OFJ97 Field Journal from Glenn Orton - 3/5/97This is more than a usually motley day. Wednesdays are awful to start with because my son has a 1-hour weekly class early in the morning. This is a BIG and onerous problem. This is followed by the Boy Scout troop meeting at the end of the day: 7:30 - 9 PM. In between are baseball practices lately - thank God not today. He discovered that he hadn't done his homework (from a week ago), then he couldn't find his journal. He did homework until it was time to leave and got a sandwich tucked into his lunchbox, along with extra fruit, to serve as breakfast.
We got plans for colleagues Terry Martin and Brendan Fisher to travel together to Palomar Observatory (located between Los Angeles and San Diego) so they could use 1/2 hour of borrowed time (from someone using a middle-infrared camera on Mars) to look at Jupiter. Our observations at the NASA IRTF (Infrared Telescope Facility, atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii) did not use a middle-infrared camera. We had to use an old photometer which scanned across the planet, point by point (see my previous journals for a description). Those photometer scans of Jupiter didn't tell us much about any small features in Jupiter's atmosphere. That's why we'll go to a lot of trouble to get some better-quality images! Terry and Brendan will leave tomorrow in the middle of the night at 12:30 AM and drive the 3 hours to Palomar and get set up just so they can take over a very brief segment (like 5:30 to 6:10 AM) between the time that the primary observer is through with his observations (mostly Mars) and the time that Jupiter is barely rising (very low in the sky at 5:30 AM). We have to stop at sunrise. It's at this point that the telescope most close because no direct sunlight is allowed to strike the telescope structure.
Toward mid-day, my wife told me that her frail 85-year old father's home caregiver and the visiting nurse assessed that he had suffered some strokes which limited his ability to walk last night, and now he was barely keeping awake most of the time. He decided that he did NOT want to go back into the hospital, but to stay at home and die. His health had deteriorated dramatically in the last 6 weeks, so this development was not unexpected, but it was hard to live through, in any case. He wanted to be sure that the caregiver, my wife and all attending medical personel at his apartment knew his intentions. He routinely slipped off the supplemental oxygen tube feeding his nose and tried to sleep off and on during the day, waking once or twice and emotionally asking "Am I still alive?" His visiting nurses were replaced by hospice nurse specialists, whose primary job is to keep him comfortable.
All this time, we are also planning a trip to the Grand Canyon with Gregg (my son)'s Scout troop. Linda, my wife, is interested in going, but NOT in camping out, thank you. She's said that she'll camp out anywhere she can plug in the microwave, and her attitude reflects that of a friend who said that she'd sleep anywhere she could see stars .... at least three of them over them over the name of the hotel! :)
I also pondered a computer program problem again that I'd been working on for many months. Galileo's Probe had an experiment that measured the net amount of radiation moving up from the planet's insides (basically,a measure of how heat was rising upward). In order to understand the Probe results, we used an incredibly detailed computer program that is supposed to simulate how light (that is, radiation) moves up and down in Jupiter's interior. The results seemed reasonable, except when the program was simulating clouds--we didn't trust those results, and we suspected there was a bug in the program. Finally, late that night, I discovered a rather basic coding error I'd made (if you're interested, I was delivering an array of values into a subroutine in place of what I thought had been a single value). My hunch paid off and tests showed that this was, indeed, the problem - or at least one of the biggest problems. I changed the code in the appopriate way and set the big problem off to run for the 3 hours it would take to compare with the second version of this program run by the Probe NFR's principal investigator.
Between about 5:40 and 6:10 AM Pacific Standard Time, Brendan and Terry were up at Palomar Observatory, where they captured the much-desired Jupiter image in the middle infrared. At this time the white ovals that Galileo examined during the Europa-6 flyby should have been on the part of Jupiter facing the Earth--and, hence, the telescope. However, since Jupiter was very low in the sky, Brendan and Terry were having to look at Jupiter through a thick layer of the Earth's atmosphere. That might affect what we can actually see of Jupiter's features.
Back at JPL, the Atmospheres Working Group (AWG) was having its usual weekly planning meeting. Terry Martin usually leads AWG meetings, but he was, by this point, fast asleep after a night of driving and observing.
The main subject of discussion was planning for the upcoming 9th orbit, or Callisto-9. Our final choice of observation times must be made by April 15 (among other deadlines! :-), so this meeting was largely people talking about how they want to change the observations around to capture the best science.
The Great Red Spot observations are a good example of this. The Solid State Imaging camera people want to move the standard observations of the Great Red Spot (GRS) entirely to the turbulent region to its northwest, a region of great interest to the scientists who are studying the dynamics of Jupiter's atmosphere. NIMS, the Near-Infrared Mapping Spectrometer, may get some of this turbulent region at other times (which would be a big help for the atmosphere dynamics people), but NIMS highest priorities are redoing some observations of the *center* of the Great Red Spot--observations that were lost on the Ganymede- 1 orbit when NIMS electronics were damaged by radiation from Jupiter's environment. That means that there's no guarantee that NIMS will have anything of interest for the dynamicists. There is also some interest in the dynamics of the Great Red Spot's "leading edge" rather than its "trailing wake."
Not all of the remote sensing instruments are interested in taking any observations of the GRS at all this time. The PPR (Photopolarimeter-Radiometer) will have thoroughly mapped the Great Red Spot during the Ganymede-7 and Ganymede-8 encounters, so its scientists are more interested in other features.
NIMS would also like to move some observations taken while the spacecraft is getting closer to Jupiter so that they can look at the GRS and a hot spot / plume area. Others warn about (a) not moving too far off of the particular station coverage which was chosen to minimize downlink real-time loss charged to AWG, and (b) not to move too close to the E10 encounter period, lest there be too little time to play back the data. I am supposed to confirm position of GRS and make early assessment of hot spot, plume positions. Regular Galileo support observing by the NASA IRTF is scheduled to resume on March 11, weather permitting.
Finally, there is some discussion about plans for Galileo's extended mission, which will be called GEM (for "Galileo Europa Mission"). Galileo science is divided into three general categories--atmospheres, satellites, and magnetospheres--and scientists from each of those areas will be jockying to get as much observing time as possible on GEM. Clearly a major "driver" of science planning during orbits 20 - 24 (when the atmospheric science goals should be easier to meet, since all of the Europa observations will be completed) will be observing regions on the planet or performing experiments "lost" on the primary mission because of the High Gain Antenna failing to open). One of the co- Investigators noted that we may not want to make specific plans during the preparation for the early May Project meeting on GEM until we find out exactly what data what we ended up with during the regular Galileo mission.
SSI, NIMS and PPR are enthusiastic about continuing to study 1 - 2 atmospheric features during the early part of GEM. Two motivations exist: (1) study the changes in atmospheric conditions over selected features over the long term and (2) study features to determine what sort of intensive observations we desire during later parts of GEM. We had reached a consensus last week that staying "invisible" during the (early) Europa-only orbits would mean staying below ~ 2 - 5 % of the total downlink (that is, the amount of data transmitted to Earth). This would allow us to use a higher percentage of the downlink later on. Not that everything will be easy to plan: GEM will be staffed at only 20% of current Galileo levels, which means that we won't have as much flexibility to change things around, which makes planning atmospheric observations much tougher.
1997 March 13, Thursday
I was awake very early in the morning, near 4:30 AM, for some reason ("ABS" says my wife, "Active Brain Syndrome"!). Finally, when it was clear that I was not going to fall back to sleep again, I got up and found the sky clear and comet Hale-Bopp quite bright in the northern sky. I got out my late father's old binoculars and looked at it: VERY impressive! Very easy to see the tail!
I got back to bed and told my slightly awake wife, Linda, that we could see the comet easily from our north-facing bedroom window, even with all the light pollution from L.A. "Oh, all right" she said and turned around, raised the window shade and looked out. "Oh, yeah! OK. Back to bed, then..." A few moments later, her beeper sounded. It was her father's home caregiver. Her father had just died. It wasn't unexpected, although he seemed to be getting a little better in the last couple of days. The finality of death is emotionally inescapable, it hits you hard no matter whether you were expecting it or not.
At least some momentary beauty from the night sky had lit up Linda's life today.