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2002 SPS National Interns
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Kathyrn Peek Kathyrn Peek
Mount Holyoke College, MA

Internship: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Online Journal
Week of August 2, 2006 Week of July 5 & 12, 2006
Week of July 26, 2006 Week of June 28, 2006
Week of July 19, 2006
August 2 , 2002

The internship is coming to a close. One week remaining, much work to be done. I think all the interns are feeling the push to the end now. I realized with some pleasure that I reached, this week, the threshold of an actual working knowledge of my project. I have read enough papers on dust in the solar corona to be able to pick one up and understand its contribution to the debate without having to look up every third term. It's a fun place to be with a topic. And it's good to know that the fifteen-minute presentation I'll be giving in a week and a half will be my chance to share what I've learned with my fellow interns.

I've also enjoyed being at NASA this summer, I must say. I've decided that I enjoy spending my summers at places where all people do is research. It's such a different atmosphere than school, being somewhere that only has students around for two months of the year instead of nine. Walking past offices and overhearing conversations on all aspects of earth and space science always warms the heart. I love teaching too much to work at a research institution for forever, but they do make wonderful internship experiences.

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July 26, 2002
The highlight of this week was a trip to Capitol Hill. I must admit, it was the Washington, DC aspect of this program that drew me to it, and less so the NASA internship. (Don't tell NASA I said that.) And Thursday was the epitome of DC-ness, attending a House Science Committee hearing on the research budget of the Department of Energy. Did you know that the DOE provides 40% of the research support in the physical sciences? This astounded me. They fund things in cosmology, graduate student research, and other useful things. (Useful to my career, that is.) And their funding has remained flat (at or below the rate of inflation) since the fall of the USSR. At the hearing, the director of the DOE Office of Science spoke about their funding needs, and two Nobel laureates (1996 in Chemistry and 1990 in Physics) spoke about the role of the DOE in physical science research. Most of the conversation centered on getting the younger generations inter-
ested in science. They discussed society's perception of scientists, and how it affects youth as they choose their careers. They also debated such topics as the need for alternative energies, and why it is socially acceptable to be scientifically ignorant. It was a fascinating hearing, and it reminded me how easy it is to disappear into the ivory tower of science, but how important it is to remain politically active throughout a scientific career.

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July 19, 2002

Well, suddenly we're down to three weeks left here in DC. And I have so much writing to do! My paper currently consists of a two-page bibliography and three paragraphs of text. Not that I'm panicking. Really. Non-panic, that's my middle name.

My project is turning out to be really interesting. The solar corona is amazing! For instance, did you know that (in white light) it is one hundred times brighter at the solar limb than just one solar radius out? And its radiation is layered with four different coronae. The K-corona (K for something German that looks like "continuous") is the light scattered off electrons, while the F-corona (F for our buddy Fraunhofer) is the light scattered off dust particles. While the K-corona dominates near the sun, beyond two solar radii they are equally matched in brightness. The other, less powerful contributions are the E-corona (E for emission) and T-corona (T for thermal). Texts on the solar corona try and get rid of the F to study the K, but it's the F-corona that I'm interested in! So I've been reading lots of papers on interplanetary dust instead. My goal is to have a paper summarizing what is known about the population of dust grains at about three solar radii. And the project is allowing me to learn both about the sun and about dust, two topics I had never studied in much detail before. So things are going well, assuming I can stop panicking about how much I have left to do! (Oh, that's right, I'm NOT panicking. I forgot.)

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July 5 & 12, 2002

Welcome to the halfway point of the internship! As of Friday, we have completed 4 of our 8 weeks here in DC. Do I feel halfway done with my work? Um, no. But that's probably because my project requires so much background reading. Once I get down to writing my paper, I'm sure that I'll have a much greater sense of accomplishment. At any rate, this week I discovered that Ulysses carried on it a dust detector! AND they published the raw data for anyone to use. I was so thrilled! And then I realized that Ulysses only came as close as 1.3 AU, while I'm only really interested in the area within three solar radii of the Sun's surface. That's a factor of 70 too far away. But the data may prove to be a useful check against published dust distribution models.

So, I continue to visit the library on a daily basis, a never-ending quest for pertinent papers. In other news, this weekend we went to the Air and Space Museum--my favorite thing was the Spirit of St. Louis (to think that's the actual tiny, rickety plane that made it across the Atlantic)--and to the National Gallery of Art, where my favorite thing was a Stieglitz exhibit. It's great to spend a summer, as a student, in a city where so many things are free.

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June 28, 2002

Well, this week was largely uneventful. Mostly because my adviser is on vacation. He gave me a good start last week, and came in on Monday just to check in, but it was a week of being self-directed. That, and my little sister had her high school graduation, so I was at home for a fraction of the time. At any rate, most of my work right now consists of doing some background reading, getting up to speed on the literature about dust within 1 AU of the sun. (An AU, in case you don't know, is an "astronomical unit," the distance between the Sun and Earth, or 93 million miles.) I spent most of my time, actually, understanding Poynting-Robertson drag. I understood it on the cursory, hand-waving level, but the mechanics of a dust grain's orbital decay was not straigtforward to me. I tried to understand it by going back to Poynting's and Robertson's original papers, but in the end, found the more recent explanations more helpful. I would still like !
to understand it better, but at least now I don't feel like it's keeping me from moving on to other topics. Which is my task for next week: to get into the literature full force.

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