I enjoyed the week I spent learning how to run the GAVRT program. There are four hundred teachers worldwide involved in GAVRT.
We spent three days in class learning about the Project. We first learned about the Campaigns. Next, we learned how to actual run the software to do each Campaign. (You can see DSS-12 live on video.) It was so exciting to enter coordinates and watch DSS-12's 34-meter dish move.
One of the highlights of the week was spending a day at Goldstone. We first saw our telescope shortly after we entered the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex. We got off our bus and saw it off in the distance just under "GOLDSTONE" on the mountainside. Most of the day was spent touring telescope facilities. We had the opportunity to go also go inside and see the equipment used to run the telescopes. We also spent some time learning about Mission Control. The highlight of the tour (not counting seeing DSS-12) was seeing the 70-meter (about 230 feet in diameter) radio telescope. That's so large that if you took the dish, set the center right at the common corner where my lot as well as the other three lots meet, it would not only cover all four lots, but it would overlap into the streets.
This is the most active telescope at Goldstone. NASA uses this to keep in contact with current space probes (e.g., Mars Rovers, Cassini, Voyager, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, etc.). Voyager 1 is currently 10,230,000,000 from Earth. Travelling at the speed of light, it takes over 15 hours for a signal to be received from the spacecraft. The signal is very week (less than one billionth of one billionth of a watt). We were told that if you collected all the energy from Voyager 1 for a million years, you would have enough energy to run a light bulb for less than 1/1000 of a second. The 70-meter telescope is still able to collect a signal that week. Amazing!
The GAVRT Project has a number of campaigns they are actively supporting. They include:
- Jupiter Campaign - Observe, measure, and calculate the temperature of Jupiter. This is done to see how temperature affects Jupiter. This Campaign will expand in 2015. The Juno probe will be launched to Jupiter in 2011. The Mission Scientist, Dr. Steven Levin, told us that he wants GAVRT to collect data for Juno beginning one year before it arrives at Jupiter, the entire year Juno is at Jupiter, and the year after the Juno mission ends.
- LCROSS Campaign - The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's 3rd stage as well as the LCROSS probe are schedule to crash into the south polar area of the Moon on October 9th (around 5:30 a.m. MDT). GAVRT helps track the probe.
- Quasar Variability Study Campaign - Scientists are using data showing how the light of specific quasars (quasi-stellar radio source is a powerfully energetic and distant galaxy with an active galactic nucleus) change over time. This information is important as they collect other information about quasars.
- Spitzer Campaign - The Spitzer Space Telescope is studying the universe at the infrared wavelength (the wavelength just below red light in the electromagnetic spectrum). The Principal Investigator, Dr. Varoujan Gorjian, is researching the relationship between black hole mass and the radio and IR emission in Active Galactic Nuclei (AGNs). Data collected by GAVRT students was used as a part of Dr. Gorjian's presentation to the American Astronomical Society. The study so far has been inconclusive, but it is continuing.
I'm currently working to form a 6th and 7th grade Radio Telescope Team. I can't wait to begin studying the universe with my students!