Rough Science Photo of the Rough Science cast
 Home | Death Valley | Scientists | Ellen | Impact Diary - Day 2
Series 4:
Death Valley
Aerial Surveyor
The Scientists
Director's Notes
Producer's Notes
Tune In
Series 1:
Series 2:
Series 3:
New Zealand
About the Show
Discover More
Site Map
spacer spacer spacer
Ellen's Impact Diary Day 1 2 3

Day Two

Jonathan and I went up to the mine really early. Jonathan worked on securing the eyepiece. I worked on securing the small mirror. We worked and worked, fiddled and fiddled. Detailed stuff, carefully trying various ways to connect everything together. Made mistakes. The whole thing is now working.

Everyone else showed up at 1 pm. We couldn’t believe how fast time was flying and how long it was taking to put things together sturdily. I had to go collect pine resin for the candles, so Jonathan worked on the equatorial mount on his own.

I headed out to collect pine resin. Native American used resin to waterproof baskets, seal pottery, make torches, and so on.

When I collected the resin, I ended up in a sticky mess—even my hair. I must have stood up into a bunch of resin. I had to wash my hair in olive oil to get it out. Pine resin is oil soluble, not water soluble.

My hands were a mess. I couldn’t touch a thing without sticking to it.

The pure resin burned liked a sparkler—pretty fun, but not ideal for a candle. So, I tried to boil off the really volatile fractions slowly at low heat. Pine resins are often made up of over 40 different components. The ides was to leave the slower burning parts and create a more stable flame.

It turns out that sagebrush makes a decent wick as long as it isn’t too thick.

The whole deal with candles is not to burn the wick or the actual candle. The goal is to melt the candle (resin in this case) closest to the wick and to have it vaporize (evaporate slowly). The flame is actually the burning vapor.

It was quite hard to tell how long to boil the resin. I made at least 14 candles. Some batches cooled to be hard as rocks. They didn’t burn very well or very long. I think the melting point of the resin in these candles was too high. The resin which I didn’t boil as long made better candles that burned pretty well. I was quite impressed that they worked so well. But I’d liked to have refined them a bit. I’d like to try to make these again. The crucial point is not to heat the resin to its flash point—that’s what is so scary and deadly about fires in pine forests.

Jonathan’s stand is pretty darn good, but the wind is kicking up so the image we see of the moon is shaking. It still looked pretty incredible, very bright and detailed. We could see several craters very clearly. We looked for a crater we could see straight on—not one on the edge of the moon, where there would be lots of distortion.

Archimedes: The next bit for tomorrow is to put a reference line, literally a hair line, in our eyepiece in order to measure how long it takes the crater of Archimedes to pass across the reference line.

< Previous

Ellen's candles
Scientists Diaries

All craters great and small - read the other team members' diaries as they attempt to measure the impact of impacts: