag the day of June 2nd started pretty early. The day at the base started with a progress meeting and planning of the test flight route. The route shown below will allow us to calibrate the cameras by imaging Venus, which will have approximately the same brightness as Hayabusa will have.
After the meeting we entered the airplane, which had been flown at night for weight balancing tests, to prepare for the ground based calibration that would take place later that day. The calibration started at twilight, which does provide nice views.
Things did not really go as planned, a failing computer, misaligned cameras, etc. Peter Jenniskens did find some time to help us out, which was welcome because we decided to install a new grating in the 400mm lens (the largest one we have). Such a grating allows us to do spectroscopy of the re-entry. Working till 4:00 in the morning left us with a working computer but still failing recording software.
Because the airplane needs to be tested on June 3rd, we face quite a challenge at getting things up and running in time. The good thing about working till late is dat we automatically adjust towards Australian time, where we will head next week.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
A Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8 G ED VR lens! Click the image to get a feeling of how large it is. Needless to say this piece of equipment is pretty expensive. We therefore took it as hand luggage to the US. This lens was lent to us by Lambda-X, an expert company in optical instruments. They are currently developing an even faster camera than the one we use during this mission. Hopefully we will use it in the future!
After the usual US border control we spent a little time at customs to make sure the lens will make it back to Eindhoven.
Arrival in the US did not exactly mean rest for us. We immediately went on to Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility (DOAF) to get security clearance and get started to install the new lens. This involved drilling some extra holes in the camera holder, setting up the RAID array, etc. After doing quite some work we left the NASA facility for our hotel (where we still had to check in) leaving the camera setup like this: