Day 1: Wednesday 9th of October 2013
I started the day at 9:00 am where I was welcomed kindly and shown around the building.
At about 10:00 am I was mentored and taught about the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) for 2 hours. I learned a great deal of information that I found very interesting from this. Things like the project itself, the massive scale that it is taking place and the in-comprehensible figure that was the memory required to process every single image (over 2.5 Petabytes or so every image) and the crazy amount of total memory needed to store all of the images after that (and how all of the memory in the world could be matched from 1 day of work from the SKA!). I found out about theSkyNet, and how this was a possible solution to the memory processing issue of the SKA where the public themselves help the scientists perform actions in numbers rather than in singular large powerful machines that take up a lot of energy and space. I was told about low and high waves and frequencies and how they are used to detect distant objects and how it can even be used to see what happened during the beginning of time itself. I learned that it could also be used to map out the stars and galaxies themselves.
After my lunch break, I was welcomed back in where I resumed my learning. At 1:00 pm I was taught again for the next 2 hours about the fascinating side of the physics of astrophysics. I learned that at the centre of each galaxy there is a destructive black whole which ‘holds’ the galaxy itself together. I found out about how the lengthy mathematical equations were used to calculate most of the things you needed in space – whether it be from the size of an object to it’s travelling speed through space. I also learned about gravity, and more importantly how it affects everything around it – from how the planets orbit around each other to the collision of galaxies and stars and the aftermath of it. I was more acquainted with objects such as pulsars, red dwarfs and neutron stars and how the stars create elements that are needed on some planets to sustain life as we know it.
Day 2: Thursday 10th of October
I started the day at 9:00 am where I helped out a bit by doing some minor things around that people needed help with.
At about 10:00 am I was summoned again, where I was taught about theSkyNet project in its entirety. I was told a little bit about how theSkyNet operates, the ‘behind the scenes’ technical side of it, where lines and lines of code are needed to create even the simplest of actions on the website. But I was mainly told about the public side of the project, and how it needs to be almost ‘advertised’ so that people may actually see it and maybe start participating in it as well. I found out that the most popular science citizen projects were displayed on practically every website that I searched for and they were getting more and more popular because of this. I realised that this is what theSkyNet must become for any hope of the project getting bigger and better, so I was given a task to search the web for any websites related to ‘BOINC’ and science citizen projects that do not mention theSkyNet, so I may list them and hand them over to ICRAR who will try their best to contact the websites/change them so that theSkyNet would actually be there and mentioned for all the world to see. I was also given the task to provide any ideas I had in relation to the website and how it can be modified to match various events (like Christmas and Halloween) and how to make it a more interesting and enjoyable experience for the public.
After my lunch break I resumed tour of the world of astrophysics with a meeting with a couple of under-graduate students working at ICRAR. I got to know about the true life of an ‘astrophysicist’ and all the different types of work they do. I found out that programming is quite a major part in most types of astrophysics. I had only now realised the immense importance of it, but was quite glad because I myself had recently started researching into the topic and was even doing a bit of code myself. I found out that it is used to calculate almost everything in space, since that is the only way we can find out information about distant objects since we sometimes cannot see them, even through high-powered optical telescopes. I also rather pleasantly found out that there is quite a lot of travelling associated with the job itself. Going to various observatories is a small part that an astrophysicist must undergo, finding out about specific parts of space first-hand and not just behind a computer. I also realised that aside from programming, the biggest part of the job is analysing tons of raw data into what you can just about call useful information.
This wrapped it up for the day and I was given a small homework task to analyse some papers about theSkyNet project before my last day.
Day 3: Friday 11th of October
I started the day at 9:00 am where I immediately got put to work. I was given a sheet that I needed to work on which contained various information about the galaxy NGC 7531. My task was to, using a few mathematical equations, work the total mass of the galaxy. After step by step of calculating, I finally figured it out and was astonished to find that about only 10% of it was comprised of solar mass, where-as the rest was made of dark matter.
At about 10:30 am I was invited to tea, where I quickly briefed people about what I was doing at ICRAR.
At 11 am I came down to learn more about dark matter and calculating its mass within the galaxies themselves. I was explained a little bit about how light mass and dark mass were the main components to a galaxy, however there was an even greater light to dark ratio in the particular galaxy that I was studying, where instead of there being 10 times more dark to light there was a surprising 47 times more dark to light mass. Similar to the first portion of the day, I continued calculating various things to do with the different galaxies’, but mainly focusing on their mass.
At 2:00 pm, after an hour lunch break, I helped out a bit with ideas for theSkyNet website, following which I researched into more detail about the Square Kilometre Array project. I was given a list of website URLs that I could check out where I could find out in more detail the information about the where the SKA was taking place, and the exact science of how all the various parts of the actual telescope work, from how they gather data to how they process it. Finally I researched a bit into some more general astrophysical facts, mainly about the recent Nobel Prize winners (Brian Schmidt, Peter Higgs and Francois Englert).
At about 3:30 pm I briefly spoke with Mat about how my experience at ICRAR was, after which my journey had come to and end. I learned a lot of things during my stay and I really enjoyed every moment of it, through both everything that I had done and all the new people I met, and I am really grateful for the experience that I had and for everyone who had made it possible.