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Cosmic Diary

Looking at the Inside of Our Eyelids

24 Dec 2009, 23:47 UTC
Looking at the Inside of Our Eyelids
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Ah, the traditions of the holidays: wrapping presents, baking cookies and downloading data from your space telescope!
Right now I’m sitting at Caltech downloading a fresh load of images from WISE. This weekend, we switched on the WISE camera for the first time, and we are now cranking through many, many gigabytes of data!
The sequence began at 2:15pm on Saturday. The entire ops team gathered in front of the monitors in the control room as the Ace (that’s what we call the mission controller) called out the commands over the voicenet to activate the payload for the first time on orbit. We watched the telemetry screens anxiously for confirmation that the four detectors had powered on correctly, and that their temperatures would stabilize as we expected. Scripting commands scrolled up the Ace’s screens. Talking to a spacecraft is a little like talking to your imaginary friend, or a ghost - you send a message into the ether, wait for a while (feeling a little like you’ve been talking to yourself), and suddenly a flood of replies come back seemingly out of nowhere. It’s an improbable-seeming chain of events that has to take place to make this happen: At a ...

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