Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Monthly Weather Report for NearSys Station

Our winter weather has been a bit crazy, to say the least. So I've decided to start recording daily temperatures and precipitation. At the end of each month, I'll post the results.

Monitoring weather is an easy amateur science project and I encourage everyone to do so.

Precipitation for January 2017

Daily High and Low Temperature for January 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017

Cosmic Ray Flux with Coincidence Counter Facing North-South

Another 24 hours of collected data. This time the geiger counters were turned facing North and South.

The mean flux was 0.028 counts per ten seconds per square inch. That's a small decrease from the last two days (0.031 and 0.031). The standard deviation was 0.191 and that's also a bit smaller than yesterday (0.207).

There was a detection of 182 cosmic ray strikes at six standard deviations above the mean (compared to 151 the day before when the geiger counters faced east-west). There was only one strike detected with a count greater than 13 standard deviations above the mean (this compared favorably with a single strike at 12 standard deviations above the mean the day before).

The percentage of strikes was 2.1%, which is 0.4% less than the day before.

I have to conclude that the azimuth the geiger counters face is not significant. Detecting cosmic rays is best when the geiger counters are aligned vertically.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cosmic Ray Flux with a Coincidence Counter facing east-west

Just finished formatting the data from the latest cosmic ray monitoring session. On the 27th and 28th, the geiger counters were oriented east-west and the Coincidence Counter was connected to prevent the PICAXE-14 datalogger from counting radiation strikes unless both geiger counters detected it together.

There's virtually no difference between the cosmic ray flux between north-south and east-west. Today's mean flux was 0.033 counts per 10 seconds per square inch (compared to 0.031 the day before). The standard deviation was identical to yesterday's at 0.207 counts per 10 seconds per square inch.

There was a total of 151 detected strikes. This apears smaller than yesterday's, but it's in line with it since cosmic rays were monitored for six hours less.

The only significant difference is in the number of larger strikes detected. Only one large strike was detected this time compared to five the day before. I will need to get fresh batteries and test this again to see if it's a fluke. It would make sense seeing more cosmic rays from the North since that points to were Earth's magnetic field would try to direct cosmic rays to. But just because it makes sense doesn't mean that it's correct.

UAVSonde for NearSys Station, 28 January 2017

The NearSys UAV Sky Crane completed a new UAVSonde mission around 1:00 PM on the 28th. Below is the results from the mission.

Altitude 2326 feet
Air Temperature 26 *F
Relative Humidity (too cold)
Air Pressure 1016.4 mb

Altitude 2634 feet
Air Temperature 22*F
Relative Humidity (too cold)
Air Pressure 1016.1 mb

An inversion is building in the valley, but not showing evidence over NearSys Station at a change of altitude of 308 feet.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Cosmic Ray Flux with Coincidence Counter (oriented horizontally north)

During the last 24 hours, the geiger counters were turned to face North. Only radiation traveling horizontally from the North or south could trigger the coincidence counter. And boy what a difference that made.

Cosmic rays were only detected 2.35% of the time. The mean flux was only 0.031 counts per 10 seconds per square inch. The standard deviation was 0.207 counts per 10 seconds per square inch.

When oriented horizontally, there's only 10.3% the number of cosmic rays as there is in the vertical direction. The mean flux is only 8.9% and the standard deviation is 30.4%. I suspect the amount of standard deviation is an artifact of the very low cosmic ray flux from the horizontal direction.

Below is a table of the count and their standard deviations.

STD-DEV.      Counts
6.                     199
12.                   5

Second Data of Counting Cosmic Rays with a Coincidence Counter at NearSys Station

Coincidence  data has been compiled for a second day. This time, the mean count was 0.350 counts per 10 seconds per square inch and the standard deviation 0.682 counts per 10 seconds per square inch. That puts the mean count 5.6% lower and the standard deviation 3.0 % lower. The ratio between mean count and standard deviation was was 0.51 yesterday and 0.53 today. The percentage of cosmic ray detection was 23.1% last night (versus 24.2% the day before).

Below is the table of cosmic ray counts per standard deviation.

STD-DEV     Strikes Exceeding
3                    242
5                    18
7                    2

Other than more detections overall, detecting two strikes at 7 s.d. above the mean last night is more than detected the night before.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cosmic Ray Monitoring Station with Coincidence Counter at NearSys Station

The first day's data is in. The Coincidence Counter detects less background radiation and only detects radiation approaching the geiger counters from a vertical direction. As I understand it, this configuration is primarily detecting muons, a subatomic product of cosmic ray impacts with molecules in the atmosphere.

The number of strikes detected was 1,901 out of 7,842 chances (or 24.2% of the time). The average count was 0.371 counts per 10 seconds per square inch. The standard deviation was 0.703 counts per 10 seconds per square inch. Because of the low count and high standard deviation, the table of counts exceeding specific standard deviations is formatted a little differently than for the prior configuration of the Cosmic Ray Monitoring Station.

STDEV     Cosmic Ray Strikes Exceeding
2.               260
4.               21

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Cosmic Ray Monitoring at NearSys Station with Coincidence Counter, preliminary test

The first test of monitoring cosmic rays with a coincidence counter lasted 10 minutes. The test was short so the performance of the two geiger counters and coincidence counter could be tested and evaluated without waiting to see they failed after a 24 hour wait. The result of the 10 minute run is displayed below.

A coincidence counter only lets signals from two geiger counters be detected if the occur at the same time. Since the two counters are stacked one on top the other, only cosmic rays traveling straight down are detected. This nearly ensures that only cosmic rays are counted and not background radiation.

The mean count per 10 seconds was 0.229508 and the standard deviation was 0.461644. Without the coincidence counter, the standard deviation was only 2/3rds the mean count.

Below is a table of the number of detections per 10 seconds that exceeded the mean count by a number of standard deviations.

STDEV. #counts
1.            13
2.            1
3.            1
4.            0

The new cosmic ray monitoring configuration is making its first 24 hour run at this time.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The RockSat Mini v1.0 Model Rocket Flight Computer

The BalloonSat Mini flight computer has been redesigned for model rocket use. Called the RockSat Mini, it's a PICAXE-based programmable datalogger with a Sensor Port (for a two sensor array), a Commit Port, and Output Port (5 volts on, off, and pulse-width modulation). 

The flight computer measures 0.8 inches by 3.6 inches and weighs 18.93 grams (minus its 9V battery). It can collect sensor data 256 times per flight and perform operations based on time or sensor input. The RockSat Mini doesn't begin running a mission until after its Commit Pin is removed. That allows you to attach its battery way in advance of launch. It also prevents the flight computer from recording data prior to rocket launch. 

The RockSat Mini is programmed in BASIC (PICAXE BASIC). So Rocket Scientists can create flight programs to collect data or operate devices at any time or condition during the flight. And with four mounting holes, the RockSat Mini can be securely mounted to a pallet inside a rocket tube.     

Sunday, January 22, 2017

UAVSonde for NearSys Station, 22 January 2017

Here are the reported values for the UAVSonde flight at NearSys Station for 5:30 PM MST for 22 January 2017.

Altitude: 2266 feet ASL
Temperature: 43 *F
Relative Humidity: 91%
Pressure: 1005.8 mb

Altitude: 2654 feet ASL
Temperature: 40 *F
Relative Humidity: 78%
Pressure: 985 mb (sensor bottomed out)

As always, these values may change as the sensors become better calibrated.

Cosmic Ray Monitoring Station (day 3)

Another day of collecting geiger counter data at NearSys Station. The average counts per 10 seconds per square inch was 3.76, so an insignificant change from the last two days. The standard deviation was 2.27, so an insignificant increase from the previous day. The maximum count was 16.00, or a value between the last two days.

The incidents exceeding each standard deviation is listed below.

S.D.  # Incidents Exceeding
2.       220
3.       85
4.       9
5.       1
6.       0
7.       0

Something to make clear is that the Cosmic Ray Monitoring Station is counting the number of particles passing through the tube per 10 seconds. So a high count indicates a shower of particles from a cosmic ray.

Next experiment is to add a coincident counter between two RM-60 geiger counters and then only count the times both counters detect a cosmic ray. That gives the Cosmic Ray Monitoring Station the ability to detect the direction of flight of the cosmic ray. When complete, there will be less background noise. Then counting incidents for two or more geiger counters. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Cosmic Ray Monitoring Station (day 2)

The Cosmic Ray Monitoring Station recorded data for another day. Again, data was collected for 10 seconds every 10 seconds for 24 hours. As the chart below shows, the average background count and standard deviation remained the same as yesterday (at 3.77 counts per 10 seconds per square inch for the mean and 2.23 for the standard deviation). Also like yesterday, there were five strikes generating counts in excess of five standard deviations above the mean background level. However, the single largest strike only generated 14.67 counts per 10 seconds per square inch as opposed to 18.67 counts per 10 seconds per square inch for yesterday's data.

The Cosmic Ray Monitoring Station is collecting for tomorrow's analysis.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thermal Image of a Cumulus and Cirrus Cloud

Culumus clouds are the big fluffy clouds that people imagine seeing shapes in. Cirrus clouds on the other hand are higher altitude wispy clouds that can remind people of mares' tails.

Culumus clouds consist of water droplets suspended by rising air. They're dynamic structures in that water is vaporizing and condensing continuously.

Because culumus clouds are lower altitude and water droplets, they should be warmer than higher altitude icy cirrus clouds. To verify this, I took an image of a cumulus and neighboring cirrus cloud with my thermal imager. Below are the images for you to evaluate for yourself.

The cirrus cloud is the crown on the cumulus cloud occupying most of this image.

Notice the cirrus cloud appears blue and red, rather than yellow and white.

Cosmic Ray Monitoring Station

My new PICAXE-14 Datalogger has lots of uses including monitoring cosmic ray strikes. I connected an Aware Electronics RM-60 PRO geiger counter to datalogger and then programmed the PICAXE-14 to record the number of clicks for 10 seconds each 10 seconds. After 24 hours, the Cosmic Ray Monitoring Station recorded over 8,400 records.

The RM-60 has a GM Tube measuring 1.5 inches long and 0.5 inches in diameter. Therefore, data from the Cosmic Ray Monitoring Station has units of counts per 10 s per 1.5 square inches.

The results were graphed using Excel to produce the chart below.

The average flux for this 24 hour session was 3.77 counts/10 s/1.5 square inches. The standard deviation was 2.33 counts/10 s/1.5 square inches. Here's a table of counts exceeding 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 standard deviations.

STDDEV Number of Cosmic Rays Exceeding
2.             199
3.             63
4.             5
5.             1
6.             1
7.             0

Monday, January 16, 2017

UAVsonde for NearSys Station, 16 January 2017

An ability designed into the BalloonSat Weather Station let's it become a UAVsonde or Aerosonde. I plan to fly it weekly and record weather conditions above my house.

At 2,280 feet
  Air Temperature: 15 *F
  Relative Humidity: too cold to measure
  Air Pressure: 1016.3 mb

At 2,608 feet
  Air Temperature: 12 *F
  Relative Humidity: to cold to measure
  Air Pressure: 1015.2 mb

These values may change as I improve the calibration of the sensors.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Sundogs and More

While driving home, I had the opportunity to see sun dogs guarding the sun. You may need to click on the images to see them in full.

Sun dogs are called Parhelia, which means, "beside the sun". Parhelia are the bright spots 22 degrees on either side of the sun. They are formed when sunlight  retracts through ice crystals suspended in the air.

Parhelia on the left and right sides of the sun.
Notice that the sun dogs are bright spots within the 22 degree halo centered on the sun. In addition, there appears to a faint Sun Pillar rising above the sun and a horizontal arc running between both sun dogs and the sun. The horizontal arc is called the Circumhorizontal Arc.

Above the sun was the Circumzenithal Arc shown below.

The Circumzenithal Arc visible above the sun.

The Circumzenithal Arc is tangent to a 46 degree radius arc centered on the sun. Below is a close-up of the Circumzenithal Arc.

The Circumzenithal Arc just touches and is tangent to the 46 degree halo surrounding the sun.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Quadcopter Flight Over the Snowy Yard

A sunny day with zero wind is a good time to fly the Quadcopter. It got this picture from an altitude between 300 and 400 feet. Yesterday our snow began to melt and you can see how it's making the snow hummocky.

Full Moon, January 11, 2017

The full moon had just risen as I went for an evening walk last night. Although it was just above freezing, the wind was non-existent and the humidity a little high. That made for a very comfortable walk under evening moonlight.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

More Testing with the New BalloonSat Weather Station

Testing is complete; the BalloonSat Weather Station can record temperature, pressure, relative humidity, speed, direction, altitude, and time. This lets the BalloonSat Weather Station record environmental data on the ground and in flight. Here are some more examples of the data it can collect.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Happy 75th Birthday Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking celebrates his birthday on January 9th. In celebration, we launched a near space in far away Idaho (far away from England, that is).

Stephen Hawking's Birthday Celebration in Near Space

At the altitude our balloon bursts, the air pressure is 98% vacuum. Also, the distance to the horizon is 372 miles. The launch took place on the border of Idaho and Oregon, so the video is showing parts of Nevada, California, Washington, and Utah along with most of Idaho and Oregon.

During the video, you'll see that the party balloons expand because of the reduced air pressure at altitude. As chemistry and physics students will recall, this is a result of Boyle's Law (1660).

Robert Boyle's work influenced Isaac Newton and it turns out, Stephen Hawking and Isaac Newton held the same chair at Trinity College (the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics).

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Imaging BalloonSat

I just recreated my Imaging BalloonSat. Now it has two Mobius ActionCams (one modified for near infrared and the other one left unmodified for visible light) and one Seek Reveal thermal imager.

The Mobius ActionCams are modified so transistor switches can operate their shutters. The Seek Reveal is operated with a servo pushing on it's shutter button.

Right now the imagers are mounted inside a Coroplast frame. Next I'll build the Styrofoam airframe. The Coroplast frame bolts inside the Styrofoam airframe.

Here is a set of sample images.

Long-wave Infrared

Near Infrared

Visible Light

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Recording Conditions over a 24-hour Period with a New Weather Station

I've been experimenting again with my new weather station.

This time I wanted to see what kind of data it would collect if it was left outside for 24 hours and asked to record the air temperature, air pressure, and relative humidity every 1 minute. Below are the charts I created of the data that was collected.

After collecting data for one more day, I will have the weather station record the wind speed and wind direction as if it was being carried by a weather balloon.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Snowy Quadcopter Flights and Data

During Winter Break, I've been flying my quadcopter to collect new images and new data.

The images posted below compare near infrared and visible imagery. On the first two pairs of camera images, I used 2 different types of cameras. On the later images, I used the same camera for both images, but one camera is converted to infrared.

In the weather data, I am testing my new BalloonSat Weather Station on a flight to 400 feet to collect temperature and pressure data.

A near infrared view to the west showing a bare farm field near the house.

The same field, but now in visible light.

A view to the west showing the same bridge to Homedale. The old color camera doesn't have the same wide field of view as the infrared camera.

Now the same view with a wide field of view near infrared camera.

A ground test with two of the same camera. This picture of a willow tree was taken in an unmodified Mobius Action Cam.

 The same willow tree in near infrared and with the same Mobius Action Cam.

Now looking down at the house from 400 feet. It looks so dreary when it's this snowy.

Now in near infrared. It's not much better, is it?

After taking pictures, the Quadcopter carried a weather station I am designing and collected air pressure data. The weather station can select between measuring changes in air pressures on the ground or changes while traveling to near space.

The weather station also recorded the air temperature. There's a lag between how fast the sensor can measure temperature changes and how fast the Quadcopter can climb.