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November 17, 1957 - Image 14

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1957-11-17
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The Geophysical Year

The St. Lawrence Seaway & Its Pi

A REPORT ON ACTIVITY AT THE McMATH-HULBERT OBSERVATORY

By DAVID TARR
Daily Staff Writer
f 1NE CLEAR, warm night last
July people across the country
turned their eyes into the northern
heavens and were witness to one
of the best displays of northern
lights in years. Most of the observ-
ers were awed and surprised, but
Just a generous hour's drive from
here a small group of scientists
knew the display was coming and
knew it had greater significance
than a mere evening's entertain-
ment.
Their foreknowledge of the event
came in a small group of buildings,
some 35 miles north of Detroit,
nested on the edge of a quiet
Michigan lake and curtained from
the casual observer by tall pines.
The buildings compose the Mc-
Math-Hulbert Observatory, an in-
stitution ' that has grown from
small beginnings into a world-
renowned observatory. It is one
of the several observatories of the
University department of astron-
omy.
The McMath-Hulbert Observa-
tory currently is playing a major
role in the International Geo-
physical Year, a sort of large-scale
fact-finding expedition which be-
gan July 1 and will continue until
the end of 1958.
Under the direction of Prof.
Robert R. McMath, the staff of the
observatory is part of a global
team of more than 5,000 scientists,
engineers and technicians from 56
nations taking part in the IGY
program of intense, direct obser-
vation of the earth and its atmos-
phere.
Some of the astronomers at the
observatory, which gained its fame
for studies of the sun, are 'seeking
a better understanding of solar-
flares, those great tongues of fire
on the sun that are believed to
have a marked effect on radio
communications and other earthly,
phenomena - including northern
lights.
To understand the work of' the
astronomers in the IGY program,
it would first be wise to┬░make
several statements about the sun.

Detailed understanding of the
sun's behavior is lacking, but cer-
tain facts are well known and
generally accepted. Basically, the
sun is an enormous globe of hot
gas, more than 800,000 miles in
diameter.
Its surface temperature is in the
neighborhood of 11,000 degrees F.,
increasing steeply in the interior
to an estimated 35-45 million de-
grees F. at the center. Its gases are
so compressed that they become
many times denser than steel.
Necessarily, observations of the
sun are limited to its outer layers,
the solar atmosphere being trans-
parent only to a depth of a few
thousand miles. But the surface
is in a continual state of activity.
Great masses of gas, or "promi-
nences," may almost always be
seen projecting from the edge of
the sun. Frequently in rapid mo-
tion at speeds up to hundreds of
miles per second, they describe
sometimes straight and sometimes
curved trajectories while moving'
into or away from the sun.
THIS continual activity is evi-
dent in sunspots or solar-
flares. Sunspots are phenomena
that become most numerous in
cycles of 11 years. This cycle,
which reaches a maximum this
year aid next, was a major factor
in determining the time of the
IGY.
Although the origin and nature
of sunspots are still obscure, they
are known to have strong mag-
netic fields associated with them.
Scientists know also that sunspots
are regions about 2,000 degrees
cooler than the surrounding sur-
face of the sun.
Frequently local areas around
sunspots brighten up briefly and
tremendously. These so-called
"flares" or "eruptions" are the ob-
ject of intensive -examination by
the observatory staff using solar
telescopes and other special equip-
ment.
"Solar flares are often associ-
ated with radio fadeouts and mag-
netic storms on the earth," ac-
cording to Prof. Helen W. Dodson,

who Is directing the observatory's
work in the IGY.
Study of flares aids in predicting
disturbances in long distance com-
munication on the earth, a pro-
gram to wlhich the observato'y
contributed substantially during
World War II. -
T IS known that when a solar
flare occurs there is a great in,-
crease in short wave radiation
from the sun. As a result, there
is likely to be a disturbance in the
groof" of the earth's atmosphere,
known as the ionosphere, causing.
a short-wave fadeout.
Flares may also eject high veloc-
ity atomic particles. The atomic
particles, because the travel more
slowly than-light, require from one
to four days to traverse the 93,000,-
000 miles to earth. If, these par-
titles reach the earth's atmos-
phere, they cause the series of
phenomena that are associated
with geomagnetic storms.
These- storms are detected pri-
marily by variation in the pointing
of sensitive compass needles as a
result of strong electrical currents
induced on the surface of the
earth. In addition, there are often
displays. of northern lights.
Although flares wreak havoc with
shortwave radio transmission of a
thousand miles or so, they do not
affect short-range communica-
tions, according - to Prof. Orren
Mohler, assistant director of the
observatory. The best example, he
said, is television which, contrary
to popular belief, is not in.-the least
affected.
But there is another kind of
radio trouble that may arise from
solar flares, a trouble that Prof.
Dodson refers to as -a sudden
enhancement of atmospherics.
This means, for example, that a
radio turned to about 25 kilocycles
in northern United States might
experience an increase in static
from thunderstorms as far away
as the tropics because of changes
in the ionosphere during theflare.
It is also -true that some radio
receivers can detect "radiation at
radio frequencies from distant

By JAMES BOW
Daily.Staff Writer
SOMETIME in 1959 the St. Law-
rence Seaway will open the
Great Lakes to foreign trade and
cultures which will reach the heart
of the United States.
In.one sense this is the North-
west Passage, leading to wealth
greater than the spices and silks
which explorers sought in the Ori-
ert. Wheat from Kansas, Nebraska
and the Dakotas, iron ore from
Minnesota, Michigan and Wiscon-
sin, automobiles, coal and lumber
are some of the treasure.
In another sense, however, the
Seaway is introducing problems
formerly confined to the ocean
coast or the. Panama Canal. Tolls
and Seaway labor unions are being
discussed two years before they
come into existence. There are
questions whether there should be
any_ toll charge -on the Seaway
at all, and there are also some
heated arguments concerning what
union should gain control of Sea-
way ports.
Hearings
,HEARINGS were held in Sep-
tember on the matter of toll
charges for the waterway. The St.
Lawrence Seaway Development
Corporation, the government agen-
cy which conducted the hearings,
met the argument that toll charges
would be prohibitive to active
trade.-
Business and shipping interests
argued that the tolls would have
to be so high to pay off the 460
million dollar Seaway, cost hi
50 years that many ships would
be prevented from entering the
Great Lakes.
Opponents of toll charges say
that' the Seaway could very well'
be charged to national defense or

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Under the direction of Prof. Helen W. Dodson, the University's
McMath-Hulbert Observatory is playing an Important role in the
International Geophysical Year. The Observatory's director, Prof.
Robert R. McMath is one of the three founders of the world-
renowned institution.

to internal improvements indis-
tinguishable from any other navi-
gation project. Perhaps the strong-
est case against tolls is the argu-
ment that income from a toll-free
Seaway would produce taxes for
the United States and for-'state
governments far in excess of any
charges received.
Tolls . .
IN FAVOR of tolls, George A.
Donredo, former Republican
Congressman from Michigan and
head of the House Seaway com-,
nittee, points out that one of the
conditions for passage of the Sea-
way bill in Congress was the estab-
lishing of tolls, thus relieving the
iational budget of the cost.

The Seaway bill was passed three
years after Canada began work on
the waterway in 1951. and further
delay was created when an addi-
tional 35 million dollars had to be
added to the Seaway budget. Don-
dero gave vigorous support to the
Seaway, using such numerical de-
scriptions as "the Eighth Wonder
of the World, the Fifth Sea, and
our Fourth Seacoast."
Secretary of the Army Wilbur M.
Brucker entered 'the scene when
he argued last summer that the
Army Corps of Engineers should
be allowed to collect Seaway tolls.-
The Seaway Development Corpor-
ation has already constructed its
own toll headquarters in Massena,
N. Y., although Congress did not

specifically stipulate that the
poration should get the job.

Labor...
WHILE BOTH toll arguments
continue, it appears that labor
questions will receive top billing
as union problems arise through-
out the nation. Star of the Seaway
union debate is the same man who
won the Teamsters presidency-
Jimmy Hoffa. He is supporting the
International Longshoremen Asso-
ciation for Great Lakes ports. The
ILA is an organization expelled by
the AFL in 1953 on charges that it
was dominated 'by gangsters and
racketeers.
The AFL-CIO, parent of 'the
Teamsters, is supporting its own

cor-

stars and planets. During solar I

These special instruments are

flares, this "cosmic static" dimin-
ishes or fades because of increased
absorption in the earth's ionos-
phere at such times.
' Special equipment has been in-
stalled at the observatory to
measure the amount of this cosmic
noise absorption.
The IGY national committee
has also sent an automatic-control
telescope that will take, two pic-
tures per minute of the entire solar.
disc showing when and where
flares occur, how bright they are
and how fast they disappear.

IF

1:

1,

I'

there's ai

"wonderful difference"

entirely supplementary to an al.
ready excellently equipped observ-
atory. How this observatory was
begun and has grown to the posi-
tion it holds today is as fascinat-
ing as the studies conducted there.
Until, recent years progress in
solar physics was hampered by the
almost complete lack of accurate
measurements of the motions and
radiant energies associated with
solar phenomena. The McMath-
Hulbert Observatory has been de-
veloped around the desire to fill
this gap.
TPHE story began in the late
1920's when three Detroiters,
Prof. McMath, then president of
Motor Metals Manufacturing Co,
his father, Francis C. McMath, fi-
nancier and engineer, and Henry
S. Hulbert, one-time Wayne
County probate judge, began as
amateur astronomers to plan and
build the observatory that was to
pioneer in solar studies.
The observatory was founded in
the summer of 1930 with the con-
struction of a small dome housing
a ten and- one-half inch telescope.
Research by the three men, as
they began to move off the ama-
teur level, led, them to design their
own instruments where necessary
equipment was unavailable. In-
cluded was a specially designed
camera with the unusual name of
spectroheliokinematograph.
With this instrument motion-
picture photography was for the
Zfrst time applied successfully to
the sun. -It immediately proved its
value as a powerful research tool,
winning international recognition
for the observatory.
Early work at the McMath-Hul-
bert Observatory consisted of mo-
tion pictures showing changes in
celestial objects. Some of the
earliest records show motion of
the satellites of Jupiter and the
changing shadow patterns on the
surface of the moon.
In 1931, the founders made a
gift of the observatory to the Uni-
versity and Robert McMath was
named director.
The original telescope dome now
houses a 24-inch reflector which
has been employed in motion-pic-
ture photography of the moon and
planets. In 1936, the 50-foot tower
telescope was completed, providing
a spciaizIedinsitrumnt oll f great

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