Home Island: Kauai
Institute when accepted: Kauai Community College
Heater Upgrade for a Summit Precipitation Gauge
Project Site: Smithsonian Submillimeter Array
Mentor: Billie Chitwood
Like all observatories, the Smithsonian Submillimeter Array (SMA) must accurately monitor ambient weather conditions, including precipitation, for a number of reasons. SMA staff and observers work at the summit around the clock, so weather must be monitored to ensure the safety of personnel. Also, precipitation, or simply high levels of atmospheric water vapor, causes the atmosphere to be opaque to submillimeter waves, inhibiting observations. Finally, heavy rainfall can cause the intrusion of moisture into electrical equipment, causing electrical damage to the antennas. The SMA facility has an existing rain gauge located at the Mauna Kea summit, but since temperatures at the summit frequently drop below freezing, precipitation can freeze before it can be measured by the gauge. To address this problem, we are designing, building, and installing an electrical unit to provide power to a new rain gauge with a built-in heater. When the temperature at the summit drops below 45 degrees F, the thermostat will begin to cycle. After construction and installation of the electrical box, testing will be conducted to record and check the accuracy of precipitation data from the new heated gauge.