Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, June 5, 2010


The World Around Us

 Mountain Views News Saturday, June 5, 2010

Astronomy From An Airplane? A New Way of Looking Up

 Can you imagine a telescope the size of Mount 
Wilson Observatory’s 100-inch, doing astronomy 
from a Boeing 747 jetliner?

 It happened on May 26, when the Stratospheric 
Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a 
joint program by NASA and the German Aerospace 
Center, made its first in-flight night observations.

 “With this flight, SOFIA begins a 20-year journey 
that will enable a wide variety of astronomical science 
observations not possible from other Earth and space-
borne observatories,” said Jon Morse, Astrophysics 
Division director in the Science Mission Directorate 
at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It clearly 
sets expectations that SOFIA will provide us with 
“Great Observatory”-class astronomical science.”

 The highly modified SOFIA Boeing 747SP jetliner 
fitted with a 100-inch diameter reflecting telescope 
took off from its home base at the Aircraft Operations 
Facility in Palmdale, Calif., of NASA’s Dryden Flight 
Research Center. The in-flight personnel consisted 
of an international crew from NASA, the Universities 
Space Research Association in Columbia, Md., Cornell University, 
and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) in Stuttgart. During the six-
hour flight, at altitudes up to 35,000 feet, the crew of 10 scientists, 
astronomers, engineers, and technicians gathered telescope 
performance data at consoles in the aircraft’s main cabin.

 “Wind tunnel tests and supercomputer calculations made at the 
start of the SOFIA program predicted we would have sharp enough 
images for front-line astronomical research,” said SOFIA project 
scientist Pam Marcum of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett 
Field, Calif. “A preliminary look at the ‘first light’ data indicates we 
indeed accomplished that.”

 The stability and precise pointing of the German-built telescope 
met or exceeded the expectations of the engineers and astronomers 
who put it through its paces during the flight.

 “The crowning accomplishment of the night came when 
scientists on board SOFIA recorded images of Jupiter,” said 
USRA SOFIA senior science advisor Eric Becklin. “The 
composite image from SOFIA shows heat, trapped since 
the formation of the planet, pouring out of Jupiter’s interior 
through holes in its clouds.”

 The highly sensitive Faint Object infraRed CAmera for 
the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST) used for these initial 
observations was operated in flight by its builders, a team led 
by Cornell’s Terry Herter. FORCAST captures in minutes 
images that would require many hour-long exposures by 
ground-based observatories blocked from a clear infrared 
view by water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere. SOFIA’s 
operational altitude, which is above more than 99 percent 
of that water vapor, allows it to receive 80 percent or more of 
the infrared light accessible to space observatories.

 For more information about SOFIA, visit:

 For information about SOFIA’s science mission, visit:

 To see video of SOFIA in flight, visit:

 You can contact Bob Eklund at:


 Could you use help in preparing written communications for your business? I have extensive 
experience in writing and editing business documents including brochures, proposals, 
newsletters, resumes, customer success stories, press releases, and articles for newspapers and 

 Current work includes writing the column, “Looking Up with Bob Eklund,” in Mountain 
Views News, and writing newsletters for the Mount Wilson Observatory. I recently published 
a book, First Star I See Tonight: an Exploration of Wonder, and am finishing a second book, 
Winds Aloft. 

For writing samples and resume, see my web site: Bob Eklund beklund@ (310) 216-5947

It’s probably safe to assume 
that most people can be found 
somewhere on the web these 
days. If direct evidence of their 
presence can’t be located, bits and 
pieces of 

their identity is often left behind 
from some other source. If one has 
ever attended a school that posts 
an alumni page or has a friend of 
a friend with a Facebook page and 
a digital camera, chances are high 
that one is “in there” somewhere, and those are just the chances of being placed on the web incidentally 
or just by being included in someone else’s digital photo. Although this type of inclusion happens most 
often without our awareness of the act it still counts as an internet presence and an internet user savvy 
enough just might be able to pull these disparate pieces together and draw their own conclusion as to 
who the “person” they’ve located really is.

More often than not the pieces of information that could be used to establish our identities on the 
web are placed there by us. The now commonplace web media known as social networking has given 
internet users the world over ample resources to tell the world exactly who they are and what their 
interests entail. Large and efficient search engines trawl these websites and other internet resources in 
order to keep track of the huge amount of information to be found there and catalog it for ease of use 
and access by any interested parties. The reasons that people would want to establish a presence on the 
internet vary from the personal to the professional but the common element that ties them together is 
the desire to define ones self as the person in question sees fit to do so.

This new form of self-expression continues to push the boundaries of social interaction and continues 
to make waves in the legal arena. Just a few months ago we saw the resolution of two court cases that 
had similar implications centered on the issue of Protected Speech but radically different outcomes. 
The first case was about a Florida teen who created a Facebook dedicated to making public her feelings 
of scorn for a public school teacher.

 The site featured a picture of the teacher and it invited visitors to share and also make public their 
feelings about the teacher. The court decided that the post was protected speech under the First 
Amendment and the lawsuit has been allowed to proceed through the courts. The second case involved 
a Pennsylvania teen who created a mock MySpace profile that insinuated that her teacher was a sex 
addict and a pedophile. In this case, the court ruled that the fake MySpace page was not protected 
under Free Speech protections and ruled against the student. The Supreme Court of the United States 
has yet to take on the issue of online speech such as the type described in the two aforementioned cases 
but beyond the pressing legal issues even larger social issues that need to be considered are found. In 
both cases material posted by a party other than the subject has now become part of the permanent 
collection of information that the web presents to users when information about the original person 
concerned is searched. The creators of the fake web pages have in a sense taken part in defining their 
subjects above and beyond any objections that the subjects themselves about held about the opinions 
presented about them. 

Figures in the Public arena (celebrities, politicians, athletes, etc.) are subjected to this type of treatment 
all the time and in many cases their public personas are for the most part considered public property. 
Both officially and unofficially this treatment is part of the package that public figures sign on for 
when they participate in the public sphere. Private citizens on the other hand, most often see things 
radically different and are often slightly more sensitive when it comes to what is said and posted about 
them online and in other media. Since the internet has a persistent memory that doesn’t forget , there 
are several interesting questions that future courts may find themselves having to consider in relation 
to web postings such as how much right does someone have to define another person’s web identity 
through postings that may be considered opinion or just outright false. 

How can injured parties be made whole once something is posted and later proven to be less than 
honest if the offending statements can’t be permanently scrubbed clean from the web. Hmmm...just 
something to think about….

Your Identity On The Web

Paul Answers Your Questions:

The following question came to the paper for 
Paul after a reader saw the following headline..

Q: What does this [Google drops Windows - http://]
mean to me? I use google for web browsing and 
everything else on my computer is Microsoft 
Windows or Office?

A: In my opinion, Purely a PR move. Microsoft 
and Google are now direct competitors in the 
same marketplace for the exact same customer 

Microsoft released Bing to compete with the 
Google search engine and Microsoft Office 2010 
will be coming out with a free online version to 
compete with Google’s Google Docs.

Google has released the Chrome web browser to 
compete for market share with Internet Explorer 
and ChromeOS to compete directly with 
Microsoft for its lucrative OS market share.

This is just the latest salvo in the PR battle 
between these two giants for more market share. 
Neither will be satisfied until they both have it all 
and they have the resources to make a realistic 
run for the title. Google simply thought that this 
would be a good week to try and chip away at 
Microsoft’s image since it took a hit from Apple 
last week.

In reality this is the exact same thing as a USC 
Gift Shop not selling Ohio State jerseys. Google 
is simply trying to be an early adopter of its own 
products and convince the market to do the 
same. The possibly overlooked fact is that Google 
ran their operations using Microsoft products 
(not exclusively) since Day One and now feel 
(some 12 years later) that they can finally take the 
training wheels off.

In my opinion this is even more of a cheap shot 
than it appears to be on the surface because of 
Google’s claim to be taking this very public 
action due to security issues with Windows OS’s. 
Google was hacked by hackers using Google 
Hacking techniques that would’ve worked 
regardless of what OS the underlying machines 
were running (see my review of Google Hacking 
pts I and II for the paper earlier this year).

Very simply, Google’s problem was of its own 
making and there will probably be a response 
from Microsoft stating just that.

So now it looks as if the big tech players will be 
Apple, Microsoft and Google for some time to 
come. The interesting thing to watch is how the 
hip, young pair in the bunch (Apple and Google) 
turn into exactly what Microsoft is today. I 
predict that the newcomers will eventually 
become brattier versions of Microsoft.


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