The Aquarius Project: The First Student-Driven Underwater Meteorite HuntMarch 15 2017
On Monday, February 6, 2017, around 1:30 a.m. CST, a sonic boom shook residents of the Midwest as a bright green fireball streaked through the night sky. The sound was that of a meteor, nearly the size of a minivan, entering our atmosphere. After its fall to Earth, radar spotted the end of its journey over Lake Michigan, approximately 10 miles off the coast of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Teen explorers from Chicago, led by scientists from the Adler Planetarium's Far Horizons program, The Shedd Aquarium, and The Field Museum, team up to take on this Underwater ROV Meteorite Hunt. Interested explorers wanted!
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The Teens of the Aquarius Project
This spring Chicago students as a part of the Adler Youth Voice Project, worked with professional writers, editors, and museum staff to create articles documenting the narrative of the Aquarius Project. Read the work of these young science communicators in our last few Open Explorer posts!
by Isabelle Crownhart - Junior at Aurora Central Catholic High School
Hello there! I’m Isabelle Crownhart, a teen currently working on the Adler Youth Voice Project in Spring 2018. I’m part of a small team focused on profiling the teens and scientists involved in the Aquarius Project. The Aquarius Project is a collaboration between the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium to retrieve a meteor that landed in Lake Michigan in 2017. It is helmed by scientists and Chicago-area teens alike, and aims to create a device fit to scour the depths of Lake Michigan for pieces of the fallen meteor. I am primarily focused on profiling the teens involved in this project, so without further adieu… On April 28th, 2018, our group met at the Adler to interview some of the teens and scientists involved in the Aquarius Project. It was a lovely day, though a little on the chilly side for the end of April. Behind the STAFF ONLY doors of the museum, we found ourselves in an open room surrounded by the Adler’s usual Saturday volunteers who were grabbing some lunch. That’s where we started our conversation with some of the Adler’s 2017 Summer Interns, who were intimately involved in the primary stages of the teen-led side of the Aquarius Project.
MARY CLARE GREENLEES Summer Intern (seen above)/ Far Horizons Riverside Brookfield, Senior, 18 First involved in October 2016 Lives in Brookfield in the Western Suburbs
*How would you describe the Aquarius Project? * It’s a collaboration between museum entities in order to find meteorites in Lake Michigan.
When did you start working with the Adler on this project? I was an intern in the summer and I participated in Far Horizons [, Adler’s near-space exploration laboratory].
What was your role in this project? My role in this project was as a designer, in particular designing the aspects of the sled with magnets. We had to design and test magnets to find which would work. My role was to improve on the design of the prototype, and to do magnate research with the other summer interns.
What were the stages of this project? The stages of this project were deciding to do it in the first place, and then designing and creating the sled and the best way to rig the magnets. We started out working on the very first prototype created by the Shedd, which was called MUMS JR.
What would you want to find? I would love to find some meteorites, to prove that these endeavors are worthwhile. Most meteors fall into lakes and ocean, owing to the fact that most of the earth’s surface is water, and nobody has ever really attempted to retrieve those that have landed in water before. Also, not a lot is known about the bottom of lake michigan, none at all actually. So anything from shipwrecked freighters and iron deposits, things are certainly sunk down there. So finding out more about the bottom of the lake would be hugely helpful to marine biologists. May 11th is the first test of the Aquarius Project sled in Wisconsin.
What was your favorite part about working on this project? Getting to work with the scientists, the interns, and the volunteers was my favorite part. The failures too, because they only served to tell us more about what it was we needed to accomplish. **How many interns have been involved? Currently 5 spring interns, 4 summer interns last year, and at least 4 summer interns this year. The 16 Stratonauts have also been involved, as well as other volunteers.
What would be some of the things they want to test? We would have to test the chemical composition of the of the pieces to see if it was indeed a meteor. The pieces can range from 10 gram to 1 kilogram chunks, so it varies greatly. We have a projected field in which it likely landed, but with water it is hard to tell where in the lake it wound up.
What are some of the things you’ve learned from participating in this project? This project has shown me how scientists collaborate. I’ve learned a lot… with the other interns. This summer I’m interning with a grad student at the Field Museum. I’ve really grown in… collaboration and public speaking.
What are you going to pursue in college? I’m going to Barnard College in New York CIty, which is a women’s college that’s a part of Columbia. I would like to major in Astrophysics, and I find dark matter particularly interesting. It was found because scientists were studying how it is that the milky way spins, and noticed that the universe should be falling apart, so why isn’t it? The galaxy is now said to be made up of dark matter, which keeps the galaxy together.
What’s your dream job? I would want to be a working astrophysicist in a research lab or as a professor.
What are some of your hobbies? I play the cello, I participate in Model UN at my school, Robotics team, Math Team, and painting for fun.
What is your favorite class? I would have to say AP Calc BC because I love math, and I have had the same math classes with the same people since freshman year, so we have all become very close.
Has anything funny happened to you while working on this project? Oh yes, working with magnets can lead to interesting results. So the magnets we were using once were categorized with a pull force of 200 pounds. Which is a pretty strong magnet. Anyway, we weren’t very careful and we ended up putting two of the magnets right next to each other. And they got really stuck. We ended up needing a bunch of people to pull them apart and afterward left the magnets covered in bubble wrap so it wouldn’t happen again. So we learned the hard way to be careful with the magnets.
DAVID TORREJON Summer Intern / Far Horizons Jones College Prep, Senior First involved in the end of August 2016. Worked with Mary and Jennifer.
In his own words: So, a meteor the size of a car came streaking through the sky around a year ago, which broke up into lake michigan. Our goal is to design retrieval equipment to collect those bits hiding under 200 ft of water. I worked with the magnets in particular, we designed a wheel of magnets to pick up the meteorites, so that we can then pull it out and send the findings to researchers at the Field Museum. I started working on the Aquarius project in the summer of 2017.
What was your role in this project? My role was designing the overall structure of the magnet wheel component. We had to experiment with what did and didn’t work. We tried a different prototype of a magnet bar, which just didn’t end up working out, which led us in a different direction. After the internship others are currently still working on testing and improving upon the design.
What is one of the things you would want to discover? I would want to determine the chemical composition [of the meteorite(s)] in order to better understand the part of the asteroid belt that the meteor came from.
What is something you’ve learned from being a part of this project? I experienced how the scientific process can be very challenging, but it can be an incredibly rewarding experience when you finally figure something out. For example, the magnet bar was a very frustrating challenge, we spent nearly 4 to 5 weeks of our 8 week internship trying to get that idea to work, but eventually we persevered and moved on to the idea of a magnet wheel.
How did you get involved with this? Through working with Far Horizons.
What career would you like to go into? I’m not sure yet, but I’m attending the University of Michigan next year.
What would be your dream job? My career interests range from economics to public policy, to astronomy. Aquarius opened more possible doors for me.
What are your hobbies? My hobbies include watching Netflix, and I especially enjoy Marvel/ DC movies. I would say that I’m a big nerd. I also like to play baseball and swim.
What were your favorite classes? Science and Social Science
*Do you have any funny stories from your work with Far Horizons? * As an intern last year, I was a telescope intern with 3 other people, and we facilitate[d] the viewing of the sun from the [Doane] Observatory. Anyway, it’s a complicated process to open and close the door to the observatory. When closing the door, you put in a code and then you have 10 seconds to close it. There was this other intern who was acting very nonchalant about the whole thing, and so while he was closing the door, he didn’t close it in time, and this alarm went off through the whole planetarium. It just happened to happen that a police helicopter flew over the planetarium at that exact moment and we just are never gonna let him off the hook for that scare. Then there was another time with the same guy, we… went over to the Shedd [Aquarium] to go touch the stingrays, and so when he went over to touch them the stingray like lunged at him and freaked him out. Ever since then he’s said he’s gonna file a lawsuit against the Shedd, it was like a betrayal since he had actually been going on and on about the stingrays before we got there.
After lunch with the Summer interns, we met up with Ken Walczak, the Far Horizons Program Manager and an Adler scientist involved with the Aquarius Project, along with some of his 2018 Spring Interns. They were very open and friendly, and we learned even more about the teen involvement in the project. The three of them are profiled below…
MEGHAN MCCABE is a sophomore who wants to go into electrical/biomedical engineering. Working on this project helped her to narrow down the type of work that she wants to do. She cites coding for the project as particularly beneficial. Outside of school, she is a runner and she plays violin. Some of the things she has learned include coding and communication skills. For example, she had the responsibility of contacting geologists to find a lab location where they could possibly test a prototype sled under extreme water pressure to mimic the conditions of the bottom of the lake.
KAROLINA GUERRERO is a senior who will attend The University of Illinois in the fall. She is majoring in computer science. She found out about the Spring internship by searching for things to do online, and she was also exposed to the Aquarius project when she was a Strautonaut at the Adler. Her dream job is starting her own software company and creating coding education programs for girls. She likes doing art, photography, tennis, and coding for fun.
GRETA OLSON is a junior at Jones College Prep who found out about the program through summer camps as well as the planetarium’s Strautonauts program. She wants to major in either math or astrophysics. Her dream job is to be an astrophysicist at NASA, or a researcher. Her hobbies include art, reading, science, and baking.
Our talk with the Spring Interns concluded our time getting to know the teens involved in the project. I had a wonderful time interviewing them in April and I feel like it has been incredibly helpful in shedding light on my understanding of the Aquarius Project. Learning about the trials and tribulations of the Summer Interns’ magnet bar and the lake-bed mysteries still being solved by the Spring Interns brought to the forefront the reality of the scientific process as one of unending curiosity. It’s not always simple or easy, but it can bear some worthwhile results. It also shows that teens, when given the opportunity, can accomplish amazing things.
ISABELLE CROWNHART is a junior at Aurora Central Catholic High School. She lives in DeKalb, Illinois and has been involved in many different programs with Chicago Museums. Isabelle has been a Science Minor at the Museum of Science and Industry, and a member of the Field Museum’s Youth Council for the 2017/2018 school year. She is currently engaged as an intern at the Field for this summer. She discovered the Adler Youth Voice Project by simply looking around for things to do. Outside of museum activities, Isabelle plays tennis, participates in school drama productions, and does scholastic bowl. She enjoys drawing, writing, traveling, and taking pictures for fun. She has college plans, but other than that, isn’t quite sure where she wants to go or what she wants to be.
*By Meghan McCabe Far Horizons Intern *
After our ship tour two weekends ago, our team was able to get in contact with a Marine Technician on the Great Lakes Research Vessel Lake Guardian, to help us gain an understanding of the conditions we will be experiencing on the mission. We just received images and specific data about the composition of the lake bottom at our strewn field (see below).
This is really exciting and vital information! It allows us to alter our sled so that it will be best adapted to the conditions it will be taking on. The more information and data that our team has on the strewn field the better, and allows for more opportunity for success.
"...We all came from the same place"
This spring Chicago students as a part of the Adler Youth Voice Project, worked with professional writers, editors, and museum staff to create articles documenting the narrative of the Aquarius Project. Read the work of these young science communicators in our upcoming Open Explorer posts!
by Isaiah Griggs - Junior at De La Salle Institute
How would you go about getting fragments of a giant rock from space that landed in a lake? Fish it out? Scuba dive? Drain all the water so you can pick it up? Even if you found shards, how would you know you’d found a piece of space rock? That, dear reader, is what the members -who are teens, by the way- of the Aquarius Project have to figure out.
Here is the situation: On February 6th, 2017, over 500 people witnessed a green streak descending from the sky. What they saw was a meteor that would end up landing in Lake Michigan. When it hit the water, it had enough force to shatter into small pieces. This meteorite is one of the biggest detected on radar since 1998, in terms of mass. It was 600 pounds and moving at 38,000 miles per hour, or almost fifty times the speed of sound (mach 50). To put that in perspective, the fastest manned aircraft, the North American X-15, only has a maximum speed of about mach 6.7 or 4,474 miles per hour.
So, in other words, a rock hurtling through space that just happened to enter our atmosphere was moving seven times faster than our fastest manned vehicle (jeez, space rocks are putting us humans to shame).
Here’s where the Aquarius team comes in. You see, their task is to retrieve and analyze the fragments of that same meteorite. However, this brings up the original question: “How would you go about getting fragments of a giant rock from space that landed in a lake?” One would think they could just go in the water and get the pieces out, but then the other questions arise: How would you even know you’ve found a piece of the meteor; how would you know the difference between a regular rock and a piece of the meteorite? All while keeping in mind that lake has an area of about 22,000 miles (yikes). These are some things that the team has to start racking their noggins to solve.
Astronomer Dr. Mark Hammergren here would surely help. He was asked how would one would go about mapping this huge lake, and explained that the teens are making an underwater remote control vehicle with cameras capable of surveying the area under a research ship. The vehicle will also likely be equipped with some sonar equipment that will map out features of the lake.
Now, how will this fine team pick up a 600-pound rock? Huh, quite the predicament right? Wrong. The meteor was shattered on impact and became fragments, so what they’re actually looking for are small pieces to pick up and study. To pick up these pieces the team will use strong magnets that can pull up to about 200 pounds of force (which, by the way, can be a pain to pull apart).
Another interesting detail is the green light the meteor gave off as it was falling down to our rocky planet. I, for one, thought they this may be related to how certain elements give off certain colors when heated to high temperatures, and that the green light might give us a hint about the meteor’s composition. Dr. Hammergren informed me that this was not that simple. The meteorite was burning at about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about as hot as the surface of the sun. Why is this important? Because a bunsen burner flame (which is typically used to burn and identify specific elements and compounds based on the color given off by the flame) burns at about 2,700 degrees. This means that the resulting colors at different temperatures are sometimes different.
Dr. Hammergren went on to say, “That said, scientists have taken detailed observations of the colors of meteorites -- meteor spectra -- and have identified common elements. These include iron, magnesium, and calcium, all of which have strong emission lines in the blue and even ultraviolet part of the spectrum. Strong emission from sodium is also seen, contributing an additional yellow tint. The combination of all of these elements produces the characteristic greenish color of bright meteors.”
Finally, how does someone know if they’ve found a meteorite? Well, there are subtle differences between earth rocks and meteorites, but people experienced in in working with meteorites can usually distinguish the two. The real experiment is when the meteorite is brought into a lab, Hammergren explained. A very detailed examination is done on the exterior and interior of the meteorite. If it still looks like a meteorite, it will be studied under a microscope to allow for the identification of the specific minerals in the meteorite. Ultimately, using an electron microscope will help to determine a meteorite’s chemical composition.
The meteorites that The Aquarius Project team will study were formed around the same time as the earth, and from the same material. This can tell us a lot about where the Earth came from, as well as what the early earth might have been, since these rocks basically haven’t been touched since their formation. Maybe -- in the same way we learn about how the earth and this meteorite are connected through their similar origins and composition -- perhaps we, humans, could learn from one another as well, considering we all came from the same place.
 Diaz, Jesus. Outstanding Photos of the X-15, the Fastest Manned Rocket Plane Ever (December 25, 2014). Obtained May 8th, 2018. https://sploid.gizmodo.com/the-best-photos-of-the-x-15-fastest-manned-aircraft-ev-1675268839
Isaiah Griggs is a junior in high school at De La Salle Institute. He wants to go into film and animation in college. His main hobbies include drawing, making animations, and learning physics.
The Chicago Meteorite
This spring Chicago students as a part of the Adler Youth Voice Project, worked with professional writers, editors, and museum staff to create articles documenting the narrative of the Aquarius Project. Read the work of these young science communicators in our upcoming Open Explorer posts!
by Jarred Scales- Sophomore at Nazareth Academy
On February 6, 2017, a colossal meteor tore through the atmosphere and aimed for Lake Michigan. This meteor began about the size of a car, but while travelling through the sky, broke into many pieces and scattered throughout Lake Michigan. The most obvious question is: where is this meteor now? That is what the Aquarius Project - a collaboration between the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium - is trying to figure out.
The Aquarius Project’s main goal is to collect meteorite pieces from the bottom of Lake Michigan -- as many as possible, and in the best condition possible. To do this, the team will have to ensure that the underwater rover that will pick up the meteorite pieces is protected. As a result of Lake Michigan’s unknown terrain -- the bottom of the lake has never been mapped before -- the conditions at this depth are also unknown, meaning the rover could be in danger.
To prevent this from happening, the Adler teens in charge of a large part of the rover’s construction are considering the variables that would come into play in the lake’s depths. For example, at this depth, pressure levels grow prominently, meaning the ROV must be able to withstand increases in pressure. Many skills come into play while trying to tackle this challenging task. Backgrounds in robotics, engineering, coding, and many other areas have already proven useful, as there are so many components that play into obtaining and analyzing the meteor and its surroundings. Team members hope to discover more about its composition, its origin, and its impact on the floor of the lake.
Personally, I think the most exciting part will be the study of the meteor and its components, since it is an object that has come from beyond our world. And some analysis about its origin has already taken place. Mark Hammergren, an astronomer here at the Adler, determined a likely location of the meteor in the asteroid belt. He used different points of view that many people reported (and recorded) to retrace a backwards path for the meteor that led to the asteroid belt. Astronomers have also been able to determine that the meteor is a chondrite, a celestial body formed from various types of dust and small grains present in the early solar system.
There are still a lot of questions to be answered. Aquarius Project team members don’t know what they’ll find at the bottom of the lake, or why the meteor burned green when entering the atmosphere. Whether the meteor has been eroded by the water of Lake Michigan also remains to be seen. But an object that is not from our world -- something far beyond mankind -- is close to being at our fingertips. Ken Walczak, the Far Horizons Project Manager, is very excited to indulge in the task of retrieving the meteor.
During an interview, Walczak expressed, “Questions that are answered only bring more questions to be answered.”
Researching and making new discoveries are what scientists live for. But discoveries like the meteorite shards are universally fascinating, for scientists and citizen scientists alike. And it is even more interesting because it has fallen close to Chicago. There are many topics that could branch from it, such as in marine science or astronomy, and this abundance of ideas could take you anywhere. The meteorite has become a part of Chicago, and the search for it has become emblematic in describing us as people. We live for discovery, adventure, and to help others learn about phenomena that isn’t widely understood.
Along with the questions that have been answered come other questions, but the Aquarius Project Team is ready to answer them. People involved in studying the meteor once it is found include Walczak and Hammergren, but also include the many teens who have helped along the way. These people will be able to finally reach the climax of this adventure, which has been a long time coming. With a launch date of May 19, 2018, the race to find the infamous fragments begins as the underwater rover makes its descent into Lake Michigan.
Jarred Scales is 16 years old and a Sophomore at Nazareth Academy in Lagrange Park, IL. He lives in the South Side of Chicago. Jarred plays point guard for Nazareth’s basketball team. He has been playing basketball for 12 years. He also plays video games and hangs out with friends. Jarred has 3 siblings (two sisters and one brother), and is the youngest of them.
Making A Splash
By Greta Olson - Junior at Jones College Prep - Far Horizons Spring Intern
Saturday, April 28 - was a big day for the Springterns! The Adler Planetarium Youth Leadership Council was holding Science Speaks Chicago, and afterwards we went to Navy Pier to tour a research vessel.
Science Speaks Chicago
Science Speaks Chicago was an all-day event at the Adler aiming to get young Chicagoans more involved in science and to provide them role models. Fourteen speakers gave talks about their research and their personal stories of how they became scientists. They were all fascinating and we learned about the effects of gut flora on concussions, game theory, and gravitational waves, to name a few. Two of our own, Jack Morgan and Giovanna Rossi, spoke about the Aquarius Project and their experience working on the project.Their presentation went great and everyone was cheering for them!
The Lake Guardian
In the afternoon we headed over to Navy Pier to tour the Lake Guardian, a research vessel in the Great Lakes. The boat is owned by the Environmental Protection Agency and its team of scientists conducts various tests, such as water sampling, in all of the Great Lakes to gauge their overall health. The boat has three onboard laboratories, and we got to see them on our tour, along with some of the testing equipment.
We will be testing our sled on a vessel very similar to this one, so it was beneficial to find out the specifics of this boat. Additionally, the tests that they do in the lakes use a lot of the same sensors that we plan on using when looking for the meteorites; we hoped that we could learn from their setup to implement it in our own sensors. (One of the pictures attached to this post is of the sensor housing for their water sampling device.)
Our tour guide, Max, was extremely helpful, answering all our questions about their research, sensor housing, and equipment. Thanks to his help, we have more information about how to set up our sensors on the ROV, how to attach our sled to the boat, and may even be able to borrow some of their old electronics casings. He told us about data collected from the bottom of Lake Michigan in our search field and encouraged us to request it; knowing the lakebed conditions could point us in new directions with our sled designs and would be invaluable for preparing for our tests.
Overall, our tour of the Lake Guardian was incredibly helpful; our guide, Max, was above and beyond helpful, taking the time after the tour to talk with us and answer all our questions. The Lake Guardian is a fascinating and beautiful vessel, and we wish the crew well on their tour of the lakes this year. Meanwhile, we have some more work to do before our upcoming test of the sled!
Constructing an Underwater Meteorite Detector
By Meghan McCabe - High School Junior - Far Horizons Spring Intern
I am a Teen Spring Intern in the Far Horizons Lab for the Aquarius Project. The past few weeks I have been working on programing, and setting up the new magnetometer for our ROV. Last week we reconstructed the circuit board to fit the new magnetometer and found the appropriate code for the magnetometer. At the last minute we found a code that was compatible with the magnetometer. It was so exciting to get readings from the device!
This week we worked on calibrating the magnetometer to ensure that its readings were accurate for the launch. We created a grid on a large sheet of paper to plot out the points in which we placed the magnet. To verify the readings were precise and accurate we place the magnet beginning at six inches away from the magnetometer on either side. Then we took measurements from five inches away on both sides, and so on. For each plot point we took ten readings and found the average of the measurements of the field. We learned how to set up the computer so that it gave us a chart of the readings in the axis x, y, and z. This way they were no longer appearing in a continuous list, which was difficult to read. After we had all of our data points we created a graph to analyze the data.
Planning for the Future
After Retrieval I am interested in uncovering why the meteor produced a green light. Different elements and compounds, such as copper, burn characteristic colors. Copper for example burns a green color. Uncovering the chemical makeup of the meteorite will allow researchers to understand what elements are present in the asteroid belt (where this meteor came from) giving us a greater understanding of our universe.
The pictures depict the testing for the calibration process for the magnetometer. Created a grid to mark measurements on and place the magnet. Recorded ten readings for each plotted point on the grid and found averages. Searched for x and y values.
COMING SOON: THE AQUARIUS PROJECT PODCAST
The Adler Planetarium is hard at work on an in-depth podcast series about the Aquarius Project! Get the story behind the field journal, meet the team, and follow us into the unknown on the Aquarius Project Podcast. Episodes won’t be ready until later this year, but WATCH THIS SPACE and follow the Adler on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for updates!
Far Horizons Spring Interns Make Waves at Brother Rice High School
It is inspiring to witness Aquarius Project teens teaching and learning from their peers. Our Far Horizons Interns found it both educational and amusing to visit our Shedd Aquarium collaborators at Brother Rice High School. They learned a great deal from each other, and Giovanna, Far Horizons Intern shares her experience in the post below:
The Brother Rice Boys
by Far Horizons Spring Intern - Giovanna Rossi- Junior- Lincoln Park Highschool
The Brother Rice team introduced us to their own trials and tribulations in creating effective electronics for their robots, specifically in relation to waterproofing. The team introduced us to issues we were not aware of, such as that water can perforate a water-proof seal through the hollow center of an ethernet cable used in wiring that could allow for the entrance of water potentially disturbing machinery. They also shared helpful pointers along with pressure sensitivity of PVC tubing, and the usage watertight lids for tubing to prevent flooding. Their solutions to prevent these issues were to use Blue Robotics neutrally buoyant cables that had all their wiring set inside securely, doubling up on layers of PVC tubing, and using watertight caps from Blue Robotics at the ends of their acrylic tubing to help with pressure sensitivity and water exposure. Their inspiring “Bucket of Shame” was a great way to reference their lessons learned, and rather entertaining, to “what not to do again” to ensure efficiency. In it was an arduino and a wad of wires trapped in a block of epoxy they called “The Jolly Rancher.” Everyone begins somewhere, and the Brother Rice robotics team in their successes are an excellent example of using patience and dedication to build off past failures.
Our hands-on experience with their underwater robot used in their MATE robotic competition was both fun and informative. The difficulty of navigation underwater was surprising, a skill that with practice will no doubt become easier. This part of our visit informed our sled design as well, such as having heavy objects on the sled to weight down the bottom, and distributing the weight of these objects symmetrically on the sled to promote stability. Floatation and air chambers on the Brother Rice robotics’ team robot were kept at the top of the robot, to keep it right side up, a detail to be considered incorporating into the Aquarius Project sled. The Brother Rice robotics team in their helpful nature continue to give assistance in the push for the success of the Aquarius Project, for not only the Adler Planetarium, but the Shedd Aquarium, and The Field Museum. Incorporating their advice and their own experience will be incredibly helpful for The Aquarius Project’s success.
Visualizing the Orbit of our Aquarius Project Meteor in the Solar System
By Dr. Maria Weber
I'm a postdoctoral fellow at Adler Planetarium and the University of Chicago. My primary research area is solar and stellar physics. Using computational models and theoretical approaches, I try to understand how stars like our Sun generate strong magnetic fields. Such magnetism can affect the habitability of planets orbiting the host star, our own Earth included.
The Importance of Visualizations
Part of my work at Adler involves developing new visualizations to increase the understanding of astrophysical objects, with a particular focus on transforming data from simulations (including some of my own) into images. Turning an abstract string of numbers from calculations into a visualized product in 3D space is instrumental in our ability to comprehend the phenomena around us. Though these images, we can see the motion of objects in our universe without necessarily needing to know the equations or laws that govern their motion.
What to Notice
Image 1: Me working on Image 2 today at a coffee shop in Paris!
Image 2: Zoom in on the Earth, about 2.5 days before the orbit of the meteroid (white line, indicated by red arrow) and the Earth intersect. The Earth has been enlarged 30x it's normal size to show detail.
Video: The solar system and meteroid orbit during a period of time covering a few months before the Earth and meteroid intersect. The video continues with the orbit trajectories for about half a month post intersection on February 6, 2017. (yellow - Mercury, Venus, Mars; blue - Earth; red - Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus; purple - Pluto; green - asteroid belt objects).
School Chemistry Project Inspired By the Aquarius Project
By Annelise Goldman
Hi, my name is Annelise, and I’m a teen volunteer at the Adler Planetarium. I’ve had the opportunity to work on some of the early stages of the underwater sled, as well as to participate in some of the Aquarius Project activities at the Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum. Recently I designed an experiment for my IB Chemistry class at school inspired by the Aquarius Project.
During the March 3rd meet-up with teens from the Shedd, Field, and Brother Rice, grad students and postdocs from the University of Chicago taught us about the ways chemistry can be applied to study a meteorite. One of the grad students, Jennika Greer, talked about weathering the meteorite may experience at the bottom of Lake Michigan. I learned that “water is the worst enemy of meteorites,” but that the meteorite’s fusion crust may protect it from severe weathering. But because a meteorite has never been retrieved from a lake before, scientists are not absolutely sure what will happen to the chemical composition of the meteorite. It’s important that they have some ideas though, especially because if a large amount of rust were to form on the meteorite, it might lose some of its magnetic qualities, making it harder to retrieve. I thought that for my Chemistry class experiment, I could try to better understand the factors that affect iron oxidation in water over extended periods of time.
My experiment was focused on measuring the amount of iron oxide formed on iron wire placed in various concentrations of salt water over time. Even though Lake Michigan is freshwater, I hoped that I could still apply what I learned about iron oxidation to the Aquarius Project meteorite. I placed small pieces of iron wire in distilled water, tap water (representing freshwater), and simulated salt water samples representing brackish water, typical seawater, and hyper salinated water. I measured the mass of the iron wire before and after a few days of oxidation, and filtered any iron oxide remaining in the water out of the samples and measured its mass. I added the two masses together to find the total change in mass, which I used to measure the amount of oxide formed in grams per hour. I found that hyper salinated water formed the most oxide, and distilled water the least. In other words, the higher the salinity of water, the more the iron rusts.
Because Lake Michigan is freshwater, this suggests that the meteorite will not undergo much oxidation. However, the meteorite has been in the Lake for more than a year, so there may be more dramatic weathering than my experiment predicts. It’s also important to note that the meteorite is not pure iron, so weathering will be different from the iron samples I used.
Finally, I learned about other factors that influence the oxidation of iron. Temperature, dissolved oxygen level, pH, microorganisms, organic matter, and possibly water pollutants can affect the oxidation of iron in water. These are all factors that we can consider when thinking about what may happen to the meteorite before we retrieve it and how it will be different from other meteorites once scientists analyze it.
I hope to learn more about the applications of chemistry to planetary science and geology in the future, and I’m looking forward to working more with the Aquarius Project!
The Artists of Aquarius
On an unprecedented exploration such as this, each participant brings valuable contributions to the journey. Carmen brings her background in the arts and fuses them with this scientific process. Please read her thought process, view her well illustrated _(and funny!) design notes, and watch her video below!_
by Carmen Jones
Hi, my name is Carmen Jones and I worked on designing the sensor housing for this project. The Aquarius Project is by far the most challenging internship that iv'e had, just based on how quickly the designs kept changing. As well as being challenging, this was also one of the most fun internships iv'e had. The challenging part even did tie into how fun the project was. I vividly remember a point near the beginning of my job when Chris was first explaining to me what i needed to do and what the design needed to encompass. I had my head and my hands and i was staring at the computer in just complete silence after he explained it, and he asked me if this was because the job was stressful or I wasn't enjoying it. I quickly explained that I was just thinking about how to change the design to make it actually functional, and that it was kind of like playing a game. Needless to say, I was enjoying my time. The people I worked with were friendly and respectful, and didn't mind that I consistently pestered them with questions. Even if I wasn't quite sure what I was assigned with at first, just how encouraging my teammates were, along with staff occasionally offering suggestions, I was able to quickly pick up on what needed to be done. I'm even quite proud of how the final product turned out, even if they could use a couple more changes.
Approaching the task of designing sensor houses from an artists standpoint as well as a scientists standpoint was an incredible process. The merging of two different types of skills required constant attention, but also put me in a kind of problem-solving mindset. It kept me constantly interested in searching for design flaws and how to fix them, but each new design printed came with new problems and restrictions. Like for one design the battery fit in its casing but now you couldn't remove the breadboards for wiring. Or once I fixed the breadboards space there was a way to rotate the battery around that i hadn't thought about before, but would work much better. Balancing making it functional and aesthetically pleasing, while still fitting within certain measurements, was honestly one of the best parts of my internship. If I could go back to fix anything I would honestly ask more questions because there were points in the process where i would draw up an entire design only to scrap it because it wasn't what the submarine needed.
Brother Rice Highschool Meteor Hunter Update
Check out the report below from Nolan and Vince, Brother Rice High School meteor hunters for an update on magnetic dredge prototype #3. Their design features a spinning magnet on the inlet of a pipe that sucks up debris from the bottom of the lake. There is a cage on the back end of the dredge to catch meteorites, while the spinning magnet captures or throws off highly ferrous objects like screws and other metal and the meteorites get sucked up into the machine. It's an exciting way to sort highly ferrous objects from objects like meteors that have low iron concentration.
We can't wait to share the design with the Adler Teens next Saturday!
Teen Dredge Update
"Today, we started off by re-adjusting the magnet's placement to avoid it hitting the PVC, but we made it close enough to attract and separate highly ferrous materials from the low ferrous materials such as meteorites. Then, we extended the wire so we could test the dredge in the water. Next, we cut metal netting for the meteorite collection container.
We thought this would be best because if a highly ferrous item, such as a screw, did get passed the magnet, it would fall through the holes. The dredge was brought to the pool for its first water test, and it was a successful one. We put four ferrous rocks in the pool to resemble meteorites combined with a few screws to imitate the floor of the lake.
The dredge managed to collect the "meteorites" and separate the screws which is exactly what we wanted it to do. The magnet fell off twice, but we just need to connect to the dredge better."
The Aquarius Project Teens Reunite
Dynamic teens from across Chicago came back together to share their projects as a part of The Aquarius Project underwater meteorite hunt. Adler's Teen Cohort, the "Stratonauts" shared their environmental sensor designs, cosmochemist post-docs gave a deep dive into meteorite analysis ("What to do once we find a submerged meteorite?") with the Field Museum's Youth Council, and the Shedd Aquarium's underwater robotics team gave a lesson on neutral buoyancy to help with the design of our ROV meteorite hunter "Childish Submarino! Read Adler Teen Karolina's thoughts on the day and watch below!
by Karolina Guerrero
The Aquarius Project has been a wonderful thing to participate in. Through the project, I have learned about how all three museums can contribute on the quest to find a meteorite in Lake Michigan. Specifically, the field museum can help analyze and categorize the meteorite. The Adler, (that’s us!) can help create a sled and ROV to pick up the meteorite. Finally, the teen’s at the Shedd can help us with underwater recovery. On Saturday March 3rd, we once again came together as a group to learn more about the contributions of each museum. We started off the day with some fun icebreakers led by the teen’s from the Shedd. This was necessary because we hadn’t congregated in a few months. After that we were introduced to Jennika Greer who taught us all about the The Raman Spectroscope. I found to be very interesting because of its inclusion of a laser. We also had the chance to see different meteorites in the Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies. My favorite meteorite was a Chelyabinsk meteorite because it looked kind of like a coal. It is a true reminder that something so ordinary-looking can still have an interesting history behind it. Finally we observed an instrument at work which could determine which elements are present in a meteorite and how much of each element there is.It was really fascinating to see chondrites up close and their composition. Near the end of the day we did more fun activities which involved trying to get a plastic shark or whale to remain in equilibrium in a tank of water. This was done as a reminder that we needed our sled to also remain in equilibrium. I found this activity to be exciting because it allowed us to use engineering skills to complete a task. After that, a lesson on buoyancy was given by the teen’s at the Shedd Aquarium. Overall, it was a fun day of collaboration, learning and growth and I will always look forward to another day of the Aquarius Project!
Aquarius Project Teen Inspired to Take an Internship in Cosmochemsitry
Mary Greenlees made an exciting connection with the scientists at the Field Museum through the Aquarius Project. Read how she is currently working with Post Doc Cosmochemists to analyze meteorites
by Mary Greenlees
Hi, I’m Mary and currently, I am a research intern at the Field Museum under University of Chicago grad student, Jennika Greer. Jennika’s expertise in cosmochemistry and meteorites. The project we are working on involves examining samples from a meteorite impact site in Santa Fe.
Our first task was to crush the samples and use a sifter to separate the pieces out by size. By doing this, we wanted to isolate the “medium” sized pieces so that we could better examine them under a microscope. Once we used chemicals to clean the samples, I went through the samples using a microscope to try and isolate what I thought was quartz. The quartz was described to be either completely transparent, or it had a pink tint to it. The next step was to use the Raman.
The Raman Spectroscope
Upon first glance, the Raman looks like an ordinary microscope. It has a revolving nosepiece that holds the objective lenses (which decide how zoomed in you want to be), a stage with stage clips, etc. However, one distinct difference is that it has a green laser. The Raman is primarily used to identify molecules, as different molecules have different readings.The laser is meant to stimulate Raman scattering, which when picked up, is translated into a graph (as seen in the photo below (2)).
Jennika taught me how to use the Raman (and in doing so discovered that I had mistook some of the samples as Quartz, when they were not). So, the next time we met, she handed me a new sample plate and showed me a few examples of what they could be. However, when left to my own devices, I discovered that the graph looked nothing like the ones Jennika had pulled up. But, almost all of them had a peak at around 440 and 1350. Which meant that they were in fact the same molecule, but we didn’t know which one. As of right now, we are still trying to figure out what this mystery material is, and plan to use different tests to try and determine what it is!
The image on the screen is a picture that is used to map out the slide, making it so that it’s easy to maneuver around (you use your mouse to click where you want the microscope to focus on, and it moves there
A picture of the mysterious peaks!
A much needed selfie with the Raman
Adler Planetarium Scientist Finds Lake Michigan Meteor's Origin in Our Solar System
by Dr. Mark Hammegren
I'm a planetary scientist who does research on asteroids, trying to figure out what they're made of, and what happens when they impact the Earth. This includes meteorites, which are generally pieces of asteroids. They date back to the origin of our solar system and give us unique information about the formation of the planets.
I'm analyzing several videos taken of the meteor that appeared over Wisconsin on February 6, 2017, in order to determine the trajectory of the fireball. I've written some software to measure the position of the meteor in each video and convert that into an absolute direction in the sky. This is complicated by a couple problems: the fireball is so bright its image is completely saturated, making it difficult to measure the center of the image; and two of the best videos were taken from moving cars, which makes it very hard to calibrate the observed directions.
Coding for the Cosmos
By triangulating these directions from different viewpoints, I find the path through the air that best matches the videos. Then, I wrote some other software to take the position and velocity of the meteor and run it backward in time, subject to the force of gravity from the Earth, Moon, Sun, and all the planets. This lets me figure out the original orbit of the meteor in space. Like every other meteor for which this has been done, the Wisconsin meteor appears to have come from the asteroid belt.
Teens Explain their Thought Behind: "The Aquarius Dredge"
Here are some thoughts on the first prototype of the Aquarius Dredge! Students from Brother Rice/Shedd Aquarium in the video below wrote this up. The next prototype is in the works....
The origin of the design stems from the concept of the venturi principle. According to http://www.hendersons.co.uk/wms/venturiprinciple.html, a venturi creates a constriction within a pipe that varies the flow characteristics of a fluid travelling through the tube. As the fluid velocity in the throat is increased there is a consequential drop in pressure. The main goal of the dredge we are designing is to pick up and sort small, ferrous meteorites. The dredge is contains multiple components. A 500 gallon bilge pump supplies the water pressure for the apparatus. The next component is a ¾” landry house pipe, used as a converter, that is repurposed to direct the water flow of the pump. Connecting the ¾” pipe and the 2” PVC adaptor, is a reducer, held in place using hot glue. The redirectly water enters the finally component of the dredge, the 2” PVC pipe. The pipe serves as a funnel to direct the picked up ferrous and non-ferrous materials. The pieces are held together using zip ties and metal clamps. Lastly, the dredge will be pulled on a sled.
We utilized this effect to propel some small stones through the 2” PVC pipe as seen above. The rocks are sucked in through the small tilted connector, at a 45 degree angle, on the right side, and are moved through the tube towards the motor.
Another planned addition will be a magnetic based sorting system. The sorting system will using magnets of various strengths to attract the ferrous material. Weaker magnets will attract highly ferrous material as it runs through the PVC pipe, and stronger magnets will attract the less ferrous material. Depending on the success of the magnetic based sorting system, we might add a stronger motor, one that pumps upwards of 1000 gallons per hour, if the pressure is too low. With the upgraded motor, we are also considering increasing the size of the PVC from two inches to three inches. If the pressure created in the tube is too high, the voltage supplied to the pump will subsequently be lowered.
Aquarius Project Teens Get Innovative
Ever seen an underwater magnetic meteorite dredge? Yeah, neither have we! Inspired by gold mining techniques, these high schoolers from Brother Rice High School have been working on a brand new way to retrieve and sort submerged meteorites in Lake Michigan. Watch them explain their critical thinking and initial design below!
Day 2 of ROV assembly...
Written by Adler Planetarium's Team Stratonauts
Gabriel: Going into the 2nd day of assembling the ROV was an amazing experience! After using the acrylic cement before I came in way more confident than before. Being able to be apart of the creation of the ROV is absolutely 100% no doubt an awesome thing to be apart of. I really appreciate Chris for letting me be apart of this process and really hope that this is only one of the many things I get to help out with. An experience like this is honestly an honor. Thank you.
Jack: Going into the day I was slightly nervous about assembling the ROV as I had no previous experience with assembling a scientific instrument like our ROV. In the end our first day of assembly proved fairly simple,once we had figured out how to apply the acrylic cement that holds the whole thing together. I'm looking forward to future build days to continue the assembly.
Aquarius Project Teens Highlighted in Science Journal
Dr. Marc Fries' work of tracking meteorite falls with weather radar, and the citizen science it has inspired (The Aquarius Project) are featured in the science journal Eos, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. Read this exciting article by Katherine Kornei below.
Teens of Chicago Unite Around the Aquarius Project
Recently, teens from across Chicago, involved in teen programs from The Field Museum, The Shedd Aquarium, and The Adler Planetarium's Far Horizons Program came together to collaborate with like minded teens and professional scientists to tackle The Aquarius Project. Nathaly, a member of the Field Museum's Youth Council blogged about the experience, click the excerpt below to read the entire piece:
"As people continued their inquisitiveness, one of the answers that often came up was, “I don’t know.” Very often, I don’t know is not an acceptable answer, because it means that there is something that is yet to be found, and science is supposed to have the answers to everything. But this time, I don’t know meant something different. It inspired curiosity. It made us want to find out more. And, from the looks on our awed faces as the scientists from the Adler Planetarium, Field Museum, and Shedd Aquarium talked about the various aspects of the Aquarius project, I don’t know was enough....(more)"
Help Us Name our Meteorite Hunting ROV
We start our ROV 2.8 assembly on Saturday! All Aquarius Project participants are being asked to add a name to the pot. SO THIS MEANS THE OPEN EXPLORER COMMUNITY TOO! These names will be voted on by the Adler Planetarium's Far Horizon's team of teens - Team Stratonauts. Submit by this Saturday, December 16th @ 12:30 CST.
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
Last Friday, October 13th (Friday the 13th Dun-Dun-DUUUUN!) Dr. Philip WIllink and I were welcomed aboard the University of Wisconsin- School of Freshwater Science's Research Vessel the Neeskay to test The Aquarius Project's magnetic sled "R/V Starfall."
Our updated sled was loaded with three brand new meteorite retrieval bays, two more neodymium magnet wheels, magnetic ballast on the back rails (to help with orientation and solid contact with the lake bed), and for that day's test, two drop cameras giving us live feed from the sled. New additions from participant suggestions were added as well, metal "Nut Wizards." A catch all for meteorites (usually used for nuts) if the meteorites prove not magnetic enough on our hard packed sand covered lake bed. We tested a smaller one housed inside the frame, and a larger one off the back.
The weather was clear, the water was calm, and Captain Gregory J Stamatelakys found us a great test spot in nearly 120 ft of water. It wasn't clear sand, ended up being covered in mussels, but the sled proved itself! Using a dive plane attached 75 ft in front of the sled, it rode along the bottom better than it ever had in the past, and landed upright after a drop of over 100 ft.
We lost our large Nut Wizard...::sigh::... gone too soon. May your wizarding serve you well in the depths of Lake Michigan. We assume it was crushed when the sled landed rear first on the lake bed. Note to self, keep the "Wizards inside the Starfall" (this is becoming a Lord of the Rings novel
Using up tether at nearly a 3:1 ratio, we ran out of our 250 ft of drop camera line rather quickly so we had to disconnect the camera that was pointing at how our magnet wheels were operating. The forward pointing camera gave us a good idea of how the sled rode, the rear of the sled kept on the bed, but the nose of the "R/V Starfall" tended to still want to lift off when the speed got too high.
We found out the magnet wheels rotated without having a drop cam on the them! How you might ask? Small magnetic fragments coated each one along with a few surprises. On several magnets and inside the retrieval baskets were quagga mussels, they had attached to, or ingested metal fragments on the lake bottom, and now were magnetic! (see photos)
Being close to a major shipping port, we were not completely surprised at the debris, but still fairly surprised. We'll be needing to clear our wheels during our run in the strewn for sure if metal fragments are as prevalent.
Our weather window is closing and the lake continues to only give us a day at the most of calm seas. We'll be watching the NOAA forecasts and be in communication with the team at The School of Freshwater Sciences in hope of a rapid strike with a sled and an ROV. If we can get two days, it will be worth our team's while. Hopefully we'll find our calm wave window before late November.
Open Water Test 2 with Teen Explorers
We brought Aquarius Project Teens ten miles off the coast of Chicago to test the magnetic retrieval sled, ROV, and side scan sonar in deeper waters. The waters calmed later in the day, but the early chop made for quite a few early morning green teens. Our exhibits team had to rush to get the sled ready for deployment, so the bottom skis weren't reapplied, which made for a sled that liked to land upside down about 50% and flew off the bottom even easier. The magnetic wheel needs to run closer to the lake bottom because it had trouble rotating with its current height.
The Rare Earth Magnet Wheel
We've continued to test this rare earth magnet wheel configuration and it has had the most consistent results with our meteorite simulants. We're currently creating housings for three magnet wheels with attached retrieval baskets. One drawback to depending on a rotating magnet wheel to pick up meteorites with a low iron content, we can't cover ground very fast 1-2 knots (approximately 1.2-2.4 mph).
Next Steps with Limited Time and Limited Resources
Excitement is building for this project from many sides, but funds remain limited and the weather will soon make water research very difficult. With the time and resources we currently have, we're hoping to make a several day excursion to the strewn field in the next week and a half to test the sled and ROV in the strewn field. We've contacted the School of Freshwater Sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and they've agreed to take us out on the water with their research vessel The Neeskay on Friday. We'll be able to test our sled with the adjustments made from our open water test and hopefully prepare to strike even further north when a window of calm water opens!
20,000 Leagues Under the Stars
The Aquarius Project / Far Horizons / Adler Teen Programs
Open Water Test Prep
Two weeks ago our open water equipment test off the coast of Chicago was cut short due to high seas. It's given us more time in the lab to keep iterating on designs of the teens this summer. Notice the different magnet wheel iterations. We're considering a metal housing for the magnets as well, however our greatest success in testing was with exposed magnets to meteorite simulants.
We're back on the water on Saturday (weather permitting) so there will be more test findings to come!
The Aquarius Project Shares at The Southside Mini Maker Faire
Adler Planetarium Summer Teen Inters shared their work on The Aquarius Project with the rest of Chicago at Daley College not too long ago. They challenged participants of the Southside Mini Maker Faire to design and engineer their own underwater magnetic meteorite retrieval sled challenge. Teens worked in teams to design, engineer, and test their PVC sleds in a strewn field inside the Daley College Pool. They filmed their results, checked for design flaws, and improved their designs! Great work all, and many thanks to Daley College and the Southside Mini Maker Faire.
Written by Far Horizons Teen Intern: Mary Greenlees
Last week, Chris Bresky along with researchers at the Shedd Aquarium threw MUMS Sr. into Lake Michigan to see how it would perform in the lake, towed behind a boat.
They went early in the morning since the lake was calmer and clearer. The spot they chose was just north of Navy Pier, where it was predicted that the sandy lake bottom would be similar to the environment of the strewn field. However, we were surprised to find Pond Grass. Dr. Willink, the senior research biologist at the Shedd Aquarium was excited because it’s native and healthy this close to the city. (However we most likely wouldn’t find this where we are going). Upon arrival at the destination, there were a few difficulties with the winch. The winch is the device used to haul up and lower MUMS Sr. using a rope and a motor. It performed slower than expected, for testing in deeper water, we would most likely want a stronger/quicker winch. When it was lowered, there was also a problem with MUMS not landing rightside up. Since MUMS Sr. is seeming to flip even at 15 feet, this may be a problem for testing in 100 meters of water.
While in motion during testing, they observed that the nose of MUMS Sr. tended to move upwards, this may be due to a combination of improper boat speed (too fast) and a flaw in our design. A diver was able to follow MUMS Sr. and saw that it was occasionally “flying” in the water (meaning that it was not touching the lake bottom while it was dragged by the boat). Midway through the testing, they attached GoPros to the sled to better assess the design. These videos captured the occasional “flight” of the sled, and the fact it flipped upside down once. Possible fixes included adding flotation devices on the top and weights on the bottom (magnets will probably help here) in order to help it land right side up. In addition to this, we were thinking about adding a spoiler/fin on the nose to keep the sled from flying off the lake bottom.
We still have a ways to go, but we have learned a lot from this trial and are ready to continue our adventure!
MUMS Jr Update and Meteorite Engineering
Written by Far Horizons Teen Interns: Mary Greenlees, Jennifer Moore, and David Torrejon
Hey, it’s the Adler Planetarium’s Far Horizon summer interns again. This past week, we worked on producing a video tutorial to demonstrate how to properly build artificial meteorites. You can watch the video below.
The purpose of these artificial meteorites (meteorite simulants) is to test if our retrieval magnets on our sled (MUMS Jr.) can properly retrieve actual meteorites. It is essential for us to find the correct formula to create meteorites because previously, the metal fragments within the meteorite simulants we made to test were not well distributed. The fragments were sinking to one side as the concrete dried. Therefore, it is possible that these lopsided metal fragments may have interfered with our experiments. There was an obvious need to have a meteorite with evenly distributed metal fragments.
Meteorite Making Instructions
Here are the instructions for making a meteorite: To create our meteorites we need concrete, water, and metal ball bearings (we recommend iron buckshot or nickel iron in small balls as they seem to distribute better in the simulant). We also need a digital scale that measures in grams, disposable cups, disposable gloves, and a wooden popsicle stick or other mixing implement.
Start with putting your gloves on. Then, turn on the scale and place an empty disposable cup on it and press the TARE button in order to zero the scale.
After that’s done, we are going to put in the concrete. In order to be as close to your target weight as possible, 80% of the weight will be concrete, 10% will go to the iron buckshot, and the other 10% (and more if needed) will go to water added. But it’s alright if you go over the targeted weight with the water because some of the water will evaporate once dried completely. First, you are going to measure out the concrete into the disposable cup. Next you put the water in. It is recommended that you put over 10% in so that it is easier to mix. In small increments pour a few drops of water in at a time and and mix the water into the concrete.
Once the mixture is strong enough to hold it’s shape (a dough-like consistency), place the mixture back on the scale and hit the TARE button again. Then put in the metal. After it is poured in, thoroughly mix the concrete in order to make sure that the metal is evenly distributed. Next, scrape the mixture into your hands and begin with rolling it into a ball. Since we do not want a perfectly round shape, make flat edges to make it resemble more of a rock. This allows the meteorite to stick to the magnet better.
Once that it is done, label a plastic bag with the grams and percentage of iron in it. Then, place the meteorite in the plastic bag and place it into a box filled with sand (to help it hold its shape) whilst keeping the plastic bag open in order to let it dry. We plan it so the meteorites rest overnight. In addition, we also recommend that once the meteorites are completely dry, to paint them a vibrant color so that it is easy to locate them once they are dropped in the sand/water.
Sled Engineering Update:
Written by Jennifer Moore - Far Horizons Teen Intern
Hello! It’s Jennifer Moore again, I figured you wanted to hear MOORE from me!
Entering the Far Horizons Lab has been exciting and challenging thus far, and I feel that during these four weeks I have already learned so much. I have been presented engineering problems, using tools, and doing tests to check our work. I’ve been doing a lot of CAD (Computer Aided Design) to design a magnet bar for our second model of MUMS. The largest challenge I’ve faced thus far is the change in design from our original model to the new model. I’m a stubborn person and do not like change, so I am not a fan of this design. However, I guess I’ll have to adapt.
7-18 After our not as good test last Friday, we spent most of Tuesday stitching together footage from our 360 camera and identifying problems with MUMS Jr. The plan with our 360 footage is to see if we can find and watch issues that we noticed with MUMS that we could not see during our test. In addition we identified problems with our magnet bar, (not adaptable, not enough of a pull), our magnet ramp, (clogging up with sand, possible slowing down), and identifying what type, shape, and power of magnet we should use. (See our a sample of our test video in 360 VR below)
7-19 Today was mostly spent trying to adapt our ideas from yesterday to the new model of MUMS that we received from the Shedd Aquarium (photo below). I don’t like this new design, because it is not similar to our current model. This threw me off, and is making me adjust my designs. But science is mysterious and I will have to work around this. We considered using a movable magnet or a ‘magnet wheel’, and currently it looks like we will work with the magnet wheel. Our current plan is to make the magnet wheel to fit into our new MUMS design and test it as well. The modified wheel is made out of two soda bottles, a wheel, a lot of duct tape and string! We anticipate testing it today, it has been wild(test photos below)! We got to have a Skype call with Dr. Marc Fries of NASA, and it was so awesome! We got to ask him questions, and learned about his research, what it is like to work at NASA, and interesting NASA stories! He was fantastic to talk to and so cool that he is a part of this project with us.
7-20 A constant problem we’ve had throughout our testing was lopsided meteorites. With the way we make our meteorites, (water, concrete, and tiny metal fragments) we’ve had all of the metal components sink to one side. This made testing difficult because since the metal didn’t distribute evenly, we never truly knew if our design failed, or if the more metallic/magnetic side of the meteorite simulant wasn’t facing towards our retrieval magnet. Today we modeled different ways to make the meteorites (plaster or concrete mix) and different ways to make them. We don’t know which method is best yet, as we are waiting for them to dry.
7-21 Today Far Horizons Interns got to go on a field trip to the Field Museum. We got to meet with Jennika Greer, meteorite extraordinaire to look at their collections! She also showed us various spaces within the Field, including an scanning electron microscope(photo below)! It was a super fun experience! When we returned to the planetarium, our meteorite models from yesterday dried. Now it’s time to see which recipe for meteorite is the best! We have seven different ways to make the meteorites, some with plaster and some with concrete. One concern that I’m feeling with the meteorite models is with most of our methods, the weights are off of what the target weight is. This is extra sad because my two personal favorite recipes that seem to do well with the magnets, have different weights than what they should. I’m afraid that altering the recipe will affect how well they stick to our magnet, their durability, etc. At least we’re on the right path to figuring out the best “space pierogi” recipe!
Testing the Second Iteration of MUMS Jr.
Written by David Torrejon - Far Horizons Teen Intern
Hello, my name is David Torrejon, I am a rising senior at William Jones College Preparatory High School. This year, I am one of the Far Horizons summer interns working on the Magnetic Underwater Meteorite Sled (MUMS Jr.)
For the first couple of weeks of the internship, I was concerned about my role as a Far Horizons summer intern, considering I was not that well acquainted with tools and had not taken any engineering classes at school. Fortunately, I was taught by my supervisor and my fellow peers how to properly and efficiently operate tools and how to navigate through Tinkercad, a 3-D design tool utilized to design prototypes. It was initially a struggle, however, it proved to be an arduous yet amusing challenge. In fact, I can now comfortably operate these tools and feel confident teaching my peers how to safely use these tools.
Last week we analyzed the design of the Magnetic Underwater Meteorite Sled (MUMS Jr.) and proposed suggestions for improving the device, we have dedicated this entire week to prototyping the final design of the device so that we can reassess the effectiveness of it through more trials at Northerly Island. This week, we primarily focused on the structure of the device to increase the likelihood that we will collect meteorite fragments. We evenly distributed three PVC columns along the lengths of the sled. These will serve as adjustable attachment points for our magnetic bar. Using a drill press, we drilled holes, whose diameter measured 5 millimeters, vertically along the columns, at one inch intervals. Our magnet bar, which carries four, two square centimeter Rare Earth Magnets that stretch across two opposing columns. We first planned to have multiple magnets at different heights because the fragments’ iron content ranges from 4-10% and differ in sizes.
Our team also built a bumper in front of the sled to prevent any fragments from the meteorite from being knocked off the magnet by large rocks and to reduce the likelihood that a large object damages the magnets. We constructed the bumper out of PVC pipes and highly durable shock resistant rope.
It was a thrilling experience for our team, as we tested the Magnetic Underwater Meteorite Sled (MUMS Jr.) this past Friday at Northerly Island. Based on the trials, our team concluded that we needed to modify some aspects of the sled. During the trials, when we placed the sled in the water, our team noticed that the sled was tilting forward. As a result of the tilt, the mouth of the bar magnet was being congested by the sand, preventing any of our artificial meteorite fragments from attaching to the bar magnet. To solve this issue, we are considering using a movable magnetic bar, or perhaps converting our “bar” to a wheel or sorts. After completing the trials, our team will use our observations to improve the sled. Kachow for now.
Far Horizons Interns Begin in the Lab
Written by Mary Greenlees - Far Horizons Teen Intern
Hey, my name is Mary Greenlees, I am a rising senior at Riverside-Brookfield High School and I am one of the Far Horizons Summer Interns that are working on the Magnetic Meteorite Sled (MUMS Jr.)
Today was our first day as a Far Horizons Summer Intern team to tackle the project and learn more about the sled itself. Dr. Phil Willink from the Shedd Aquarium visited us to discuss questions we had about the design of the sled and how we could improve the device. We brainstormed a list of concerns and questions we had and asked for his input.
One of the things that we brought up was adding new parts to MUMS Jr. in order to improve it. We discussed adding a rake like device in the front of the sled in order to stir up the sand at the lake bottom, in the hope that any meteorite fragments that had been covered would be more easily discovered. We were also interested in adding a basket, because in the first tests done, it was noted that objects that stuck to the magnet were knocked off the magnet due to a larger object hitting it. In addition, we also thought about adding a bumper (possibly made of rubber) in front of the magnet bar in order to prevent the fragile magnet breaking, and also prevent possible meteorites being knocked off the magnet.
We also had the question of the design of the magnet bar, including what kind of magnets we would want to use. The magnets are a complex issue, due to the multitude of variables that involved choosing the magnets, as well as designing the bar that they would be attached to. We all agreed that we would definitely need stronger magnets than the ones that were used to test the sled on 12th Street Beach. Our research showed differences and similarities between Rare Earth Magnets, Ceramic Magnets, and Alnico Magnets. We discovered that Rare Earth Magnets tend to have a stronger pull (compared to their typical small size), however they were fragile and were generally more expensive. While ceramic magnets are less expensive, but were also brittle. And Alnico magnets are durable, but more expensive. After our research, we decided to do more hands on work with magnets. So we decided to remove the magnets from the hard drives of broken laptops! After extracting the magnets, we began to experiment with other magnets we had on hand in order to evaluate what we wanted our magnets and magnet bar to look like.
For the first day working as a team on the meteorite hunt, we got a lot accomplished and have high hopes for the future of the hunt!
Our First Prototype Magnetic Meteorite Sled Test
Written by Jennifer Moore - Far Horizons Teen Intern
I am an eighteen year old incoming freshman at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, a recent graduate of Marist High School (but those days are behind me) and also a Far Horizons Teen Intern!
Today was our first day of testing the Magnetic Underwater Meteorite Sled (MUMS Jr.). We did three tests in different conditions, the first one in the sand, the second in the rocks, and the third in the water! (watch the 360 video below)
Before we did any testing we attached a 360 camera to see our progress while the sled was underwater. We also adjusted the height of our magnets using duct tape. All of these tests happened at 12th Street Beach, in Chicago, next to the Adler Planetarium.
Our model meteorites (which look somewhat like space pierogis) were slightly buried by the sand. This really hindered us, because our magnets couldn't pick them up. This will probably be similar to conditions in the lake. However, the magnet picked up lots of what we think is [iron filaments] (http://imgur.com/a/vZCtL) and little magnetic rocks. This is something to take into account when we will be searching in the water... perhaps there is a way to clean this off.
The second test was slightly better than the first. We adjusted the magnet a second time, and the sled pulled far easier than it did in the sand. Hopefully the texture of the lake is more similar to the rocks. We only picked up one meteorites. (space pierogis) Another issue we faced was our sled would push rocks up and onto our magnet, which can be frustrating and possibly push off meteorites (space pierogis) our magnet.
Our final test occurred in the water, about one meter deep. The team all had to wear waders, which felt weird in the water. We had our 360 camera recording during this portion of the test! I (Jennifer Moore) pretended to be the boat and pulled it through the water. Once again, we did not pick up all five meteorites (space pierogis), however we picked up 3 of them! Also our MUMS (Magnetic Underwater Meteorite Sled) moved fairly easy while in the water!
We learned a lot to continue to modify our sled design. Overall I consider it a success!!!
Great Lakes Mapping Expedition with NOAA
UPDATE: We were grateful that NOAA Great Lakes invited us on board the RV/STORM this week off the coast of Manitowoc, Wisconsin to gain a deeper understanding of side scan sonar capabilities. They were on the last day of their two week long scanning mission for a proposed Marine Sanctuary
Unfortunately we weren't able to make it out to the strewn field, but we were able to get a solid sense of how the sonar reflects off of the various substrate on the lake bottom (check out the video below). We then went back over certain key areas that stood out in the side scan data to ground truth with a drop camera.
Materials that were used on this lake bed scanning mission: Side Scan Sonar Mapping Software - ArcView Drop Camera Temp/Salniity/Soundspeed Sensor
A broad mapping with side scan sonar won't detect each meteorite fragment, but it will give us a better idea of where we might be able to run a magnetic retrieval sled without running into rocks. We are interested in testing high resolution scans on smaller fields to understand how high of a resolution we can achieve. Once NOAA processes the data, it will not only be helpful to us, but for all scientists, as their are very few quality maps of the Lake Michigan lake bed!
20,000 Leagues Under the Stars
Chris Bresky Adler Planetarium / Far Horizons / Teen Programs Specialist
Making Meteorites with Shedd Teen Lab
Yesterday was a great day for science! Adler Planetarium Teens joined with Shedd Aquarium Teens in the Shedd’s Teen Learning Lab to join The Deep Space Dive Team!
Shedd Senior Research Biologist, Philip Willink gave the teens an understanding of the lake ecology in the area of the meteorite strewn field, and the challenges that had to be overcome to design a magnetic sled capable of retrieving the metal rich meteorites. Deep Space Dive Teens then teamed up to brainstorm how to make Dr. Willink’s sled even better (see photos and video).
U of Chicago Grad Student Jennika Greer, currently working with the Meteoritics expert Dr. Philipp Heck of The Field Museum, gave the teens information of where the meteorite came from and what it was probably made of so teens could create meteorite simulants to be used in these scientist’s underwater detection/retrieval experiments. Jennika emphasized that, “this is a lot of brand new science that you are all a part of.” The teens were ecstatic that they were part of this expedition, and proud to be helping scientists in their search (watch the video recap below).
We'll be testing the first prototype of the magnetic sled tomorrow! Stay tuned!
We're picking up steam as we meet more and more interested scientists and science enthusiasts who are excited by our team's work. This kind of meteorite hunt has very little precedent so we are figuring out each step as we go! Nothing like building a plane while it's in flight!
Our team was able to video conference with NASA Scientist Marc Fries, he works in curation and has done a considerable amount of work calculating meteorite falls from weather radar. (Click the link to one of his papers below) He shared new radar readout images (see images below) that show the fragments caught by radar after the fireball.
Dr. Mark Hammergren, Adler Astronomer, is working on calibrating the videos from the meteor sightings and will be able to calculate where in our solar system the meteorite came from. This is exceptional as this will be one of about 18 meteors that has been able to be tracked to its source from video footage. Finding out the meteorite's point of origin will give us a better understanding of what the meteorite is made of.
Adler Teens have completed our first draft of our PVC underwater ROV and will begin experimenting with neutral buoyancy (see image). Next week we'll be engineering meteorite simulants with teens from the Shedd Aquarium to be used in our underwater detection/retrieval tests with sonar and magnetometers (see images of test meteorites).
We are all grateful for the journey thus far, the chance to teach hands on, applicable science, and collaborate with scientists across fields of study. What an adventure!
Check out Marc Fries' Paper Slightly Cloudy with a Chance of Chondrites
20,000 Leagues Under the Stars,
Far Horizons Adler Teen Programs Specialist
Exciting News from NASA Scientist - Marc Fries about our meteorite!
"I can confidently say that this meteorite fall was one of the largest in terms of total mass of the roughly two-dozen falls seen in RADAR imagery since 1998. "
We're deep in planning mode! Our "Deep Space Dive Team" scientists met recently to talk details about the hunt. Greg Regnier of Great Lakes Expeditions, along with Dr. Philip Willink, Senior Research Biologist at the Shedd Aquarium, described the capabilities of the underwater scanning equipment.(See Video)
Dr. Mark Hammergren, Astronomer at the Adler Planetarium, and Philipp R. Heck, Associate Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies at the Field Museum, brainstormed techniques to test the scanning equipment. They proposed engineering faux meteorite fragments, creating a strewn field underwater, and testing the readouts of the scanning equipment.
Adler Planetarium After School Hangout Teens have begun engineering a basic, PVC framed ROV, to understand the engineering skills, and underwater science needed, to perform an underwater meteorite expedition. (See Pictures)
We'll begin initial underwater tests this month and plan on joining the these Open Explorers in June to begin to understand the bottom of Lake Michigan in this area. Stay tuned for more updates soon and we'd love to have you all come along for the journey.
20,000 Leagues Under the Stars
- Chris Bresky Far Horizons Adler Planetarium Teen Programs
The Adler Planetarium's Far Horizons Program has one mission: bring real space exploration down to Earth and into the hands of students, volunteers, and the public. On Monday, February 6, 2017, around 1:30am CST, a bit of space literally came to Earth and splashed down in our own backyard! Enthused by the hands on science this brings teens of Chicago, and the ability to collaborate with scientists across fields, the planning for this expedition began.
All parties involved understand the difficulty of this task, the "needle in a haystack" odds of this endeavor, and it drives us all the more to challenge teens of Far Horizons to engineer innovative ways to find and retrieve these meteorites. The STEM Professionals that work and volunteer in the Far Horizons Lab offer our team of teens helpful insights with their design concepts. Astronomers from The Adler Planetarium, and founding members of Far Horizons, Dr. Mark Hammergren and Dr. Shane Larson, enrich our student's understanding of the space science that brought this meteorite to our own back door.Dr. Philipp R. Heck, meteoritics expert from The Field Museum, has given our team insight into the possible make up of these meteorites and ways to detect them. Marc Fries, a scientist from NASA, and a colleague of Dr. Philipp R. Heck, calculated the radar data from the meteorite's path and has created a map that predicts locations of the meteorites (and size distribution), which will prove crucial in our hunt. We are also consulting with the Senior Research Biologist of the Shedd Aquarium, Dr. Philip Willink, to understand the environment of the lake bottom. Dr. WIllink is interested in this expedition, not only for a chance to find hunks of rock from space, but also to capture data of the lake floor that have not been clearly mapped in the past.
In 2003, a similar sized meteorite landed in Chicago, many of the larger fragments were around the size of softballs. The image below crashed through a Chicagoans roof and landed in their laundry! Dr. Philipp R. Heck assumes, from the size and color of the fireball that we are dealing with a similar size and make up of the Park Forest Meteorite (image seen below, Adler Planetarium).
This spring we'll continue to consult with experts as we prepare for our Meteorite Hunt scheduled for the summer (July/August). Everyone involved has a lot to learn from each other as the task of underwater meteorite recovery is rarely undertaken. We look forward to sharing with the Open Explorer Community, build Far Horizon's first OpenROV (to explore Far Horizons of the deep!) and welcome all interested explorers in the Great Lakes region who have access to equipment to join the search. We'll learn a lot from this journey, and hope you will too.
Far Horizons Teen Programs Specialist Adler Planetarium