Guardians of the sky

first_imgIt was 16 degrees on a January night, the cold made worse by the fatigue of working so many hours. Box after box, heavy with glass, had to pass through the basement window, into the snow-covered parking lot.But if the cold made for deep discomfort — and chattering teeth — it also proved a disaster-recovery ally after a water-main break flooded the Harvard College Observatory’s Plate Stacks, a unique historical treasure holding hundreds of thousands of glass plate negatives that serve as a record of skies around the world across more than a century.By the time the flooding was discovered, early on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the lowest level of the three-story stacks had been flooded to three feet, immersing 61,000 of the negatives and derailing the Digital Access to a Sky Century at Harvard (DASCH) project, a decade-long scanning effort aimed at making the plates more accessible for study.The flood also soaked the custom-built digital scanner at the heart of the project. But the plates themselves were the main concern. With those in good repair, everything else would be OK.“This collection is unparalleled, in my opinion,” said Brenda Bernier, who is the James Needham Chief Conservator and head of Harvard Library’s Weissman Preservation Center and Collections Care. “It’s the depth and breadth of the data, it’s extraordinary. The scale — hundreds of thousands of one of the most vulnerable formats.”Prof. Josh Grindlay at the Center for Astrophysics with Lindsay Smith, assistant curator of the Harvard Astronomical Plate Collection and head of the DASCH project scanning staff. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff PhotographerBernier credited the Harvard Library Collections Emergency Team and photograph conservators Erin Murphy and Elena Bulat with understanding that the chill could aid the rescue effort. With the plates stored in soaked paper sleeves, the biggest danger to the photographic emulsion was mold. Mold spots would mar a record that consists of thousands or even many tens of thousands of pinpoints of light. The best course, the team decided, was to get the plates into the sub-freezing air as quickly as possible.Since that night, the plates have been kept safely frozen and the mold at bay. They were transferred into refrigerated trailers, which are now stored with a North Andover company that specializes in document recovery. Early tests have suggested the photographic emulsion that coats one side of each plate will survive unaltered.Conservators are working with Jonathan Grindlay, the Robert Treat Paine Professor of Practical Astronomy, and others at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) to devise a process for restoring the plates. These will include extracting them from the paper sleeves, which have to be photographed because they include data critical to interpreting the images, and then cleaning them of silt and grime. The methods devised at the Weissman Preservation Center, Bernier said, will be taught to technicians at Polygon in North Andover, who will carry out the restoration work, which is expected to take a year and a half.Grindlay, who heads the DASCH project, and CfA director Charles Alcock expressed deep appreciation for both the tireless efforts of staff members and the expertise of the Harvard Library team.“People were cold and tired, but not one was dropped,” Alcock said. “I’m very encouraged so far — it’s not a good thing to go through, but the response has gotten us to a good place with respect to the flood.”Grindlay first imagined the scanning project in the 1980s, realizing that it would have to wait until computers were sophisticated enough to handle the enormous amount of data the plates contained, more than a petabyte.DASCH launched in 2004, with the first scans made in 2006. The project has covered about a third of the 525,000 plates, the first of which was shot in 1885 and the last in 1992. The data hold value for astronomers who are interested in changes in particular stellar objects, each of which was photographed between 500 and 3,000 times over the years. Findings have so far appeared in about 100 papers, Grindlay said.“There’s a tidal wave waiting to happen. There’s an enormous amount of data waiting for analysis.”Grindlay was at the CfA the night of the flood, having secured remote observation time on the Multiple Mirror Telescope on Mount Hopkins in Arizona. He and two grad students were collecting data about extreme variable stars they had identified through DASCH.Stacks of glass negatives of the sky taken around the world over a century, at the Center for Astrophysics. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff PhotographerAt around 7 in the morning, Lindsay Smith, a senior curatorial technician, arrived at the plate stacks to calibrate the scanner for the day’s work. The building felt cold. When she descended the spiral staircase to the basement, she saw a couple of feet of water. Building manager Charles Hickey, who played a key role in the recovery effort, called the city of Cambridge to close the pipe. Workers later found that an eight-inch water main in the courtyard outside had ruptured 16 feet underground, sending muddy water though the soil and along the building’s foundation until it found a way in.Emails were sent out asking for help. Grad student Jane Huang was among the 17 responders who worked through the first night of the recovery and the 50 who worked in shifts over three days.“I knew my school needed help so I thought it would be good to pitch in,” Huang said.Edward Pickering, the Harvard College Observatory director who got the sky photography project going in the 1800s, was a bit paranoid that something would happen to the plates, Grindlay pointed out. He had the building specially made to hold up their weight — 170 tons — and oversaw the installation of sliding steel doors that could close rapidly in case of a fire.A new, faster scanner will arrive in May. It’s conceivable, Grindlay said, that the project could still end on time in 2018.“I hope we’ll be able to catch up.”last_img read more

Military denies claims Army hospital denied care, caused death of unborn baby

first_imgThe military command in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, assured that Wira Bhakti Army Hospital staffers are following proper procedures in treating patients amid reports that COVID-19 rapid test requirements had delayed treatment for a woman in labor. The unborn baby of resident Gusti Ayu Arianti reportedly died in the womb on Tuesday after the hospital allegedly turned her away and told her to go to a community health center (Puskesmas) first to take a COVID-19 rapid test, even though her water had broken and she had lost a lot of blood.Maj. Dahlan, the spokesperson of the 162 Military Region Command Wirabhakti Mataram, said the medical staff in the army hospital had handled the patient according to standard procedure. “Upon arriving at the hospital, staggers questioned the patient, who said [she wasn’t] experience any pain, thus giving the impression that she was in good condition. She could also communicate well,” Dahlan wrote in a statement obtained by The Jakarta Post on Saturday.Read also: Doubts loom over widespread use of rapid tests in virus-stricken IndonesiaHe added that Gusti had been told to go to Mataram General Hospital, where here obstetrician was practicing. Wira Bhakti Army Hospital also recommended that she take a COVID-19 rapid test at a nearby Puskesmas, as the test was free of charge there and would ease the referral process.“Upon leaving the army hospital, the patient asked whether it was better for her to go to the obstetrician or take the rapid test first. The staffer answered that she should go to the obstetrician first,” Dahlan went on to say.It was previously reported that Gusti had gone to the Puskesmas to take a rapid test first. She later had a C-section at Permata Hati Hospital, where the doctor claimed the baby had died in the womb a few days earlier, which the family denied.Topics :last_img read more

Body found in lake where “Glee” star disappeared

first_imgThe Ventura County Sheriff’s Office is reporting that investigators have located a body in the lake where “Glee” star Naya Rivera went missing.The actress disappeared on Wednesday after renting a boat to go on an excursion with her 4-year-old son.Video of the day showed Rivera and her 4-year-old son getting onto a boat and then going out onto the lake.Her 4-year-old was later found alone on the boat, while Rivera was no where to be found.After several days of searching the area authorities changed their rescue mission to a recovery mission presuming Rivera may have drowned in the lake.While authorities have not determined whether the body found on Monday is Rivera, they did report that the discovery was made in the area of search at Lake Piru.The Sheriff’s Office plans to hold a press conference about the discovery at 2 pm local time (5 pm. ET.)last_img read more