Working on Board

the KAO

 

The Can Do teachers conducted an independent piggy-back wide field astrophotography experiment on board the KAO. Our cameras were mounted to the telescope. We used the equipment designed for the KAO and previously flown in four flight series including Comet Halley and Supernova 1987a. Utilizing a variety of lens, filters and film combinations, we took wide field images of the target area in several wavelengths but with special emphasis on the ultraviolet and the infrared. While there was a low probability of photographic wide field phenomena associated with Shoemaker-Levy 9, the KAO gave a unique opportunity in wavelengths not available from the ground.

Before boarding the KAO everyone was required to attend a preflight conference. Taking pictures of stars, clusters, nebula, and Jupiter kept us busy on the nine flights. We kept logs on the length of exposures and any problems in telescope movement. We would be anxious to see the results of our picture taking within the next couple of days. We ate and drank while on board the nine hour flights. Being in the stratosphere with the air being so dry, we were encouraged to drink a lot of water so we would not dehydrate.

We were able to ride in the cockpit on take off and landing. This was very interesting. The pilots were friendly and pointed out constellations and Australian landmarks. Listening to the astronomers, hearing their excitement, watching NASA personnel work and knowing we were part of a history making event added to our excitement. I relay this to my fifth grade students and others in presentations.

Our wide field images document the position of Jupiter in the night and produced images that are useful for public relations and classroom use. The wide field cameras gave us an independent research project and a more meaningful sense of participation.

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