Breaking Records

It occurred to me it’s been a while since I’ve shared a behind-the-scenes look at my work at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Now that the DESI spectrograph is on the Mayall Telescope and the NEID spectrograph is on the WIYN Telescope, we’ve fallen into a fairly regular routine where, most nights, I check in with the observing team at 4pm via video chat, then go to the control room where I’ll eat dinner, open the telescope and start observing through the night. We wrap up as the sun starts lightening the sky in the morning. Targets for the night are predetermined before observing begins for the night. Once observing begins, much of my job is watching that the telescope doesn’t try to move to a position where it physically can’t and I’m the first line of defense in case the telescope or instrument malfunctions. I also watch the weather to make sure rain, wind, or snow don’t damage the telescope.

A slice through the 3D map of galaxies from the first few months of the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI). The Earth is at the center, with the furthest galaxies plotted at distances of 10 billion light years. Each point represents one galaxy. This version of the DESI map shows a subset of 400,000 of the 35 million galaxies that will be in the final map. Image courtesy NOIRLab.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we expected that both the telescope operator and lead observer for the night would be working in the same room, possibly with some support scientists. As it turns out, I wrote a post recently describing how these plans had to change so we could operate safely in these times. As things currently stand, I work in a control room alone and coordinate with the rest of the team via video conference. You can read that post here: https://www.desi.lbl.gov/2021/11/17/social-distancing-while-mapping-the-universe/

All this steady plugging away, observing the sky night after night with DESI is paying off. It was just announced that after just seven months of operation, DESI has already surpassed 7.5 million galaxies mapped, which means it has already generated the largest 3D map of the universe to date. And we’ve only completed about 10 percent of the survey. When we’re done, we expect to have mapped over 35 million galaxies. The picture with the post is a slice of the map so far. The map is presented such that Earth is at the center. Each point on the map is a galaxy. I encourage you to take a look at the press release about the DESI results so far. It’s at: https://noirlab.edu/public/news/noirlab2203/

One of my favorite images at the press release is an interactive image where you can look the map above and compare it to all the data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in New Mexico. Sloan has been an on-going, ground-breaking project in its own right. I was fortunate enough to be on hand when that telescope was dedicated and the survey began. At the time, I worked as an engineer for a 1-meter telescope just a few yards away from the Sloan at Apache Point Observatory. I think it’s fair to say that DESI would not have been able to achieve what it has so far if Sloan hadn’t paved the way.

As it turns out, DESI’s value isn’t limited to creating a big map of the universe. Yes, that’s important and hopefully it’ll give astronomers clues about how the universe is expanding and how that may be related to this thing called dark energy. However, DESI is also creating a giant database of all these spectra that researchers will be able to use for years to come to understand more about the different types of galaxies and quasars we’re observing along the way.

On a good night up here, everything seems quiet and routine, which doesn’t give me a lot to share here, but it is producing lots of data and expanding our knowledge of the universe. Of course, routine nights also give me a chance to ponder the universe and continue to inspire me. As always, you can find links to my books and stories at http://www.davidleesummers.com

Hot Anthologies for Cold Winter Nights

The annual Smashwords End of Year Sale is underway. All of Hadrosaur’s titles are on sale and I’ll be highlighting many of them over the course of the sale here at the Web Journal. The coupon codes for these discounts are automatically applied at checkout. One of the things I love about Smashwords is that they provide ebooks in all popular formats and they’re DRM free, so you can download them to your favorite device or gift them to friends without worrying about what e-reader they prefer. If you are shopping for a friend, just click “Give as a Gift” when you visit the Smashwords links!

Today, I’m featuring some great anthologies for those times when you want to curl up by a fire and enjoy an author’s work in one sitting.


Exchange Students

In Exchange Students you can study abroad! See new places! Meet new people!

In our exchange student program, you can literally study anywhere or anywhen you can imagine. We’ll send you to new planets. We’ll send you to new dimensions and realms of existence. We’ll send you through time itself!

Don’t believe me? This exciting anthology contains many tales of our thrilling and educational exchange student program. You’ll read tales of aliens coming to earth and humans traveling to alien worlds. You’ll meet a denizen of Hell who travels to Heaven. Some students will discover their super powers on their journey. Other students will have encounters with the undead. You’ll meet a law enforcement officer who travels to the realm of the fae to help solve a crime of truly interdimensional proportions.

Featuring twenty-two amazing stories by Roze Albina Ches, Jaleta Clegg, Ken Goldman, Paula Hammond, Sheila Hartney, Chisto Healy, Joachim Heijndermans, Sean Jones, Tim Kane, Alden Loveshade, Tim McDaniel, J Louis Messina, Jennifer Moore, Brian Gene Olson, David B. Riley, Katherine Quevedo, Holly Schofield, Jonathan Shipley, Lesley L. Smith, Emily Martha Sorensen, Margret A. Treiber and Sherry Yuan

Exchange Students is available for half off the cover price at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1005851. Coupon code SEY50 should be applied automatically at checkout.


A Kepler’s Dozen

A Kepler’s Dozen is an anthology of action-packed, mysterious, and humorous stories all based on real planets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission. Edited by and contributing stories are David Lee Summers, author of The Pirates of Sufiro, and Steve B. Howell, project scientist for the Kepler mission. Whether on a prison colony, in a fast escape from the authorities, or encircling a binary star, thirteen exoplanet stories written by authors such as Mike Brotherton, Laura Givens, and J Alan Erwine will amuse, frighten, and intrigue you while you share fantasy adventures among Kepler’s real-life planets.

“… the stories represent a glimpse of where science fiction might go if real exoplanets are taken as inspiration.” Melinda Baldwin, Physics Today

You can buy A Kepler’s Dozen for half off the cover price at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/325583. Coupon code SEY50 should be applied automatically at checkout.


Kepler’s Cowboys
  • NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has discovered thousands of new planets.
  • Visiting, much less settling, those worlds will provide innumerable challenges.
  • The men and women who make the journey will be those who don’t fear the odds.
  • They’ll be Kepler’s Cowboys.

Saddle up and take an unforgettable journey to distant star systems. Meet new life forms—some willing to be your friend and others who will see you as the invader. Fight for justice in a lawless frontier. Go on a quest for a few dollars more. David Lee Summers, author of the popular Clockwork Legion novels, and Steve B. Howell, head of the Space Sciences and Astrobiology Division at NASA Ames Research Center, have edited this exciting, fun, and rollicking anthology of fourteen stories and five poems by such authors as Patrick Thomas, Jaleta Clegg, Anthony R. Cardno, L.J. Bonham, and many more!

“If you’re in the mood for science fiction that’s heavy on the science, pore over this enjoyable collection that takes exoplanets and the American West as its inspirations. The stories and poems in Kepler’s Cowboys imagine wild and risky futures for the first generations of exoplanet explorers as they grapple with harsh environments, tight quarters, aliens, and one another.” Melinda Baldwin, Physics Today.

Kepler’s Cowboys is available for half off the cover price at Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/698694. Coupon code SEY50 should be applied automatically at checkout.


Already read these, or just want to browse for something different? Every single Hadrosaur Productions ebook at Smashwords is on sale through January 1. Find the complete listing at: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/davidleesummers.

Remembering Anne Rice

Two of my treasured Anne Rice volumes

I was saddened over the weekend to hear about Anne Rice’s passing. Her writing entertained me, provided food for thought, and even inspired me. I’m afraid I never had the opportunity to meet her in person, but I was fortunate enough to find a signed copy of Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis at the Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans a few years ago and while I’ll admit it’s not my favorite entry in the Vampire Chronicles, it’s still a treasured part of my collection. In the photo with my signed copy is another treasured part of my book collection. It’s an early copy of Interview with the Vampire. I especially like the back cover where actors posed as Lestat, Louis, and Claudia.

I discovered Anne Rice’s writing in the early 1990s while working at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Those of us who worked nights at the telescope were often referred to as the vampires of the observatory because we generally weren’t seen when the sun was up. One of my fellow telescope operators was a fan of Anne Rice and encouraged me to give Interview with the Vampire a try. At the time, boxed sets were widely available with all the Vampire Chronicles in print at the time, which were Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, Queen of the Damned, and Tale of the Body Thief. I breezed through all four novels in rapid succession. I especially enjoyed Rice’s take on the vampire as protagonist and even misunderstood hero. Soon after reading the books, I read an interview with Rice and learned that she wrote Interview with the Vampire as part of dealing with the grief of the loss of her daughter. Having lost my father at a young age, I’d long been oversensitive to the notion of my own mortality and I began to think about what I would do if I ever decided to create a vampire hero.

Those thoughts coalesced just a few short years later when I moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico and a friend wondered what a vampire would make of “the City of Crosses.” This led me to my first vampire short story. After a few more, I felt I understood my characters well enough to write the novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order.

Of course, even as I wrote, Rice continued to write. Her next Vampire Chronicle was Memnoch the Devil. One of the things that began to appeal to me about vampire stories was how you could view large swaths of history from a single character’s point of view. In the fifth vampire chronicle, not only did Rice look at Biblical history but considered theology through Lestat’s vantage point. I’ve never quite questioned my faith in the ways that Rice questioned her own, but I have had questions about my faith and the interplay of that faith with dimly viewed moments in history, such as Arthurian legend. Her open and frank approach to Memnoch the Devil would inspire me when I wrote Dragon’s Fall, the prequel to Vampires of the Scarlet Order.

I’ve continued to enjoy Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles and other novels. I wrote some reviews of her later novels, which I was pleased to see her share on social media. While I’m sorry I never had the opportunity to meet Anne Rice in person, I’m glad to have been able to share how her work had touched me. While I thought some of her novels were much stronger than others, all of her novels entertained me. I’ve been starting to think about a third Scarlet Order vampire novel. I’m sure Rice’s works will continue to speak to me as I think and plot and plan. Like her own hero, Lestat, I’m pretty sure Anne Rice will live forever.

Neutrinos and the Day After Tomorrow

In Episode 178 of the Gerry Anderson Podcast, Chris Dale featured the film The Day After Tomorrow on his Randomizer segment. This is not the 2004 film about climate change. Instead, it was a 1975 segment of an American after school series called Special Treat, which offered educational programming aimed at teenagers. It appeared soon afterward on the BBC. The show was produced by Gerry Anderson and starred Nick Tate, Joanna Dunham, and Brian Blessed. The show was produced between seasons one and two of Space: 1999 and it shares models and props with the television show. One of the show’s goals was to introduce kids to Einstein’s theory of special relativity. Anderson apparently had the notion that he might turn this into a series, so wrote it in such a way that more episodes could follow the special.

I was intrigued by Dale’s discussion of the show on the podcast, so decided to seek it out. The episode is available on the DVD The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson, along with several other one-shot gems produced by Anderson. The Day After Tomorrow reminded me of what Lost in Space might have been like without the Robot or Dr. Smith. Two families travel in a near light-speed craft to Alpha Centauri and beyond. Of course, this becomes our “vehicle” for discussing the effects of special relativity. Nick Tate, best known as Alan Carter in Space: 1999, is the captain and he travels with his daughter. Brian Blessed and Joanna Dunham play a husband and wife scientist team with a son. Like the Robinson kids in the early episodes of Lost in Space, these kids are smart, but manage to avoid crossing over into the annoying territory that kids in science fiction shows have been known to do. Since this is 1975 and well before Brian Blessed became known for “Gordon’s Alive!” in Flash Gordon, he delivers a subdued and believable performance as a scientist.

While I was prepared to see the cast to discuss the wonders of Einstein’s theories, there was a moment that truly surprised me about two-thirds of the way into the show. Joanna Dunham’s character, Dr. Anna Bowen, is observing a red giant star when she warns that she’s detecting “massive neutrino emissions from the red sun.” A moment later, the sun explodes into a supernova! As it turns out, the notion that a supernova would be preceded by a neutrino burst is a theory proposed by my graduate advisor, Dr. Stirling Colgate, in a 1966 paper. This theory would finally be demonstrated in 1987 when a neutrino burst was detected just before Supernova 1987A was observed.

Stirling Colgate at the Digitized Astronomy Observatory after the detection of neutrinos from Supernova 1987A

It’s hard to look at the special and say that it was full of groundbreaking or mind-blowing science. Mostly it seemed like a fun, action adventure show that tossed in some tidbits about special relativity. Still, writer Johnny Byrne had done some homework in astronomy to know that it had been theorized that a neutrino burst would precede a supernova explosion. As a science fiction writer, I know story and character come first, but I really do appreciate a moment like this when I see a writer going the extra mile to understand his subject matter.

TusCon 48

This coming weekend, I will be one of the programming participants at TusCon 48, which will be held at the Sheraton Tucson Hotel and Suites in Tucson, Arizona from November 12-14, 2021. The author guest of honor will be New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Ashley. The artist guest of honor will be Jill Bauman, who has illustrated hundreds of works including those by writers such as Harlan Ellison, Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Lilian Jackson Braun. The fan guest of honor will be Doreen Webbert. The toastmaster will be Bram Stoker Award-winning author Weston Ochse. you can find more information about the convention at https://tusconscificon.com

Hadrosaur Productions will have a table in the dealer’s room, where we will feature some of my recently updated titles such as The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth. We will also have books by other authors on hand such as Exchange Students edited by Sheila Hartney, Hybrid by Greg Ballan, and Upstart Mystique by Don Braden. I’m excited to note that Don Braden will be on hand for TusCon. If you’re there, be sure to buy a copy of his novel and ask him to sign it for you!

My schedule for TusCon is as follows:

Friday, November 12

6:00pm to 7:00pm in Panel Room 1. Are Canonical Stories Better than Non-Canon. We have many kinds of expanded stories. Some of them are part of canon. Some are not. Which is better? Is there a better? On the panel with me are Linda D Addison, Catherine Wells, and Marty Ketola.

Saturday, November 13

9:00am to 10:00am in the Ballroom. Solving your Heroes Problems Well. Putting heroes in danger is almost the definition of what authors do, but how do you get them out of the danger realistically but not to easily? On the panel with me are Catherine Wells, Bruce Davis, and Cynthia Ward.

12:00pm to 1:00pm in the Autographing Area. Autograph Signing. I will be available to sign autographs throughout the convention whenever I’m at my dealer’s table, but for this hour, I’ll hang out at the autographing table.

1:00pm to 2:00pm in Panel Room 2. Hunting for Planets from Kitt Peak. A look at how we’re hunting for exoplanets at Kitt Peak National Observatory using the NEID spectrograph along with a discussion of some cool exoplanet results.

If you’ll be in Tucson this coming weekend, I hope to see you at TusCon. Please note, the organizers do require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for admission and masks will be required throughout the weekend.

The Conquest of the Moon

When most people today think of nineteenth century French science fiction, I suspect the first name that comes to mind is Jules Verne. However, he wasn’t the only writer who speculated about extraordinary journeys around the world or to other worlds. While doing research for the panel “From Jules Verne to Jacques Tardi” which I presented with James Keeline at Gaslight Steampunk Expo earlier this month, I came across the works of André Laurie. Like Jules Verne, Laurie was published by Pierre-Jules Hetzel. André Laurie was the pen-name of Jean Grousset, a politician and journalist. Laurie even “collaborated” with Verne on three novels. I put that in quotes because some experts believe that Laurie wrote the works and Hetzel asked Verne to rewrite them for publication.

One of André Laurie’s most interesting works is called Les Exilés de la Terre – Selene-Company Limited, which is usually translated as The Conquest of the Moon. Published in 1889, it tells the story of an astronomer named Norbert Mauny who leads an expedition to a mountain rich in iron ore in the Sudan to use as the base of a powerful electromagnet which he will use pull the moon to the Earth, so that people can cross over at ease, explore, mine, and colonize. It turns out, this whole plan was started by a group of hucksters who tried to trick people into investing in a lunar colonizing expedition. However, the hucksters had no idea how to pull it off. Mauny convinced the investors of his plan and builds the magnet. As he’s working, a faction of Sudanese are planning to overthrow the European colonizers and they surround Mauny’s observatory with its solar-powered electromagnet. Despite this, Mauny finishes construction and succeeds in pulling the moon to the Earth, only to have the mountain that houses his facility ripped from the Earth and dropped onto the moon. The moon then drifts back out to it’s orbit leaving Mauny and the people with him stranded.

Now, pulling the moon to the Earth sounds like an exceedingly bad idea. In reality this would create a terrible cataclysm. In the novel, he only succeeds in ripping the one mountain from the Earth, raising the tides for a few days and covering Europe in clouds. Though I had to suspend my disbelief a lot for this part of the plot, the rest of the novel presents an interesting look at exploring the moon. Of some note, early in the novel, it’s supposed that the events of Jules Verne’s From the Earth to Moon have already occurred. Once our characters reach the moon, they discover an atmosphere so thin they can’t breathe, so they have to go out with air tanks. Laurie imagines everyone on the moon hopping like kangaroos because of the low gravity and there’s an interesting discussion about how the gravitation of a body would impact the creatures that would evolve on that body. He also notes the temperature extremes that come from the long days and long nights in the “thin” atmosphere.

All in all, The Conquest of the Moon was a fun read. I especially liked how our protagonist was an astronomer who was given a romantic subplot. I could see some of the ideas in this book being given a fun steampunk twist for a more modern story that better understands the nature of the moon, or what would happen if you tried to draw it near.

The edition of The Conquest of the Moon I read was edited by artist and writer, Ron Miller perhaps best known for his 1981 collaboration with William K. Hartmann, The Grand Tour. I was pleased to discover that Miller has edited an entire series of early science fiction novels for Baen which he called “The Conquest of Space” series. All are still available as ebooks. My only complaint with this edition was that it appeared to be scanned using Optical Character Recognition technology, so some characters were misinterpreted and the book wasn’t given a proofread after conversion. Despite that, I enjoyed the book and especially enjoyed Miller’s essay at the end about the growth of science in science fiction through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. You can find the Conquest of Space series along with other books Ron Miller has written and edited at: https://www.baen.com/allbooks/category/index/id/1849

Gaslight Expo and MileHiCon

This coming weekend, Friday, October 1 through Sunday, October 3, I’ll be a live in-person participant at Gaslight Steampunk Expo in San Diego, California and I’ll be a virtual participant at MileHiCon in Denver, Colorado. Until a few weeks ago, I wasn’t actually certain I would be able to do either event. I was scheduled to work at Kitt Peak National Observatory those nights. In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, one member of our telescope operations team left for another job. We only recently hired a new person after finding the safest way to train a new hire. Because our new operator is still training, and thus doubled up with other operators, vacation time is not being readily approved. Still, I was able to make a trade with one of the other telescope operators.

Of the two events, Gaslight Steampunk Expo asked me to be a participant first. I had told them if I was able to get the weekend off, I would be there. At the time, I thought MileHiCon would be held on the same weekend it has been the last few years, which is closer to the end of October, so I hadn’t imagined there would be a schedule conflict. When MileHiCon invited me, I was surprised to find out they had moved to the first weekend of October. Fortunately, they decided to do a virtual programming track in addition to a live programming track. Among other things, they weren’t certain who would be willing and able to travel to Denver with the pandemic. In my case travel would have been a challenge. Even though I was able to get time off, the only way I could travel to Denver from Tucson in the time allotted would be to fly and even that would assume flights at times I could make.


Gaslight Steampunk Expo will be held from September 30 through October 3 at the San Diego Mission Valley Marriott. The theme for the 2021 event will be the 1889 Universelle Exposition du Paris (World Fair) where Gustave Eiffel built the largest structure on the planet as the gateway to the Champ du Mars and dedicated it to science and the 199 workers who helped him construct this modern marvel. You can get more information about the event at https://www.gaslightexpo.org/

My schedule for the event is as follows:

Saturday, October 2, 2021

  • 4pm – 5pm – Autographing – Vendor Hall. I’ll have a selection of my novels and other writings to sign at the Vendor Hall.
  • 6:30pm – 7:30pm – From Jules Verne to Jacques Tardi: French Literature and Comics – Salon B. I will join James and Kim Keeline who collect antiquarian books to discuss how to find the best Jules Verne translations, other cool French steampunk including the comics of Jacques Tardi and some French films that may have escaped notice in the United States.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

  • 11am – noon – Victorian Astronomy – Salon C. I’ll give an overview of Victorian-era astronomy and how it changed the world.
  • 2pm -3pm – Steampunk Literature: Past, Present, and Future – Salon C. A brief look at the history of steampunk literature and where the future might lead. Madeleine Holly-Rosing and I will be presenting this panel.

For SF/F and speculative fiction lovers, MileHiCon is a weekend not to be missed. The convention will feature authors, artists, speakers and programming on every aspect of the science fiction and fantasy genres. The author guests of honor are G. Willow Wilson and Rachael Swirsky. The artist guest of honor is Rebecca Hicks and the toastmaster is Aaron Michael Ritchey. You can get more information and programming details at https://milehicon.org

I have recorded a reading of the first chapter of my novella Breaking the Code and I have also recorded the science presentation “Surveying the Universe” about Kitt Peak’s DESI project. Those should both appear on the MileHiCon YouTube channel. If you go to YouTube and search for MileHiCon during the weekend of the convention, you should be able to find the presentations. I’ll plan to share them here at the Web Journal after the convention. I’m disappointed that my schedule doesn’t allow me to attend the convention in person, but I am grateful that the organizers did create a virtual track that allows me to participate in some capacity.

Summer Shutdown 2021

I returned to work on site at Kitt Peak National Observatory in November 2020. Social distancing regulations were put in place along with several other protocols to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection. In that time, we’ve been making great strides commissioning the DESI spectrograph and starting it’s five-year survey, which is intended to result in the most comprehensive 3D map of the universe yet made. The instrument is already getting results. For those who don’t recall earlier posts about DESI, it has 5000 optical fibers mounted at the prime focus of the Mayall 4-meter telescope. Each fiber can be positioned to align precisely with an object on the sky. The fibers run to a spectrograph where the light is analyzed and redshifts of distant objects such as galaxies and quasars can be measured. The following image shows how much sky DESI gets in one pointing. It shows the nearby Andromeda Galaxy taking up much of the field, but as an example, you see that one fiber has landed on a distant quasar. It’s spectrum is displayed in the inset box. Each of the pizza-slice segments represents the 500 fibers in one petal of the DESI instrument.

The disk of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), which spans more than 3 degrees across the sky, is targeted by a single DESI pointing, represented by the large circular overlay. The smaller circles within this overlay represent the regions accessible to each of the 5000 DESI robotic fiber positioners. In this sample, the 5000 spectra that were simultaneously collected by DESI include not only stars within the Andromeda Galaxy, but also distant galaxies and quasars. The example DESI spectrum that overlays this image is of a distant quasar that is 11 billion years old. Credit: DESI collaboration/DESI Legacy Imaging Surveys/LBNL/DOE & KPNO/CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/unWISE

Summer in Arizona is monsoon season. In short, we get a lot of rain. Clear skies can be few and far between. As a result, this is the time of year engineers often choose to shut down the telescopes to do maintenance and make modifications. The DESI instrument has been performing well, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. The fibers in each of those pizza-slice shapes are aligned by a system called the “Command Action Network” or CAN-Bus for short. It was determined that the CAN-Bus system in DESI could be improved. To do this, each petal has to be removed from the Mayall’s prime focus and placed in an area where it can be worked on. We’re able to do this work this summer because of the availability of COVID vaccines. We do take care to practice social distancing where possible and, especially in the wake of the Delta variant’s rise, we’re staying masked throughout the day. This next photo shows DESI with four of the petals removed.

DESI opened up. The red device in the foreground is used to carefully extract the petals.

The trickiest part of this operation is that the DESI petals are all attached by several yards of fiber optic cable to the spectrographs two stories below. When we remove the petals, we don’t want to torque or strain those cables too much. The petals are lifted down and placed on the floor beside the telescope. Once there, they’re placed into clean tents where they’re worked on. Here we see two members of the DESI team diligently working on the CAN-Bus electronics behind the fiber positioners.

Working on the petals. The fiber optic cables come out of the tent, run along the top and then over the rail to the spectrographs below.

Finally when all the new electronics are installed, the petals have to be tested. Among other things, we need to make sure we didn’t break any of the fibers as we handled the petals. DESI is designed to be able to shine light from the spectrograph up through the fibers. We call these “back illuminators” and a camera mounted just below the telescope’s primary mirror can take an image of the back illuminated fibers to see what position they’re in. Here we see the petal out of the telescope with the back illuminators turned on.

DESI’S fibers glowing a friendly blue, telling us all is well after the work has been completed.

Once the upgrades are completed, the petals are reattached to the telescope. This is a big collaborative effort involving many people from around the country and around the world. Once it’s done, we should have made what was already a powerful machine designed to answer questions about dark energy into an even more powerful machine.

Breaking the Code Now Available

Yesterday was release day for my novella, Breaking the Code, published by NeoParadoxa Press, an imprint of eSpec Books. My copies have arrived as seen below, and I think they look wonderful. If you pre-ordered a copy, I hope it’s been seamlessly delivered to your e-reader or on its way by means of a reliable delivery service.

Breaking the Code print copies

As it turns out, I celebrated the release of the book while operating the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope at Kitt Peak on a blustery, windy night. The telescopes can only be used on sky when the wind is below 45 miles per hour. It was above that for at least some of the night. When it gets that windy, we hear the building rattle and thump in the wind. In fact, one of the scariest experiences I had working at the observatory was on a very windy morning. I was in the dome with the telescope doing maintenance and the wind was howling. I was tired after being up all night and the thumping and rumbling and wild howling made me think something was tromping over the land and if I didn’t finish my work fast, I would be at the mercy of a mountain spirit.

In fact, Kitt Peak National Observatory is on the land of the Tohono O’Odham and it’s believed powerful spirits and even gods inhabit the land. Working on this mountain for nearly 20 years, I’ve always respected those beliefs, but on that scary morning, the notion that spirits live on the mountain seemed much less abstract. I brought that sense of respect to my work on Breaking the Code.

Even though the observatory is in Southern Arizona, it’s high enough that it gets snow in the winter and just like that fierce wind storm, I’ve spent some fierce snowy nights on the mountain as well. Those conditions helped to influence the opening of my novella.

The novella is set in early 1942, right at the beginning of World War II in New Mexico as Marines are recruiting Navajo youth. As it turns out, I have a personal connection to that aspect of the novella as well. My parents were raised in New Mexico and my dad went to high school during the World War II years. When he graduated, he joined the Marine Corps. After the war, he went to work for the Santa Fe railroad and soon met my mom. I thought about his stories a lot while writing the novella. Although the characters in my novella experienced different specific events than my mom and dad, I tried to be true to the emotional experience they conveyed to me.

You can read the novella’s first chapter and learn where you can get a copy by visiting http://www.davidleesummers.com/Breaking-the-Code.html

The NASA Kepler Mission

Last September, the Institute of Physics released a volume describing the results of NASA’s Kepler Mission. The mission’s purpose was to survey a region of the galaxy to see how many planets could be found and determine their properties. I was honored that the editor, Steve Howell, asked me to contribute a short article about the appearance of real exoplanets in science fiction. In the article, I discuss how astronomy and science fiction have “grown up” together, and look at how science fiction contributed to helping people see the planets of our own solar system as places we could actually visit and show how this is starting to happen with exoplanets.

The NASA Kepler Mission

The NASA Kepler and K2 missions have made fundamental, paradigm-changing advances in essentially every area of astrophysics and planetary science. While known for their breakthrough discoveries in exoplanets – especially small rocky worlds orbiting in the habitable zone of their host suns – these missions have also continued to make numerous scientific advances in solar system science, stellar astrophysics and extragalactic astronomy. This book is devoted to the Kepler and K2 missions and covers the tremendous new discoveries made in the areas of spacecraft engineering, asteroseismology, binary and variable stars, stellar astrophysics, white dwarfs, asteroids and comets, active galaxies, supernovae, black holes, and of course exoplanets of all types. It is suitable for the interested layperson, pupils of science and space missions, and advanced science students and researchers wishing for an introduction and highly focused memoir of the NASA Kepler mission and its amazing accomplishments.

The book is designed to provide an introduction to advanced science presentations on all major mission topics. It was written by the scientists who made the discoveries. It includes engineering and spacecraft discussions. The book describes the effects of the mission on science and the world, integrating many of the major discoveries and their graphics, movies, and materials. Finally, the book includes side boxes of interest, for example exoplanet naming conventions and perspectives from noted scientists.

The editor, Steve B Howell, is a senior research scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. He was formerly the head of the Space Science and Astrobiology Division and the project scientist for NASA’s premier exoplanet finding missions: Kepler and K2. Howell has written more than 800 scientific publications, numerous popular and technical articles, and has authored and edited 10 books on astronomy and astronomical instrumentation. He was also my co-editor on the books, A Kepler’s Dozen and Kepler’s Cowboys, which featured science fiction stories set at real Kepler planets.

Like many academic volumes, The NASA Kepler Mission has a pretty large price tag, priced more for academic than personal libraries. Still, if you live near a university with a science library, you can likely borrow a copy if you want to peruse the book or even read my sidebar article. The publisher’s page for the book is: https://store.ioppublishing.org/page/detail/The-NASA-Kepler-Mission/?k=9780750322942

Below are the two anthologies I edited with Steve.

A Kepler’s Dozen
Kepler’s Cowboys

You can learn about the anthology A Kepler’s Dozen by visiting: http://davidleesummers.com/Keplers-Dozen.html

The second anthology we edited about Kepler planets is Kepler’s Cowboys. You can learn more about it at: http://davidleesummers.com/Keplers-Cowboys.html