Week Three: Boston!

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Monday, June 27, 2016


Maria McQuillan

This week at NASA I was able to do some real science!  I began working with a computer program to analyze data of solar wind. In particular, we are looking for density structures in the wind that are periodic. In the images I was given to analyze it can be a bit difficult to tell what the densities look like. I did some simple processing to the images to allow the density structures to stand out.


The bright yellow patches in the stream are denser plasma flowing in the wind. This is the type of structure I am looking for. Once these structures are found in the images a computer program is run on the images to determine the periodicity of the structures (how far apart each dense structure is from the other). Once it is determined that these structures are periodic and not simply random, they are tracked back to the sun in attempt to locate their origins. If we can understand these structures, it may help NASA predict solar weather and save both space craft and astronauts from unnecessary radiation.

This week was also the week of a sounding rocket launch from Wallops in Virginia. A group of NASA interns and I had planned to camp out for the launch, however the launch was moved due to weather and I was unable to attend. Thankfully we were still able to spend some time in Annapolis and enjoy the beautiful harbor views. Hopefully I can make it to my first launch another time while I'm here!


This weekend a couple friends and I caught a bus up to Boston. We arrived at 6:30 am on Saturday and set out to explore the city. We began by walking the freedom trail. The freedom trail is a 2.5 mile walk through the city with many historical markers along the way. We saw the old state house, the new state house, where the Boston massacre took place and even where they planned the Boston tea party. It’s been a while since I really delved into history, but it was amazing to stand in the place where so much of our country’s history took place. After the freedom trail we watched a very funny street performer, ate lunch at the Quincy Market, and took a few naps in the Boston Gardens and the Bunker hills monument. Finally, we found a wonderful place to eat dinner in little Italy. I’m not sure I can say I’ve ever had better Italian food, the appetizer and the pizza were to die for. If you ever go to Boston, I recommend “Local”, it’s a fabulous neapolitan pizza place. It was a long day of walking and by the time we finished dinner we were all ready to hit the hay. 

While Saturday was fun filled and exhausting, Sunday was a bit more bitter sweet. The highlight of the day was definitely the New England Aquarium. We saw lots of little penguins, seals and cool octopi. The low of the day was definitely the ride home. There were some complications with our bus and missed our connecting bus. We ended up having to hitch a ride on a 3:25am train from New York to DC. It was a long day, but I’m happy we made it home safe, and still with some great memories.

Maria McQuillan