Archive | January 2008

My friend in the control room..

Over the last few nights at the GMRT I have been constantly visited by a small lizard, I think it is a Gecko…
Gecko in control room
thankfully it keeps itself to itself.

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Its been a long day…

… and there is still another 4 hours of observing to go! I’m going to take this moment to post a few other pics…
GMRT Antenna
Flowers and Antenna
Flowers at the GMRT

It’s 7am… I’ve been up 2 hours – why?!

Oh yes, the fun of early morning observations. Its just getting light here and I’ve been up for 2 hours! I know some people do this on a daily basis but I bet they were not working till midnight before then. I’m tired, slight confused and a bit disorientated about what the time should be. Oh well, I’m still quite happy – though I have to say I’m missing home now (especially a certain… xbox 360!). Anyway, yep I’m observing again. This one is going to be quite interesting, and should produce a paper no matter what. We are looking at an object that has been observed at high frequencies and I’m seeing if we can get anything from it. I’m a little concerned about the Sun rising though – I much prefer to do observation at night but then again the ionosphere is as problematic during the night as in the daytime.
I was going to blog these pictures later but something tells me I might well be asleep till my next observation begins this afternoon. So here are some pics I took yesterday that I didn’t blog…
GMRT dish
GMRT dish
and yes some more flowers
Flowers at the GMRT

A Sunday morning stroll

Its not often that I actually go out for a walk for the sake of having a walk. I wish I did it more often but a combination of laziness and living in the city (with the same walk I do everyday) really holds me back. I’m sure that there are some really nice walks and interesting photos to take around where I live. I think I shall endeavor to do this more often. Anyway, today I decided to take a walk around some of the dishes here. There are many better walks to take, but its hot and I did not want to go too far.
Starting off I approached the first antenna and like yesterday work was going on, but it was pretty close to the floor and I thought that this was quite an interesting shot..
GMRT Antenna
It was really quite warm and I really wish I’d put suntan lotion on – but I wasn’t in the Sun for more than an hour in the end. After a while I decided it was time to take a break.. so I thought I’d try and do the “Contact” pose. You know, the film Contact? With Jodie Foster in where she “hears” the alien radio signal? How preposterous! If I’m getting this right she was using the VLA (in New Mexico).. and listening to the signal.. as if – can she do Fast Fourier Transforms of signals in here head? Don’t worry if that comment meant nothing to you – just me being a physicist. Basically there is no way she could do this. Anyway, I thought I’d give it a go. After gently setting up the camera (and the timer, the first time I’ve ever used this).. I ran and grabbed my laptop.
Me, telescope
Ok, its not great but you get the idea… shame I was listening to New Found Glory and not alien signals…
Oh and I found some more flowers to take pictures of.. I have no idea what these are again but they looked pretty and a great chance to take some colorful photos.
Flowers at the GMRT
Flowers at the GMRT

So what did you do on Saturday night?

I bet it wasn’t sit in one of the worlds largest radio interferometer’s control rooms? I have to say it might sound uber-geeky but I’m totally in awe of this facility. [The Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope] is absolutely wonderful and I hope you have seen some of the photogenic side of things in my previous posts but this time I thought I would give you a bit of an insight into what I’ve done on my Saturday night.
Ok, I’m not going to lie, my Saturday night has not been just work – I have been monitoring the English Premier League – like any football fan would be. Anyway, with that omission out of the way – what have I been doing?
Well the GMRT has a telescope controller, there is no way you could use this machine without considerable training, who you basically give a command file that has all the instructions on what the telescope should do during your observing run. So the first thing, obviously before the observing slot, you produce this command file. In radio astronomy you have to have a bunch of calibrators of known structure and power (flux). Basically you start off with the flux one and use this as the scale for the rest of the observations. You then use a close by source (to your actually object) as your secondary calibrator (phase). Basically you let the telescope go and do its thing, obviously there is a lot more to this but we would get a bit technical. The other thing that is important is you choose the frequency to observe at – tonight I’m observing at 1.28GHz. You might wonder why – well this frequency relates to frequency of the emission of the object and is based on a calculation for particle in the magnetic field of the object.
So once the observation begins what do you “see” obviously in radio you just get voltage signals – and yep thats what you can “see” – you can get a plot of the antenna amplitudes:
Output from antennae
and yep I have been watching this all night… well not all the time, just occasionally to make sure nothing goes wrong! I won’t actually have a proper “image” until I have analyzed the data in a package and that will take a while – it is also a story for another time.
I hope this has given you a better insight into my geeky evening and what you do at a radio telescope… if you ever wanted to know that is!

Its so hot… or am I lame?

I took a short walk earlier, well I was going to take a longer walk but it was too hot! As I approached the first antenna realizing that I realistically couldn’t stand being in the Sun for too much longer I came across a sight that made me feel a bit lame..
Men at work on a GMRT Antenna
yep thats people climbing all over the antenna working on it!! (ed: turns out after asking the controllers tonight that they were painting it!)
I decided that I should take a photo of me with a dish behind me, this is something else I reckon you should do wherever you go observing..
Me and a GMRT dish
.. oh and continuing the flower theme.. (I think I will be running out of flowers tomorrow ohmy.gif so it might become plants)
Flowers at the GMRT

First day of observations complete

I woke this morning feeling a lot more relaxed, well sort of, I’m pleased the first observations appear to have been successful and I’m definitely more relaxed about that. The problem is my internal clock. I went to bed around 11:30pm last night (which is 6pm in the UK) and though I was absolutely exhausted I could not manage more than 2 hours… I finally managed to go to sleep at 6am, which is close to my time of going to bed in the UK. ARGH! I can only hope that today’s long observations really knacker me out and I sleep – but then I’m going to only have 4 hours to the start of my next observation!
Oh and I took a few more shots of the sunset last night… its a spectacular view.
GMRT Sunset with tree
GMRT Sunset