Before starting my first day of work experience I was extremely excited to learn about what I love, space. Upon arriving at ICRAR Curtin I met Kat Ross, Gregory Rowbotham and the three other work experience students. To start off the day Kat told us a bit about her work. Sammy then talked to us about about pulsars from neutron stars and we did some algebra to figure out how large neutron stars can be before the surface is travelling faster than the speed of light which is impossible, I learnt that protons and electrons are pushed together to become neutrons. We then talked about gravitational waves and how we may be able to use pulsars to detect gravitational waves because of how accurate their pulses are, we can look for any changes in the rate of the pulses which can show that space has stretched or compressed. We looked at the electrical side of the MWA antennas and circuits with Maria. Kat taught us some python coding, and we had a go at that. I’m considering teaching myself some in the future, I found out that it is useful to know how to code when working in astronomy. To end the day Mia showed us a slide about radio astronomy and the MWA (Murchison Widefield Array) and walked us around the building.
On the second day I arrived at ICRAR UWA and met Gregory again. He showed us around the building and then we got straight into it. Kevin showed us a slideshow which informed us all about the square kilometre array and how it works and how much data it produces, we also looked at why ICRAR was founded and how they are working with several countries to make the SKA. We spent some time watching a video about cosmology and we took some notes, the video involved redshift, basic quantum physics, fluctuations and the shape of the universe. We learnt a lot about galaxies and how they merge and how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to differentiate objects in images using brightness and redshift. We talked with Peter about different career options from having a PhD in astronomy because it involves computer science and programming and we talked about what it’s like being a researcher, this was an interesting talk as Peter told us how being in astronomy you learn many different skills that you can apply to all sorts of jobs. At the end of the day we looked at computer simulations, Adam showed us what he did and told us about the stuff that he has worked on.
We arrived at ICRAR UWA and then got an uber over to Pawsey supercomputing centre. When we arrived at Pawsey, we looked through the windows showing the supercomputers but unfortunately, we were not able to enter the room. We learned some quantum physics with Eamonn, included in this were superposition, quantum entanglement and quantum teleportation. This was so far one of the most interesting events of the week and I really enjoyed learning about it. We had a little ‘lunch and learn’ break where we looked a bit at social media and what platforms are the best for organisations. Ben showed us mini magnus, a miniature version of one of the supercomputers they have, mini magnus consisted of 10 raspberry pi and a lot of cables. We talked some more about supercomputers at the end of the day and discussed quantum computers. After we were done Cass drove us back to ICRAR UWA.
On the fourth day I arrived at ICRAR Curtin and met Kat again. To start off the day we talked to Teresa about the epoch of reionisation and why it occurred, after that Teresa told us a bit about what she does in outreach and she showed us a little radio telescope that she built to show to kids interested in science. The next person we talked to was Dev who works with the reionisation team to improve their algorithms, we talked slightly about interferometry as well. Ferry taught us about how to get rid of atmospheric disturbances in radio astronomy data, one method of doing this is by having a satellite that shoots down a specific radio frequency that we know what it looks like and then we can see how the atmosphere affects it and what the current weather is like, then using that real time information we they could get rid of those disturbances in the final product. Before we moved onto the next person, he showed us what the cubesat that they are making will look like, I enjoyed this talk as it does have to do with engineering which I like. Then we talked to Tyrone who is searching for hidden black holes and talked to us about how asymmetrical supernovas can give a neutron star lots of rotation. Arash showed us how to create models on pulsating stars. Karen talked to us about her career and how she applied to be an astronaut and got in the top 10% but didn’t end up being chosen.
I arrived at ICRAR UWA for my final day of work experience, to start off the day we talked about cosmic dust and how big of an influence it has, to start off it scatters all the light from stars, the dust works as a catalyst to form nuclear hydrogen, it protects nuclear hydrogen from a kind of light and it helps the interstellar medium to cool down. We had a little morning tea where we work experience students introduced ourselves to all the researchers. We went for a walk over to the physics building in UWA where we had a look at and took some photos of the spirit telescopes on top of the building. While we were in the physics building we looked at some laser communication technology that was being worked on, laser communication is a better way of communicating to and from satellites, this is because it can hold so much more information than radio waves and whatever the laser is pointing at is the only receiver of the data. Next we talked about how to figure out the angular momentum of a galaxy, we can do this by looking at the redshift of each side of the galaxy and see how fast one side is moving compared to the other. Unfortunately, the day was cut slightly short due to a covid lockdown, so we ended early and said our goodbyes, this concluded the week.
Doing work experience with ICRAR has been a great opportunity and I would greatly recommend it to anyone interested in astronomy, engineering, physics or space in general. I learnt so many new things and what made it even better is that the researchers were there to explain it in detail.
I would just like to thank ICRAR for having me.