Volunteer to transcribe declassified documents

Posted on 11 Mar 2017

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Here’s an interesting and useful thing to do if you have some time to donate. Transcribe declassified documents for the National Archives. You can learn a lot.


In honor of Sunshine Week, a celebration of government openness and public records, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration is holding a marathon of document transcription to make more public records accessible to the public and search-friendly. The government institution is looking to transcribe as many as 1000 documents between March 12 and March 18 – and the archivists want your help.
The Citizen Archivist Community is looking for volunteers to help turn scanned documents into text. The pages have been recently declassified or came from Freedom of Information Act requests. Archive experts are hoping to crowdsource transcriptions for historic material like World War II posters, the Department of Justice’s press release on its plans to deal with Y2K, the Republican Congressional Cookbook of 1962, and UFO sighting records.

Transcribing the records in the National Archives makes them easier to search for electronically, putting more information about UFO sightings at your (and all of our) fingertips. To learn how to get started, go to the National Archives website.

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I learned the US military successfully tested a system to destroy an expensive scientific solar data satellite.

…The first and only ASM-135A launch against an actual target satellite took place on September 13, 1985, when F-15A 76-0084 of the 6512th Test Squadron stationed at Edwards AFB took off from Vandenberg AFB and zoom-climbed up to 80,000 feet and then launched the ASAT against the Solwind P78-1, a gamma ray spectroscopy satellite that had been launched in February of 1979. Both the first and second stages fired successfully, and the miniature kinetic kill vehicle separated and homed in on the satellite, destroying it upon impact.

The test was a success in that it demonstrated that the basic concept was feasible. However, it enraged arms control advocates, who saw the test as a violation of a joint US/Soviet treaty forbidding the development and testing of antisatellite weapons. Solar scientists were not happy about the test either, since although the Solwind P78-1 that was killed had officially completed its mission, it was still sending back useful data.

Initial plans were made to modify twenty F-15As for the antisatellite mission and to assign them to the 48th TFS at Langley AFB in Virginia and the 318th TFS at McChord AFB in Washington. These squadrons had each received three or four F-15A/B airframes which had been rewired for ASAT operations. However, Congress was unwilling to permit any further testing of the system, and the ASAT program was officially terminated in 1988. 

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On September 13, 1985, the satellite was destroyed in orbit at 2043 UTC at 35°N 126°W with an altitude of 525 kilometres (326 mi) by an ASM-135 ASAT launched from a US Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft. The test resulted in 285 cataloged pieces of orbital debris. 1 piece of debris remained in orbit to at least May 2004, but had deorbited by 2008.

The test outraged one scientist because although five of P78-1’s instruments had failed at the time of the test, two instruments remained in operation, and the satellite was what one solar physicist called “the backbone of coronal research through the last seven years”.

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You can imagine there was more to the story. Was there information being collected that someone in the military industrial complex wanted to silence? I’m not saying it’s aliens, but this satellite was the first to detect new solar system objects from space. For example, these images are from the destroyed satellite. They decided this was a sungrazing comet.

Pivotal Discovery You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

In February, 1979, the US Air Force launched the P78-1 satellite, aboard which was an NRL white-light coronagraph known as SOLWIND. This wasn’t the first coronagraph in space, but was definitely an improvement over those flown as part of the OSO missions in the 60’s and 70’s, and it led to numerous insights into solar dynamics and transient events like coronal mass ejections. Yet, while important for solar physics, SOLWIND’s truly historic discovery was not a solar event – it was a comet!

During SOLWIND’s five (or so) operational years, data analysis efforts were led by NRL scientists Don Michels, Marty Koomen, Russ Howard and Neil Sheeley, the latter two who still work at the Lab, just down the hall from me (and I see Don from time to time). As they looked at the SOLWIND images taken on August 30, 1979, they were initially horrified to discover a huge bright streak had appeared in their data during that day. Their first thought was that something had happened to the camera and it was now getting a big ugly reflection inside it, but when they studied the images some more they realized that this feature was actually moving, and appeared to be a comet. …
  

Three consecutive images of comet C/1979 Q1 plunging into the solar atmosphere on August 30, 1979. In these SOLWIND coronagraph images, the Sun is masked behind the solid disk in the center of the image.

Over the course of the next several hours of data, the comet disappeared as it went past the Sun, implying that it was destroyed during its passage. This was their first clue that they were witnessing a sungrazing comet, and indeed that’s exactly what it was, as later analyses showed it belonged to the Kreutz-group of sungrazing comets. It’s actually possible that this particular comet plunged straight into the Sun as opposed to grazing past it, but the quality of the data is not sufficient to determine that with any reasonable confidence.  …

I’m not sure exactly when the significance of their discovery set in. SOLWIND data was not returned in anything close to real time as it is now, so while the discovery was new, the data itself was actually a few months old by the time they received it. But regardless of the delay, this marked the first time in history that we had discovered not only a comet, but any solar system body, from space!
Today, of course, we’re used to it. Satellites such as SWIFT, WISE and SOHO are discovering new comets and asteroids on a weekly basis. But that all had to start somewhere, and I think SOLWIND’s first comet discovery is both a milestone and a watershed moment that we should take time to recognize and appreciate. SOLWIND went on to observe a total of ten previously unknown comets from 1979 to 1985, before the mission ended in 1985 when the satellite was destroyed by a ground-based missile in a planned Air Force exercise. (Also a first!) … 

Karl Battams: 08/30/2014 02:49 CDT
Goldfires: Well I’m not going to name any names… but I have heard directly the dismay from certain scientists that their instrument was so abruptly and unceremoniously “decommissioned”! (There was no forewarning, that I’m aware of). … … 

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