The Aquarius Project: The First Student-Driven Underwater Meteorite HuntLatest update March 15, 2019 Started on March 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!
The Latest Aquarius Podcast Episode Just Dropped
A tube with some glass in it, a book with a missing cover, a bunch of very old rocks, and a homemade sled all have very interesting stories to tell—if you’re willing to listen.
The Aquarius Project's partner community scientist is helping us search for tiny space rocks that may have settled into the sediment in our strewn field. Learn about his process, and how you can look for your own tiny visitors from space!
by Scott Peterson - Micro Meteorite Expert - Amature Scientist
The search for stardust can be a tad tricky, you’ll need to know where to look, what materials best aid in your success, what exactly to look for and more importantly what to disregard. Don’t let this discourage you however, you too can find micrometeorites with the help of the following process and materials.
Micrometeorites are small, around .3mm so we won’t be able to see them with our naked eye, but we are in luck because most micrometeorites are magnetic, and this is how we are going to collect them. I use a very powerful hand-held magnet that I purchased on Amazon. I will sweep this strong magnet around drainage areas, corners, and low lying areas on flat vinyl roofs and collect the material in a ziplock bag. If you don’t have access to a large roof you can also clean out your gutters at home. The goal is to collect as much material as possible. We will clean the material with warm water to rid it of organic matter and very small/light particles, then we will let it dry and sieve it for the right size (I use professional scientific sieves, but you can use the cooking sieves you have at home). The average size of micrometeorites is .2-.4mm so we can focus on that size range. Once we have the material clean and sieved we can start looking at it under a microscope.
Most of the spheres we find will be shiny and man-made, but some very black specks will show characteristics that only something that came throughout the atmosphere at 7 miles per second could display. These images will hopefully help you see just exactly what we are looking for… dust that is as old as the solar system itself.
Every Corner of the City
by Spencer Darwall - Far Horizons High School Intern
Sharing the Story
We recently traveled to the public library in Back of the Yards to present the Aquarius Project to the public. We brought microscopes, posters, samples from our lake collections, real meteorites, and an interactive activity where guests would be tasked with constructing a mock sled out of two magnets and PVC piping that would be tested and dragged through a strewn field filled with fake magnetic meteorite samples. The sled activity was the one I spent the most time working on, and it was also the one that I felt brought out the most thoughtful and engaging side of the visitors. I would ask guests about their designs and later, after they tested them, challenged them to improve upon them. Some would come up with massive contraptions composed sometimes of ten or eleven magnets and pick up six or seven rocks, whereas some designs would retrieve the same amount with only a few pieces of PVC and two or three magnets. There wasn’t really a design that worked the best, but I would occasionally challenge the group to see who could make the most effective design with a set amount of materials. On top of there being a fair amount of friendly competition, it really seemed like everyone was getting involved and fully focusing on what they were doing.
Sharing the Passion for Science
Seeing everyone’s enthusiasm throughout the event across other activities was also really inspiring. There were people of all ages, and it seemed like everyone was genuinely interested in what we were doing. Another activity that I thought was a particular success was a microscope that we had setup to project onto a monitor where everyone could see. Visitors had the opportunity to sift through actual sediment that had been picked up on the boat trip this summer, and were tasked with identifying what the objects were with the help of a reference sheet we had made. Most of the objects appeared to be slag or taconite likely deposited by a commuter ferry that crosses over our sled path in Lake Michigan, but every now and then, we would come across something shiny or unusual, and it would draw the attention of the room as everyone attempted to identify what exactly it was.
Overall I thought the event was a strong success. The best part of it for me personally was being able to interact with the public in a neighborhood that I had never been to before. Involving people from every corner of the city is a important part of Adler programs, and one of the most rewarding parts of the day was taking down names to contact people for summer and other future programs.
Big Science in Small Spaces
The scientists that are guiding us on The Aquarius Project have informed us that even the smallest rock from space can give us a wealth of information. This week we packaged up the sediment retrieved from our underwater meteorite sled to ship to Minnesota. A fellow community scientist and micrometeorite expert Scott Peterson has agreed to help us continue the hunt into the world of the micrometer! Check out his images of past micrometeorite falls in these pictures and video.
Space Rock Update
by Jennika Greer - Cosmochemist - University of Chicago / The Field Museum
In other news, the 'hard maybe" from the last sorting session has been downgraded to an "unlikely." The crystal we were worried about turned out to be a void filled with sand grains, however, some of the grain was fractured to reveal a glassy interior. This could mean that the entire object melted, but it could also be glass slag. I've attached some pictures (sorry, forgot the scale bar).
Defying Boundaries in the Museum World
Postcard from the 1930s featuring the Adler Planetarium in what is nowadays known as Chicago Museum Campus. Note the Shedd Aquarium just below, and the Field Museum next to it. (Adler Planetarium Archives).
by Adler Planetarium Curator Pedro Raposo
The Adler Planetarium opened to the public on May 12, 1930, forming a triumvirate of museums with the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium in what is nowadays known as Chicago Museum Campus, a beautiful park by Lake Michigan. In 1932 the Adler’s first director, Philip Fox, wrote: “the three [museums] are fittingly closely associated and form a trinity dedicated to the study of “The Heavens above, the Earth beneath, and the waters under the Earth””. Fox was paraphrasing a biblical passage (Exodus 20:4) in order to emphasize that these institutions not only complemented each other, as together they were virtually able to cover nature in its entirety. Regardless of their affinities and shared location, each of the three institutions would essentially follow its own path over the ensuing decades. There is nothing unusual or surprising about that. In the nineteenth century, the pursuit of knowledge, in the humanities as in the physical and natural sciences, was increasingly marked by the division of each major field of inquiry into disciplines and sub-disciplines. This movement was concomitant with the rise of the professional scientist, the emergence of the research university, and the development of the public museum as an informal place of learning. Museums were inevitably shaped by this drive towards fine-grained disciplinarity, with each institution seeking to define its own identity and scope. In many cases, the same museum came to host disparate curatorial cultures with little or no communication between them. Of course, one institution alone cannot, and should not, aim to cover every possible topic. But for that very same reason, and particularly in our age of rapid information flow, large-scale science projects, and museums focused on providing meaningful experiences, it is urgent to promote more dialogue within and between institutions. If museums want to stay relevant in today’s society, they must foster a culture that defies disciplinary boundaries and embraces inter-institutional collaboration and exchange. The Aquarius Project offers an excellent example of how a museum can bring together its different strengths, as it initially took shape by combining insights and expertise from the Adler Planetarium’s astronomy, space research, collections, and teen programs teams. More importantly, Aquarius has mobilized the three emblematic institutions of Chicago’s Museum Campus into a collaborative project, joining forces with the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium to engage experts from various areas, teens, volunteers, and members of the general public in a trailblazing search (no pun intended) for meteorite fragments in Lake Michigan. Aquarius thus brings to full fruition Fox’s vision for the Adler Planetarium in the context of Chicago Museum Campus. It likely goes beyond what Fox had in mind when he wrote the passage cited above, as he was probably thinking less of collaboration between the three museums and more about their combined potential to attract public by being physically close to each other.
The Aquarius Project may or may lead to meteorite fragments in the bottom of Lake Michigan, but besides all it has accomplished already as a collaborative and educational endeavor, it also offers plenty of food for though as to what museums (be them museums of science, art, or other subject) may accomplish by reaching out to their neighbors and fellow institutions.
Pedro Raposo - Pedro M. P. Raposo, DPhil, is Curator of the Adler’s Webster Institute for the History of Astronomy. He holds a doctorate in the History of Science from the University of Oxford. He has published on topics such as the history and heritage of nineteenth-century astronomy, the history of colonial observatories, and the circulation of knowledge in eighteenth-century Europe. Raposo is responsible for the use and research of the Adler Planetarium’s varied collections of historic scientific instruments, rare books, and works on paper. In his free time, he enjoys playing the guitar.
Our First "Hard Maybe"
After countless hours sorting through content, we have our first hard maybe! There is still quite a large chance that this is human-made debris, but it also has an interesting resemblance to this meteor impact created phenomena. Our impact being with the surface of the lake, and not sand, it's rather unlikely, but it's still an exciting new step in this journey. A photo of our "hard maybe" is below. What interests about it is the crust, much like a fusion crust on the outside. The inside is crystallized, which can happen to a meteorite, but stay tuned for more info as we continue to analyze!
The Aquarius Project Wins the Chicago Innovation Award
The entire team is thrilled to be recognized with The Chicago Innovation Award for their spirit of collaboration. The Adler was the first planetarium in the US and the northern hemisphere, it started as a symbol of innovation. We are proud to continue that tradition and play a part in the innovative work being done here with all our collaborative partners!
This Might be From Space
Our team is hard at work in the lab sorting through all the content we retrieved from the lake bottom with our magnetic underwater meteorite retrieval sled! The majority of the pieces in our fall will be pea size and smaller. Luckily our sled brought up an enormous amount of material in this size range. Using the help of our cosmochemists, astronomers, and microscopes, our Aquarius Project teens have photographed some fascinating subjects.
We've found many possible subjects, but must be sure they are not slag, which is a waste matter separated from metals during the smelting or refining of ore. Magnetite is also trying to convince us it landed from space. Here are a few photos below from our "good, but not good enough pile!"
Look What We've Done
The team is in the lab sorting through the materials brought back from the bottom of Lake Michigan on the hunt for rocks from space. It's a good idea to understand where each sled deployment happened though! Our Adler Teens have begun to map out our paths and share their work in the video below. More updates and data soon!
You Can Track the Aquarius Project Asteroid!
Less than 30 meteor falls in the history of astronomy have enough data to retrace their path and recreate their original orbit. But the Aquarius Project fall is now one of them! Learn how The Adler Planetarium's own Dr. Mark Hammegren gained the data to do this and now YOU can interact with that path below!
Now you, too, can track the asteroid’s final orbit before entering Earth’s atmosphere! Using your mouse or touch device, fly around our Solar System, watch objects move over time, and see just how this wild and crazy journey called The Aquarius Project first began! Try it here!
Credits: This WebGL application was written by Aaron M. Geller and Maria A. Weber, using the three.js library. Mark Hammergren calculated the meteoroid orbital elements. Patrick McPike contributed the meteoroid design element. Credits for planet surface and ring images and the background Milky Way panorama, as well as our source code, can be found on our GitHub page.
Chicago Teen Scientists Star in Aquarius Project Podcast
The innovative young minds of the Aquarius Project get to tell their story in the latest episode of the Adler Planetarium's Podcast about the first ever, teen-driven, underwater meteorite hunt: The Aquarius Project- listen here!
Into the Deep Void
This is the second part of the story by the scientist who actually saw the fireball that sparked the entire Aquarius Project. Read below and follow the link to the entire blog post
by Shane L. Larson
When you stand on the shores of Lake Michigan, you cannot see the far shore. Many days of the year, the surf is a gentle lapping over stones or against breakwaters, but there are definitely days when weather whips the water into a frenzy, tossing up waves worthy of ocean waves. You can’t help but notice it is big water.
Lake Michigan is the second largest of the Great Lakes, covering an area of 58,000 square kilometers and harboring 4918 cubic kilometers of water. In the early morning hours of 6 Feb 2017, a hunk of debris from outer space hurtled into Earth’s atmosphere, somewhere in the skies slightly to the west of Kewaskum, Wisconsin. Leaving a glittering trail of burning dust and shining brightly enough to cast shadows across the dark winter landscape of the Midwest, this space rock broke up and the fragments rained down about 10 miles off-shore in Lake Michigan, near Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Despite happening at roughly 1:30am, 511 people across the midwest reported seeing it. All those reports, together with a few others we had heard, let us make a good guess where it might have fallen in the Lake.
Here “we” are myself and colleagues from the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum, and the Shedd Aquarium. “We” are a few professional scientists and (sorta) grown-ups, and a remarkable group of young people from the Adler, called “The Adler Teens.” In the grandest tradition of scientific adventures, we decided it might be fun to go look for fragments of this space rock. On the bottom of Lake Michigan. Read what happens next here!
How to Make a Falling Star Catcher
There is no book yet written on "How to Turn a Trident ROV into an Underwater Meteorite Retrieval Bot," so these Chicago teens on the Aquarius Project have decided to write the book themselves. Join Aquarius Project Teen Member Araceli Magana's journey through design, testing, failure, and ultimate triumph in the video below! And see what's up next on The Aquarius Project!
Our Grant Funded OpenROV Trident was made possible by the S.E.E. Initiative. We're incredibly grateful for the ability to empower these young citizen scientists through this opportunity.
The Cosmos Beneath the Waves
The astronomer that first spotted the Aquarius Project Meteor, Dr. Shane Larson, recounts the first moments that sparked this expedition, and the unlikely adventure that followed. Read the whole story (Part 1) in the link below!
By Shane Larson
The wind is brisker, the nights cooler and crisper, and something about the slanting misted light of morning says autumn is here. Over your morning nibbles, with your family prattling around you in the kitchen and the hum of a weekend just getting underway, you look back through your memories on social media, and it’s like “Wow! I had some awesome adventures this summer!”
During the daily grind, when the morning commute is doing its best to wear down the gears of your soul, and the daily maintenance of jobs and life stretches well beyond the length of a reasonable ToDo list, I sometimes despair that there are no great adventures to be had. But those are just little demons whispering, preying on weariness. In reality, I think there are always new adventures launching without you even knowing it. Some of them lead to great friendships and growth for your community around you. Some of them bring great good to the world, even if it is just a small group of people around you. A few indelibly ink a memory in your heart and soul that you will carry around with you to the end of your days in this Cosmos. This is an adventure story with all of these. Like most adventures, it arrived unexpectedly, and grew from humble beginnings. It started one winter night in the northwest suburbs of Chicago...
Watch the Final Flight of the Aquarius Project Meteor
This meteorite fall is rare! Less than 30 falls in the history of astronomy have the proper visual data to track the object's trajectory back into the solar system. Luckily, Dr. Mark Hammergren of the Adler Planetarium was able to analyze the available footage and track this space rock's initial orbit back out to its origin in the Main Asteroid Belt!
This animation, created by Dr. Maria Weber, and Dr. Aaron Geller, based on the calculations from Dr. Mark Hammergren, shows the final two orbits of the space rock of The Aquarius Project Meteor before it crashes down into Lake Michigan. Once the team finds a piece of this meteorite, they'll find a piece of the puzzle that makes up our Solar System!
The Astronomical Odds of it All
An added joy of the Aquarius Project has been the process of bringing together educators to learn from and collaborate with. One of these thoughtful practitioners, Cameron Sow, shares their insights from our most recent expedition below.
by Cameron Sow
Hello, my name is Cameron Sow. For the past two summers I have worked at Adler Planetarium as instructor for the Citizen Science Ambassador program. Below you will find a personal reflection regarding my experience participating in the Aquarius Project’s most recent mission to Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
Preparing for Port
When Chris invited me to join on the Aquarius Project mission he along with a few of the Adler Teen Interns were on their way to make an upgrade to Starfall, the magnetic sled which would crawl lake Michigan for potential meteorite fragments. The Aquarius team needed a better way to ensure that the sled would stay on the lake floor to collect as many metallic samples as possible. Chris and the interns were thus on their way to the shop in the Planetarium to add the spoiler design to the sled (see previous post).
Of course I had been following the project as it has developed from early ideas to the first fruitful endeavors. In fact, at the end of last summer some of the Citizen Science Ambassadors got to put on waders and help test an early version of the sled. And so I was excited at the opportunity to get to tag along the third Aquarius trip without being quite sure what to expect. My aim was to be present with an open mind.
We left Adler Planetarium in the early morning hours to travel to a part of Wisconsin I had not heard of prior to the Aquarius Project, Manitowoc. Some of us, like myself, were new to the Aquarius Project. Our drive was steadily more conversant as passengers became more familiar with one another and perhaps as anticipation grew approaching our destination: a port.
Read on for the rest of Cameron's insights and photos of the expedition here!
Our chief marine biologist Philip Willink gives his preliminary impression after our July expedition. An excerpt is below and follow the link to the entire write up to hear all his findings!
Preliminary Impressions of Lake Michigan at the Strewn Field
*By Philip Willink - Aquarius Project Lead Marine Biologist *
The bottom of Lake Michigan at the strewn field is flat. Sediment appears to be clay covered by a layer of soft flocculent matter a couple to several inches deep. On top of the soft flocculent matter, the bottom is carpeted with Quagga Mussels, an invasive species. The remarkable number of Quagga Mussels and several fishes swimming around indicate that oxygen levels are sufficient to support life. There is probably little to no oxygen in the sediments themselves, based on the condition of the taconite pellets that were retrieved. Some presumably human debris was seen. One looked like a giant hook. Another was about the size of a small car, but was just along the edge of the field of view, so it was difficult to tell what it really was. Regardless, the object is worthy of further examination. The dark color of the sediment and Quagga Mussels makes it difficult to impossible to locate meteorites visually. The magnetic sled was designed to be pulled over firm substrate, like sand or clay. Previously made maps of the bottom of Lake Michigan at the strewn field indicated that this would be the case (i.e., clay or hard). However, we were the first people to actually see what was there, and what we saw was not what was supposed to be there. Instead, it appears that smaller meteorites are probably embedded in the layer of soft flocculent matter. The sled is essentially being pulled through this layer. We need to reconsider the meteorite retrieval effectiveness of the mechanisms attached to the sled.
(July 24-25, 2018) One of the first questions we get asked about the Aquarius Project is “What is the bottom of Lake Michigan like at the strewn field?” As crazy as it seems, we did not actually know. Nobody had ever looked at the bottom of that part of Lake Michigan. We were literally the first people to see what was down there, the first explorers to venture there.
Read the entire abstract with images from the lake bed here!
3D Modeling the Magnetic Underwater Meteorite Sled, AKA RV Starfall
By Annelise Goldman
Hi, my name is Annelise Goldman and I’m an incoming freshman at Rice University in Houston, TX. This summer I was tasked with the very challenging, but also rewarding, task of creating a 3D model of our Magnetic Underwater Meteorite Sled, also known as RV Starfall.
Why a 3D model of the sled?
After the loss of our Trident ROV earlier this summer, we know we need to be prepared to lose anything when we take our equipment out on Lake Michigan during a tow. However, prior to this model, we didn’t have any drawings or models of what the sled looks like, only pictures. We realized that we needed to have a more detailed idea of what the sled looks like and how it was built, just in case we lost it. Thus, we decided to create a 3D model of the sled using CAD (Computer-Aided Design).
What CAD software did I use?
Usually in the Far Horizons Lab, the first CAD software we use is a program called Tinkercad. I’ve been using Tinkercad for a few years; it’s fairly intuitive, and a fantastic place to start when beginning CAD modeling, but sometimes it’s difficult to add fine details to models because the software is less sophisticated than other programs. So, Chris and Ken advised me to use a different program, Autodesk Fusion 360, which is often used in universities and is more of an industry standard in CAD modeling.
Autodesk Fusion 360
Learning Fusion 360 was incredibly difficult for me, to say the least. Working on the sled model was almost always accompanied by groans and shouting at my computer because I didn’t understand why things weren’t working! The most significant difficulty at first was that Fusion 360 is not at all intuitive compared to Tinkercad. In Fusion 360, I had to be familiar with the program in order to do anything, whereas in Tinkercad I could figure most functions out without prior knowledge. The second difficulty I had with Fusion 360 was understanding the nomenclature used in the program, particularly the difference between a “body” and a “component.” Once I found resources that explained the difference in language that made sense to me, and also offered concise explanations of how to perform certain functions, I finally felt like I began to get the hang of Fusion.
Creating the Model
As you can tell from pictures in other posts, the sled is a very complicated piece of equipment. At first I had absolutely no idea how I would create a model of something so complicated - it seemed impossible. In order to simplify matters, I 1) decided to omit very small pieces of the sled, like nuts and bolts - I created a general model, but it won’t provide all the information necessary to recreate the sled exactly, and 2) split the sled into four sections: the frame, the magnetic wheels, the whisks, or “nut wizards” to collect larger rocks, and the rock collection bins. By simplifying what I wanted my model to represent, and by breaking it down into sections, I was able to make the process more manageable. In addition, as I became more familiar with Fusion 360, tasks on my list that at first seemed practically impossible, like modeling the rock collection bins, became fairly simple and didn’t take me much time to finish.
The process for modeling each portion of the sled was the same. First, I took detailed measurements of that portion, for example, the frame of the sled, and create a messy paper sketch. Next, I created a “sketch”, simply Fusion 360’s term for a detailed one-dimensional drawing, in the program. Then, I extruded my sketch, meaning that I made the 1D drawing into a 3D object/component in Fusion 360. I then connected various pieces together to create the sled as a whole.
The Finished Product
Below are some pictures of the final sled model in Fusion 360. When I was creating the model, I was sometimes so frustrated I almost gave up, so the feeling of finishing it was fantastic!
By Carmen Jones - Far Horizons Teen Intern
On the last boat trip we had slight complications with Starfall not staying on the bottom of the lake. It would buck up and not collect rocks on the ground which is kind of the whole point of this entire mission. It prompted Jack Morgan (Aquarius Project Teen Participant) to make the suggestion that we should add some kind of spoiler to it. Getting back to the lab I spent most of the day designing and building a prototype of what it might look like. (See Images Below)
Jack was really helpful in the process of the design because he knows a surprising amount about cars and spoilers. He really got the ball rolling on this project honestly. I will note that, at first, i looked up ‘aqua-spoiler’ and ‘hydro-spoiler’ to look for inspiration, but what I needed doesn't seem to exist currently. What does pop up is some kind of pool equipment and regular car spoilers. So if you need an ABS leading edge system, [this link here is one to buy.] (http://www.certikin.co.uk/aqua-spoiler-leading-edge-towing-system-html.html))
Of course the real one won’t be made out of cardboard, it will most likely be made out of the same material as the cage (polycarbonate). The engineer I talked with said he could even bend and shape the material to look like whatever we need, so that will be exciting to watch.
The first design I made had to be redesigned because I didn’t quite understand what we needed and how it was supposed to function. It’s actually a little funny, I designed the spoiler ‘backwards’ at first. The placements of the grooves and where the height adjuster would be were flipped so the spoiler wouldn't be able to move up or down at all. It would just get stuck. This one should work much better seeing as it wont get stuck anywhere on the sled. There’s a kind of hook part at the front that should attach to a black beam at the front of the sled, so it can tilt up and down with ease. (See image below)
What we don’t have right now is a height adjuster, that will make it stay in place once the angle is optimal. If I’m correct we just drill it onto the side of the polycarbonate sheet, and it should stay there and work.
Using the measurements I took, creating the prototype went quite smoothly. (See photo of the curved piece) I'm proud of the way i got the cardboard to remained curved, i used the same technique that I’ve seen used in puppets. You tape one end of string to one end of cardboard , then run the string through some loops so when you pull on it, the cardboard curves without having the line go straight across. It’s usually used to make fingers, but the function was essentially the same so i thought why not. One thing that needed to be adjusted was the placements of the slots, but moving those over about a half of an inch should fix the problem. I’m excited to see how the real thing turns out!
Return of the Curation with Jarred Scales
The materials needed for the continued curation of the lake bed samples collected are: * Tupperware containers to house the material * A rinse bottle to help sediment pass through that did not already * A sieving device ( apart from the mesh 130 and 230) * A bucket for “slop” we used a home depot bucket, or unwanted material * A stand for the sieve device to drain from the bottom (at the bottom of the page) *Gloves are optional but recommended
1. Align the sieve sections without the bottom 2 meshes. See Image 1 2. Place the device to prop the sieve under the sieve and place both of these into the slop bucket See Image 2 3. Slowly pour the bucket of sediment into the sieve so that none is spilled See Image 3 4. Once no material is passing through the sieve, wash off the material that is left in the section See Image 5 5. Use the surface to transport the material into its respective container 6. Make sure the container is labeled and sealed correctly See Image 7 (Be sure to align the sieve sections correctly after use)
In our situation, now that the meteorites are out of the lake water, they are in distilled water now which helps with the process of cleaning them and removing any unwanted organic material that could possibly be within the pores. After the process of distilled water is finished, the process of drying out the suspected meteorites using gaseous nitrogen will begin. As a reminder, gaseous nitrogen is used because it is relatively inert and displaces oxygen from the sample enclosure. Every step is a step closer to judgement day for our soggy Lake Michigan rocks.
Straining For More Time
A filtration system by Spencer Darwall - Far Horizons Teen Volunteer
To save time while on the boat, the goal of this structure is to allow us to very quickly spray off the sled, allowing us to cycle through underwater runs as quickly as possible. It will be a rectangular box, with a filter material that will line the internal sides as well as the bottom. The frame will consist of PVC piping, measured out to fit the requirements of the sled which will sit inside it.
To Boldly Go Where None Have Gone Before
The Aquarius Project Team ventured out onto Lake Michigan into the crash site of our meteor for the very first time last week. There was no clear data on what the lake bed would be like in this region, no knowing how their equipment would operate below 150 ft, no knowledge their boat crew or scientists had to impart on underwater meteorite retrieval, because these teens were the first to attempt this endeavor. Our team leads, the Adler Planetarium's Far Horizons Summer Teen Interns, share their findings and reflect on the unprecedented mission.
by Carmen Jones, Araceli Magana, Jack Morgan, and Jarred Scales - Adler Planetarium's Far Horizons Teen Summer Interns
Overview of Tools Used
Araceli: Some of the tools we used were the Trident ROV, the magnetic meteorite sled, drop and GoPro cameras, and a video game controller for the Trident ROV. The controller connected to a phone which displayed what the camera of the ROV saw. The phone controller could drive the trident ROV down 64 meters into the lake. I used the game controller to control the Trident at first but I found it a little difficult. I instead used the phone controller alone to pilot it. The sled was put into the lake as well. We collected a lot from the lake bed although part of it was sand and mussels that we don’t quiet need. Bringing up the sled we got to see everything it had collected. We cleaned it off with a sprayer and put anything that was attached to the magnets in a bucket with lake water. We couldn’t identify exactly what we had found so that’s what we’re now looking forward to. Both of these devices (ROV and sled) have magnets; anything on the lake bed with a certain amount of iron, nickel or type of ferrous metal would be attracted to the magnet.
Working with Scientists
Carmen:Working with the scientists was really cool actually. I was a bit nervous because they are older and obviously a lot more experienced, but some actually came to me with questions like “do i hold the rov like this?" "How big will the meteorites be and what will they look like?” . At that moment I realized that it was true, nobody really knew what to expect, we were all out there depending on each other.
Jarred: I was surprised by how accessible the science has been to [us] the teens, and how there is no gap with the teens and scientists. The scientists are willing to work with the students and teach them all they have to teach. This is a popular misconception in the realm of science, that scientists are on their own pedestal, apart from everyone else. It’s reassuring to know that science is open to everyone, anyone can be where I am now which is something that is special. As someone who did not think I would ever be doing something like this in my life this is such a special experience because I’ve dreamt of doing this. Scientists are very willing to listen to questions and answer them to the best of their ability
My View of Science
Jarred: I think science is seen as something very hands-off, sitting behind a desk. As we have shown, there is also a field aspect to science. Exploring the unknown not only from a far but out exploring for ourselves is a big part of our project. Also all the different things that had to be accounted for and also the range of knowledge that can be applied to one specific topic. For example, how the knowledge of meteorites and marine biology have come together in the Aquarius project.
Carmen:In the process of scientific exploration what surprised me that it's not as much of an exact science that i thought all experiments were. You can take guesses about things, not everything is extremely serious. Scientific exploration is just what its called, a chance to explore what's unknown.
Jack:This expedition helped me learn that just because someone is a professional scientist and an expert in their field, they still might be in a situation where everything around them is completely new. On that boat, everything we did, everything we saw, it was all completely new, never done before by anyone else. It really opened my eyes that even as a high schooler, we still have the ability to make new discoveries, to do something completely new, and see something that no human being has ever seen before.
Carmen:I think what surprised me the most about this experience was realizing just how big the lake was and the fact that just months ago, if i was in the same spot i could have spotted these meteorites falling. It was really surreal to experience all of this at once.
Araceli:Throughout this experience I learned that you have to take risks and be ready for surprises. We actually didn’t know if we were going to find what we were looking for but we still went for it and put the effort in. We did collect some magnetic objects. from the bottom of the lake so that was one of the great outcomes of the journey.
Jarred:I learned that driving a boat (medium sized boat) is harder than it looks. I drove for about 10 min and for every small turn of the wheel that i made a large turn happened in reality. This was quite the experience because I have never driven a boat before and I was not prepared in any way.
Jack:Based on the tests we did with the sled earlier in the year, I had thought that the sled wouldn’t pick up much material, but out in the deep lake the sled worked much better than I had expected, collecting a large quantity of material from the bottom of the lake. Carmen: Everything worked well, I thought there would be a lot more complications. The improvised camera attached to starfall recorded a clear video, and starfall didn’t turn over or buck up like I thought it would. The jolly roger worked ‘swimmingly’ with Araceli piloting it, and the magnet arm that she designed picked up a few things from the bottom of the lake(just more rocks i believe). The boat had its own rov that worked. It was much bigger than our own and was able to get to the bottom of the lake all by itself and record video. Watching it on the tv’s as it went down was interesting, it looked similar to how our ROV went down. We got up many things that were magnetic so that worked like mud, rocks, rust, and hopefully meteorites. We got footage of the bottom of the lake and we got the praise of the boat captain!
Araceli: The ASTRA, ( Araceli’s Strong Trident Retrieval Arm) came into action. The ASTRA was screwed onto the Trident. The ASTRA on the trident ROV worked perfectly. It did not break apart, fall off or anything in particular. Although the Trident wasn't down at the lake for longer than 29 minutes, we got a good view of the lake bed. We were able to collect very little with the Trident, but we did get something.
Challenges and How to Overcome Them
Araceli: A challenge I experienced was when I was controlling the Trident ROV. The Trident seemed to move too quick with a slight movement I made in the controls which made it difficult to control and move around where I wanted it to. Something we can work on is changing what we used for buoyancy on the Trident ROV. The pvc floatation performed pretty well on the Trident when it was sent down to the lake because it kept it neutral and actually the pvc on the Trident seemed to protect the Trident when it would hit the surface.
Jack:The Sled had issues with lifting off of the lakebed at above half a knot, which caused problems as it turns out it’s quite difficult to keep the boat at that speed. I was thinking perhaps we could attach a piece to the front of the sled to make it keep it down. Sort of working like a front splitter on a performance car, it would be angled to force the water passing over it up, which would in turn force the sled down. For the next run there are several things we can improve. Firstly, we can improve the modifications we made to the Trident ROV as, apparently, buoyancy changes with depth. We can also make changes to our sled set-up to allow us to drag at a higher speed as half a knot is just painfully slow.
Jarred: Time management in everything that we did would allow us to make more of every minute and give us a better chance at finding space. Because of the lack of time we had less time for the sled to be in the water collecting In cleaning the sled for example, find a way to lessen the amount of time it takes to do that.
ASTRA is here!
By Araceli Magana - Far Horizons Teen Summer Intern
After such a long process and a lot of frustration we’ve now accomplished making our ASTRA (Araceli’s Strong Trident Retrieval Arm) It was a long process that went through many phases. After making a lot of changes to the Astra we finally got the design we wanted. We did a lot of measuring and had a couple issues debating some parts of the Astra being the correct size. We were finally sure about the measurements. It was very time consuming to make sure that the thickness of our object and sizes were proper for the Trident ROV. We decided to take the big step and print it.
3D Printer Troubles
The first couple times we tried to print it something went wrong. We had to stop the printer, go back to the work and try to see what went wrong. We had to do this a couple more times after which became frustrating. The printer seemed to act up as well. Finally, in the fourth round of the day the ASTRA seemed to be printing correctly since the start.
Wednesday morning we finally had the final product in our hands. We were very excited to see the final result. We tried the magnet on the Astra and boom it fit perfectly! Our next step will try our Astra in water and work with the buoyancy.
One Day Before the Tow
By Carmen Jones - Far Horizons Teen Summer Intern
It is a day before the boat trip and the workspace of the Aquarius Teens is havoc. Each group is doing final touches to their own section of the projects, and needless to say everyone is excited. Even a journalist from the Washington Post is here doing quick interviews to just see what all the fuss is about with these meteorites! Besides the buzz (and solder) in the air, everything is almost ready. No huge complications are in view, spirits are high, and one of these two ROVs are ready to launch!
How to Curate Soggy Space Rocks
*by Jarred Scales - Far Horizons Intern *
The meteorites that have been in Lake Michigan since February 2017 are becoming more of a reality for the Aquarius Project. The conversations that are happening are now are about how to conserve meteorites once they are found. Currently, the meteorites are sitting on the lake bed as surrounding water, minerals, and organisms seep inside. These factors could potentially be harmful to the meteorites in their future curation and alter their composition as well. As a result of the meteorites being in water they must be transported in a like environment.
The procedure for extraction after each time the sled is run along the bottom is to clean off all collected material, remove any obvious contaminants like mussels, weeds, or human-made metallic objects, and place the potential meteorites into a bucket topped off with lake water. In further efforts to purify the meteorites distilled water will be used. The distilled water, which lacks dissolved minerals and chlorine, will help clean the meteorites of anything soluble in water. Over time the ratio of lake water to distilled water will change in favor of distilled water. After this process, comes the process of drying the meteorites after they have been cleaned and conserved. If not dried properly and thoroughly, they could be physically damaged. The correct way to dry the meteorites would be with gaseous nitrogen. This is because the use of oxygen would result in oxidation. The meteorites have a percentage of metal that would react with oxygen resulting in rust, damaging the meteorites. The procedure in attempting to rid the meteorite of excess material would be with the use of gaseous nitrogen within an enclosed compartment. Specimens will be dried in nitrogen gas since nitrogen is relatively inert and displaces oxygen from the sample enclosure. The temperature also has an effect on the conservation of the meteorites. The average temperature in the Adler Collections Department is between 65-72 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity is between 42%-45%. These numbers are are in place so that the the items are not damaged by drastic changes in temperature or humidity.
These preparations are being made in sight of an expedition happening on July 24, 2018 in which the Adler and friends will take “Childish Submarino” and “Jolly Roger” to attempt to detect and collect the meteorites that have been on the lake bed. Collecting data will be a large component in the expedition. Recording everything is essential because it is better to throw out excess data rather than to be missing data in the end.
The Jolly Roger Sets Sail
Our Trident was pirated from pirates, so our team only thought a new look and a new name would be fitting for its maiden voyage. The "Jolly Roger" will dive for meteorites with "Childish Submarino" on July 24th!
Frustrations with a Powerful Magnet
By Araceli Magana - Far Horizons - Summer Teen Intern
I am a Summer Teen Intern at the Adler Planetarium working for Far Horizons on the Aquarius Project. I’ve had so many experiences in such a short amount of time. It’s been great, but there have been stressful struggles. I’ve experienced working with Tinkercad for the first time and one of my first tasks was to create a Tinkercad version of a real magnet (the one below).
The measurements were hard to deal with through the app. The product ended up being too small. I also tried to create a thread gauge on Tinker which was very confusing because of certain terms like: "segments", "rotations", "thread scale" and "tip segments." I decided to figure out what these terms meant and I got to understand the measurements better. The real idea on what all this is for is to figure out a way we can attach a magnet in front of the Trident OpenROV and make it visible through the camera. That way we would see everything the magnet would collect. We will soon send this Trident ROV with the magnet down to the bottom of Lake Michigan so we can gather the meteorites remaining.
I am now working with a new smaller magnet which means I had to say “bye” to the work I was doing with the bigger magnet I faced so many struggles with and say “hey” to new work with the smaller strong magnet. I’m building my magnet holder off the predesigned Trident GoPro stl.
The Return of Trident
NOAA swashbuckled* our robot from its captors who had recently captured it from Davy Jones' Locker! It arrived by post this morn! Our crew rejoices! Stay tuned to see if we can resurrect our marooned explorer's sea legs!
*Read swash bucked as "kindly negotiated its return"
Letter to the Pirate Editor
Aggravated by their Trident being held ransom by Lake Pirates, the crew of the Aquarius Project decided to voice their frustrations to the culprits themselves
By Jack Morgan - Far Horizons Summer Teen Intern
Now, as some of you may know, our ROV was recently “rescued” by a mysterious salvage crew, who then contacted the NOAA crew announcing the ROV’s recovery and demanding money for it’s return. I’ve been thinking about this incident, and I’ve realized something. Out of all of the shipwrecks in Lake Michigan, the salvagers happened to dive on this wreck promptly after our ROV was lost. On top of that, these divers saw the ROV, knew exactly what it was AND knew who to contact once they had brought it up to the surface. I’ve realized that this mysterious crew must have been following the Aquarius Project. It’s the only way they would know who the ROV belonged to and who they should contact. This does beg another question: What on Earth made them think they would get anything out of this ransom attempt? We’re a teen program at a non-profit organization. Who in their right mind sees this and thinks “Ooh, I bet they have lots of money I could extort out of them”? It’s just ridiculous.
And to this mysterious crew, I have one question: Why? I’m genuinely curious as to why you would do this. What motivated you to do this? You’re not going to get anything out of this, we won’t pay your ransom. So what do (or did) you think you’d get out of this? You obviously follow this blog if you knew where to look and who to call, so please leave a comment on this post because I want to know the answer.
Stories From the ‘Far Up-looking Place’
By Jack Morgan - Far Horizons High School Intern
As part of an exercise in simplifying the language used in communicating science concepts to the public, I used the “Up-Goer Five Text Editor” created by Theo Sanderson] inspired by XKCD. (the drawings on this post are from XKCD by Randall Munroe.) to simplify the language used in the “Expedition Background” post at the very bottom of this Aquarius Project blog. Here is what I came up with:
The "Big City Space Learning Far Up-Looking Place" has one big idea: bring real space learning down to the world and into the hands of students, people working for no pay (volunteers ;D) and the people. On the first day of the week, day six of the second month of the year, 2017, around 1:30 am CST, a bit of space came down to the ground and fell into the water in our own area! Excited by the hands-on learning this brings young people of the big city, and the chance to work with learning people across fields, the planning for this work began.
All parties working understand that this will be hard, the "small point thing in a lot of small bits of not tree stuff" (needle in a haystack lol) chance of this working, and it drives us all the more to make the young people of Far up-looking try to come up with new ways to find and return these rocks from space. The STEM knowing people that work and work for no pay in the Far up-looking making place offer our team of young people good knowing stuff with their ideas. Star knowing people from The big city space learning place, and founding people of Far up-looking, Mr. Hammergren and Dr. Shane Larson, fill our student's understanding of the space learning that brought this space rock to our own back door. Dr. Philipp R. Heck, space rock knowing person from The Field learning place, has given our team ideas of the possible make-up of these space rocks and ways to find them. Marc Fries, a learning person from NASA, and a person who works with Dr. Philipp R. Heck, using the rain searching pictures to find where the space rock used to be and has made a thing that shows where the space rocks that have fallen to the ground can be found, and how much will be there, which will be important in our search. We are also talking to the very important living thing learning person of the big city water learning place, Dr. Philip Willink, to understand the state of the big water thing. Dr. WIllink is interested in this work, not only for a chance to find bits of rock from space, but also to learn about the floor of the big water thing that has not been understood very well in the past.
In 2003, a space rock the like the one we are looking for landed near the big city, many of the larger bits were about as big as soft balls. Dr. Philipp R. Heck thinks, from the color of the big ball of fire that we are dealing with a space rock about as big and with the same make-up as the Park tree place space rock This warmer time of year we'll continue to talk to knowing people as we start our space rock search which should start in the warm time of the year. Everyone doing this has a lot to learn from each other as the job of under water space rock finding is not usually done. We look forward to sharing with the Open searching people, build Far up-looking learning place's first Open under water search thing (to look at the Far up-looking places of the deep!) and hello all interested people in the Great big water place who are able to join the search. We'll learn a lot from this work, and hope you will too.
As you can see, the products of that text editor are quite something.
LAKE PIRATES ATTACK
UPDATE! Our ROV was found and retrieved from the shipwreck of the Selah Chamberlain by a mysterious unknown crew! Great news! But WAIT! The unknown party wants $$$ for its return! As a teen education program of a non-profit institute they have unfortunately pillaged the wrong booty! Our poor little Trident has been captured by Lake Pirates! We'll keep you posted with updates, but at least our OpenROV is back on dry land!
A dramatic retelling of our first and final voyage with the Trident ROV
by Greta Olson - Junior at Jones College Prep - Spring Intern
On June 9th, the Aquarius Project Team rode up to Sheboygan, WI, where we had been invited to ride out on the NOAA research vessel, Storm. We had a full itinerary including testing a magnetometer, our temperature and RGB light sensors, and passing over the shipwreck of the Selah Chamberlain.
After a day of successful tests, we planned to finish off with our first deep water test run of our ROV, the Trident. For this test, we used a controller to make the ROV easier to navigate. After some initial difficulty setting up, we launched it into Lake Michigan to test maneuverability in deep water and to get footage of the shipwreck.
I was lucky enough to have the privilege of being the first pilot of the Trident for our test. Controller in hand, I watched as Jack (a teen participant on the Aquarius Project) threw the ROV into the lake. Tumbling through the air, it hit the water in a dizzying roll. At first, it was challenging to get my bearings, as, until the lake bottom becomes visible, there are no points of reference to indicate the movement of the ROV. As this was the first real test of the Trident and only my second time operating it, it took a minute or so to understand the information display. The current was gripping, and combined with the persistent pull of the boat, the ROV was incredibly difficult to maneuver, resisting all attempts to turn it and move up or down as it was dragged backwards.
Eventually, I was able to gain some control of the Trident and got it to turn around. Suddenly, the ghostly shadow of the wreck was visible. Everyone on the ship gasped with a mixture of shock and delight, the boat appearing from the green depths making some people, myself included, jump. I steered towards it, and was able to get close to some broken beams of the ship. Pillars of wood, coated in mussels loomed in front of the camera.
Sadly, our triumph was short-lived and the alien landscape turned treacherous. The current pushed the shipwreck out of view and only a spectral shadow could be seen through the green water. As I attempted to move the Trident around and steer it back, algae and mussels were kicked up into the camera, and the shadow continued to loom from a distance. After a brief moment, a horrific disbelief fell upon everyone on the boat: the ROV was stuck.
We tried everything: letting out more line, gunning the engine, pulling up the line, but nothing worked. A few times, the Trident lost its connection with the controls, and we could only wait and hope that it would be restored so we could try again. As the minutes ticked by though, our hope rapidly faded away. We began to suspect that the weight we had attached to the line must have gotten caught and wrapped the whole line around something. The R/V Storm was anchored to the wreck, the ROV line keeping us from going anywhere. Ultimately, the decision was made to cut the line. We had done everything we could, the fog was rolling in, and we had to go back to shore. One of the crew, NOAA archeologist John C. Bright, volunteered to do the mournful job of cutting the line. And, with a final snap, our ROV was left there, off the coast of Sheboygan.
With glum faces, we turned back towards land. Our day had been so successful up to that point, and it seemed a shame to end on such a bleak note. Even though we had resolved that we would never see the Trident again, the crew was able to give us some hope: in August, NOAA is sending a dive team to the site of the Selah Chamberlain. If the divers are able to retrieve our ROV on their dive mission, they will send it back to us. Until then, we can only wait and hope the Trident withstands its summer in the lake.
NPR FEATURES THE AQUARIUS PROJECT ON CHICAGO'S WBEZ
NOAA & ADLER TEENS MAKE AN EXCITING DISCOVERY
On June 9, teens from the Adler Planetarium were invited on board the NOAA's R/V Storm to conduct tests for their underwater meteorite hunt, "The Aquarius Project."
Can our teen made test meteorites based off of scientist's hypothesis on the type of meteorite (L-Chondrite with 5-10% iron) be detected from a towable magnetometer?
Adler Planetarium Teens got the clearance from NOAA to deploy our lab made meteorites into Lake Michigan in approximately 80 ft (100 ft shallower than our fall)of water to perform our test. The site was tagged by GPS and we passed over the area with the magnetometer nearly 20meters below the surface of the water.
WE HAVE A READING! (see photos below, right computer screen!) We were able to detect our simulated debris field even with its low iron percentage from our test meteorites (detailed report to come).
Although this may be a higher density of metal rich space debris than certain portions of our field, what once seemed improbable has proved to be possible. More updates from our trip with NOAA (good, bad, and ugly) from our intrepid Aquarius Project Teens soon!
"Childish Submarino's" Progress Report
by Karolina Guerrero - High School Senior - Nicholas Senn High School
The ROV (remotely operated vehicle) for our project, infamously called Childish Submarino, is something that we have been working on since early November. The company OpenROV has allowed us to build this ROV from scratch which is useful for adding additional components and sensors. The ROV has motors which will allow it to move horizontally, vertically and forward and backward. Features of the OpenROV include live HD video, high power LED’s for low-light dives, and lasers for detecting distance. Our team decided we needed more electronics for this ROV. For example, we figured a magnetometer would be handy in our hunt for meteorites. Data that we would also be retrieving would be temperature, and light.
Overall what we have accomplished is assembling all of the electronics, soldering, acrylic welding, waterproof heat shrinking and wiring the components together.
However, we still need to replace a circuit board that was provided in the OpenROV kit in order to distribute power to the entirety of the ROV. Currently we are unable to run power through the tether into the device! If/when we fix that issue, the ROV can powered via tether opposed to an ethernet cable. That would essentially allow us to test it in the water! For that reason, I am confident to say the ROV will be functional quite soon. See pictures of the build process below with fellow Aquarius Project participant Jack Morgan.
ABC Podcast Highlights The Aquarius Project
A meteor shoots across the sky. The fireball is seen for hundreds of miles across the Midwest. The fall even registers on the radar. Adler Planetarium's Teen Programs Manager Chris Bresky tells us why the exciting hunt for that meteorite treasure by some intrepid local students will be incredibly tedious, time consuming, and likely even anti-climactic!
The small, student-built sled designed to search the bottom of massive Lake Michigan for meteorite fragments. Meteorologist Larry Mowry continues his discussion with the Adler Planetarium's Teen Programs Manager Chris Bresky.
Adler Planetarium Teen "Jump Scared" by Science Exploration
When Aquarius Project teen Jack Morgan was testing the team's Open ROV Trident in Lake Michigan off the shores of Chicago's 12th Street Beach, he hadn't prepared himself for the surprise that awaited him. He didn't spy any rocks from space , but did get a close encounter of a different kind.
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
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