COMET HALLEY

CHRISTCHURCH NEW ZEALAND

1986

The First Adventure

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The CAN DO Team including Teacher-In -Space Finalist Nikki Wenger traveled to Christchurch New Zealand where the NASA Gerard P. Kuiper  Airborne Observatory was deployed to take advantage of the better view of Comet Halley in the skies of the Southern Hemisphere.

The CAN DO team mounted 35mm cameras on the head ring of the KAO's 36 inch infrared telescope. This was the first time anyone had attempted this type of photography from the airborne observatory and no one expected them to work as well as they did. Even Nikon doubted that the F3, known for its rugged nature, would function properly at -70 C in the nearly space-like conditions.

A COMET HALLEY GALLERY 

(click on pictures for a very large image suitable for printing)

This spectacular image was taken on the very first night of operations. Using a 58mm lens, the wide view shows a beautiful view of part of the Milky Way.

THIS PHOTO WAS CHOSEN AS ASTRONOMY PICTURE OF THE DAY

October 3, 1997

A closer view of Comet Halley showing the yellowish dust tail and the bluer ion tail. Taken with a 135mm lens from the KAO flying at 40,000 ft. over the ocean near New Zealand.

Another close view, this one taken with a 200mm lens, clearly shows the different parts of a comet and it's tail.

The blue ion tail is actually illuminated by energy from the sun. Sometimes, changes in this solar energy causes the ion tail to temporarily "turn off". Called disconnection events, astronomers learn more about both comets and the sun from them.

Taking advantage of being above much of the atmosphere, the CAN DO team also photographed the comet in the ultraviolet using a special UV lens.

Because of the dry cold air in the stratosphere, some images were ruined by massive discharges of static electricity. The team made changes in the field to eliminate the problem.

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