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Displaying items by tag: teachers
GALWAY – Two local teachers got the opportunity of a lifetime this past weekend when they took to the sky and gazed at the stars on NASA’s airborne observatory, SOFIA.
Galway Central School District first grade teacher Edie Frisbie and Earth science teacher Paul Levin flew with NASA research scientists onboard the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), the world’s only flying observatory, on March 4. They made two trips on SOFIA, taking of from one the craft’s two home bases in Palmdale, CA.
For Frisbie and Levin, it was an occasion long in the making. The two educators were given the opportunity though the Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors Program, a program put together by the SETI Institute, a non-profit organization committed to public outreach and scientific education, in conjunction with NASA. Frisbie and Levin first submitted their proposal for why they should to fly on SOFIA all the way back in December 2014, and were finally chosen to fly a year ago in March 2016.
“It was one of the best trips I have ever taken,” Levin said. “There were so many different things we saw and experience. We got to meet the scientist who discovered the black hole, sat through NASA preflight briefings… Everyone on the plane had a great backstory and they were all willing to share with us.”
“It was the single most amazing experience of my entire life,” Frisbie said.
Part the educators’ involvement with the program was focused was performing community outreach to share information about astronomy and SOFIA, both with their students and with the public. Before their flights this weekend, Frisbie and Levin gave presentation to both of their classes, as well as at an event for the Capital Region Master Teaching Program. They are currently planning to give further presentations about infrared astronomy and other topics to the Eastern Section of the Science Teacher Association of New York State, at the Museum of Science and Innovation in Schenectady, and in their classrooms.
During Frisbie and Levin’s flights, the researchers onboard were using SOFIA’s telescope to investigate a number of things. Chiefly, mission of each flight was to observe star formations, in hopes of discovering why some galaxies are capable of creating naround 200 new stars in a year, while other galaxies like the Milky Way only produce about 10. Beyond that, they also observed supermassive black holes, one of Jupiter’s moons, Callisto, and M51, also known as the Whirlpool Galaxy.
Almost as striking as the images they were seeing to Frisbie and Levin was the passion of all the scientists involved. According to the two educators, all onboard had PhD’s, and were experts in the very specific things they were there to do, and their passion for what they were doing was clear.
“Without one of them,” Frisbie said. “The flight wouldn’t be possible.”
“From the pilot, to the safety engineers to the scientist,” Levin said. “Everyone was excited to be there and you could tell that they were having fun with what they were doing.”
SOFIA itself is a modified 747 aircraft, with the rear door cut out and replaced with an infrared telescope. Inside the craft, images viewed by the telescope are transmitted to a screen for the researchers onboard to observe. While Frisbie and Levin’s flights maxed out at 43,000 feet up, SOFIA is capable of going as high 45,000, the standard maximum height for a 747. The telescope that SOFIA is equipped with is appropriately state-of-the-art, as it is equipped the Far Infrared Field-Imaging Line Spectrometer, or FIFI-LS. Frisbie said that SOFIA’s is currently the only operational FIFI-LS in the entire world.
According to Frisbie, SOFIA, as a flying observatory, has many advantages over traditional sorts of observatories. Unlike ground-based locations, its view is not blocked by clouds or weather since it flies so high in the air. Additionally, unlike satellite-based observatories, which require costly and time-consuming space flights to update with new technology, SOFIA can be updated quickly and efficiently while on the ground.
Frisbie’s hope for their involvement with this program going forward is that it makes learning about space more concrete for their students, and inspires them to follow their dreams, whatever they may be.
“If someone from around here can do that,” Frisbie said. “You can do anything.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Film Forum has made the announcement this week that the non-profit will be taking a hiatus for a few months from its usual program and schedule.
Several factors were involved in making the decision to take the break. Attendance to the films was down significantly this fall, and has been steadily declining since the opening of Bow Tie Cinemas. The primary expenses, such as theater rental, movie rental and projection, are such that the Film Forum doesn’t break even unless about 135 people attend a film each weekend, which was nowhere near the attendance seen over the last two seasons.
“Our attendance was more than not good, it became really low. Unnaturally low. We’re trying to dig into that in addition to other factors in the film industry,” said Carol Maxwell, President of the Board at Saratoga Film Forum. “New films are going straight to Netflix and to other venues. It has a lot to do with the economics of the film distribution business.”
Another aspect is that the Film Forum is having trouble booking films because film distributors want them to be “open-ended engagements,” meaning the show must be on-going and able to run indefinitely.
“We’ve been taking a look at different formats, and we would have done it smoother and in a more gradual way, but we’ve been forced to address it front and center. Our goal is finding a niche that will be the most beneficial for the Film Forum and our audiences,” said Maxwell. “We know deep down there is a lot of interest in quality films that you just don’t get to see at the multiplexes.”
In order to better understand what the community wants, Maxwell is going to talk to many different people to get their take on the Film Forum and its future. She hopes to talk to loyal patrons of the Film Forum, as well as people who have never been there or used to go but then stopped going.
“This is a big town and a growing town so this is a great time to find out more about the community’s media habits and the emotions surrounding those habits. We’re trying to find out where we could connect with them,” Maxwell said.
The Film Forum may be taking a hiatus from business-as-usual but they will still be holding special events at least monthly. The goal is to make the events more enhanced through speakers and other activities. Recently, the Film Forum has initiated “meet the filmmaker” nights, which gives audiences the chance to ask questions and talk to the directors and producers directly.
In terms of the future, Maxwell is planning on more cross-collaborations with other organizations. For the release of Harper Lee’s latest book, “Go Set a Watchman,” the sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the Film Forum collaborated with Northshire Bookstore for a popular event that brought the two organizations together.
After she has a thorough, open dialogue with community members, Maxwell hopes that the Film Forum will be back to its usual programming by late spring.
Maxwell concluded positively: “Tell readers I said ‘We’ll see you soon.’”