Week 5: "Progress"

Share This:

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Nick Durofchalk

I would say the week was like any other week, but that certainly wasn't the case. Ted Gull came back to the office on Monday morning, so with his guidance and support, I accomplished a lot during the five days that were to follow. On Monday, Ted, Caleb and I all discussed what Caleb and I had been doing for the past week and a half that Ted was away, and what problems we encountered. On Tuesday, I met for lunch with an animator named Brian Monroe from the Conceptual Image Lab. He was extremely friendly and we had a great conversation about the kind of work he does for the CIL and for NASA, how he ended up working for the CIL, and what he did prior to coming to Goddard. He was as interested in my background as I was in his, so I also got to share the story of how I ended up with my summer position. On Wednesday, Ted had Caleb and I met with a woman named Gladys Kober. She introduced us to a set of IDL programming tools that would allow us to analyze the data from the IUE satellite with much more precision and power. The only catch was we had to read each individual IUE spectra file and export the wavelength, flux, and other data to an IDL variable save. This wouldn't be too much of a hassle if there wasn't more than 250 files to sort through! On Thursday, an idea came into my head about how to make the IDL variable saving process a lot easier: create an IDL procedure that would do it for us and save all the IUE spectra data to one large IDL variable save file. Each individual variable would be named according to the file it originated from and through the simple process of importing this large IDL variable save, we would have access to the entirety of the IUE spectra data on Eta Carinae collected over the past thirty years! This task proved much harder than I anticipated, and by Thursday afternoon I had almost given up. But I didn't give up, and instead I had a major breakthrough and was able to complete the procedure by 4:55. I barely caught my bus back home that day! On Friday, Caleb and I divided the data we were to analyze: I'd look at the three important emission lines between the wavelength range of 1850 to 1950 Angstroms, and he would would look at the other three emission lines of note.

Kelby, myself, my Dad, and my Mom (from left to right) at the Birchmere, following the Seldom Scene Concert.Also on Friday, my parents came down to visit! For my Birthday in May, my parents got me four tickets to see my favorite Bluegrass band, The Seldom Scene, at the Birchmere in Washington DC. One ticket for me, one for a guest of mine, and two for them. So on Friday, we went out to dinner at a local Chinese restaurant, and rented 3 bikes from the Bikeshare in the city. We spent Friday night biking down to the Lincoln Memorial and wandering throughout some of the other Monuments. On Saturday morning, My parents met me, Ashley, Ben Perez, and Kelby for breakfast at Dunkin' Donuts. Afterwards, my parents and I biked to the Washington Monument and toured the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. We went out for lunch at a Mediterranean restaurant and decided to meet back up at 4:00 in preparation for the Seldom Scene concert at the Birchmere later that night.

Not too many people in the world like Bluegrass music, but my family does. I offered to bring any of the SPS interns who would want to come, and as it turns out, Kelby also likes Bluegrass. So the four of us took an Uber (its similar to a taxi for those who don't know) to the Birchmere and by 6:00 we had our seats. The Birchmere has a really interesting setup for concerts. You enter into the doors in the order you check in at the Box Office, and when you enter, you sit down at long dining room like tables. You order dinner from their menu, and its timed so by the time you finish your dinner, the Band is about ready to play. You watch the music from your table and can continue to order drinks and food as seems fit. Anyway, the concert was outstanding and we all had a great time. We came back home around 11:30 and I went to bed soon after.

On Sunday, I met my parents for brunch one last time. I invited the other SPS interns to join us, but Caleb Heath (not the Caleb I work with at Goddard) was the only one who ended up coming. When we finished our brunch, my parents took me to their car and drove me back to JBKO (the building where I'm staying this summer). Then they showered with me bottled water, iced tea, a toaster, poptarts, paper towels, and a bunch of other things they thought I might need for the rest of the summer. I love my parents. They left shortly after, and I spent the remainder of the day unpacking and organizing the myriad of things they had given me.

Nick Durofchalk