Learn about NASA's master glassblower Bob Harris. Also learn about the solar telescope at Kitt Peak and how it's used for researching solar activity.
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Learn About NASA's Master Glassblower Projects carried out in space rely on many craftsmen in multiple fields. One is Master Glassblower, Bob Harris. To him, glass is flexible and practical providing laboratory hardware for a variety of scientific experiments. Using a lathe, hydrogen burners and common tools for shaping, he skillfully works his magic. Harris has been building one of a kind component for spacecraft and laboratory experiments for most of his career. As a scientific glassblower, Bob has been asked to build just about everything from glass springs and laser tubes to the main vacuum chamber for an atomic clock. The art of scientific glassblowing is really how he learned from watching an expert of work and that’s the way it’s been for centuries. Unaffected by most chemicals, unable to withstand extreme temperatures, glass is perfect for chemistry hardware. For scientists, the skill and experience of on sight craftsman provides important design flexibility. Here, a piece of research apparatus begins to take shape. By forcing air into the closed vessel and heating only a tiny area, a blister is formed. Using a torch like a knife, Bob got a hole. Tubing is then inserted to form a joint. Once completed, the arm is heated and with the quick bend it’s finished. Collaboration between scientist and craftsmen often extends beyond the glassblowing to include the machine shop or optic section. This mirror, two years in the making by the optics lab is being checked for surface imperfection. Delicate glass sculptures have been created for exhibits as well as for national and international leaders to represent NASA’s space achievements Each of them carefully constructed using techniques perfected through years of scientific work. Serenely beautiful from 93 million miles away, the sun is actually a violently energetic system. So complex that scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space flights center are dedicating their career to study. Working at the Kitt Peak National Observatory outside Tucson, Arizona, they use of variety of telescopes in their research. This instrument on Kitt Peak keep is the largest solar telescope in the world. An 81 inch mirror on its roof tracks the suns daily passage sending a beam down a shaft extending 300 feet below ground. The results is a unique high resolution image of the sun about 2 ½ feet in diameter. The researchers hope to get at the courses of solar activity by determining what’s going on the sun’s interior. Their ultimate goal is to accurately predict the violent solar activity that is troublesome to us all on Earth. Most of the work he’s done in this 81 foot high solar vacuum telescope. Again, mirrors are used to reflect an image if the sun down into the instruments’ control room. Here, a daily map of magnetic phenomenon on the sun’s surface is produced. Nearly all forms of solar activity from sun spots to flares create magnetic fields. If this disturbances are strong enough, communications on earth can be disrupted. There may even be a relationship between solar activity and earthly temperatures. At NASA’s Martial Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama scientists study the sun with x-ray telescopes. This mirror was part of an instrument used on Skylab to produce solar images. Today, Hoover and scientists from Stanford University are working with a new generation of x-ray telescope and they are producing phenomenally high resolution images revealing solar turbulence as never seen before. Launched in 1980, the 5,500 pounds solar maximum spacecraft provided a great deal of information about the sun and since being repaired by NASA’s astronauts, its instruments still continue to run. When the shuttle lifted off in October 1990, it carried within its cargo bay another spacecraft design to take an even closer look at the sun. Developed by NASA and the European space agency, Ulysses flew over the solar poles regions of the sun which hole important clues about its nature. Ulysses long journey of exp