On the first day, I went to ICRAR Curtin, and myself and the other work experience students talked with PhD students such as Mr Sammy McSweeney and Ms Kathryn Ross, we got to talk to Dr Arash Bahramian and we got to sit in on office meetings. Mr Sammy McSweeney uncovers the mysterious behind pulsars through the application of simulations and plots with he constructs using code that he had written. When we were with Sam, he gave us some data that represented the coordinates all of the locations of the pulsars in our galaxy. Sam also helped us write a simple code that would plot these plots on a plane. When the pulsar locations were plotted, the work experience students deduced things regarding pulsars based on their position in our galaxy. Ms Kathryn Ross simply gave us a rundown of what she researches, being irregular radio galaxies. Observational researcher Dr Arash Bahramian plotted the pulsars based on their brightness, and then helped us to fit a sinusoidal wave through the plots. From this, we could estimate the period of these pulsars, which was pretty cool. Overall, the first day was very overwhelming because of all the new information we had to absorb.
The second day wasn’t as overwhelming because it wasn’t completely new. At ICRAR UWA, we talked to Mr Kevin Vinsen about hydrogen and gamma rays in galaxies and the basic concepts behind the Square Kilometre Array. After Kevin’s presentation, we talked to senior researcher Dr Danail Obrechkow about his work. Dr Danail Obrechkow studies galaxy clusters, dark matter and how/if it interacts with other matter. Also, since he is from Switzerland, he was able to talk about his experiences in universities such as Oxford. After a drink break, we talked to PhD student Soheil Koushan about the history and size of the universe. Furthermore, after talking about the possible existence of aliens, he told about this quote by Arthur C Clarke that wrote “Two possibilities exist: we are either alone in the universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying”, which he found inspiring. Now, my favourite researcher that we talked to was Dr Sabine Bellstedt who has a post-doctoral position with ICRAR UWA. She talked about spectral energy distribution and how it related to the electromagnetic spectrum. Day two of work experience was extremely engaging, I really enjoyed talking to everyone about their work.
Day three of work experience we were back at ICRAR Curtin and we talked to many PhD students such as Steve, Pikky, Ben and Jayden. We also did more practical work such as locating and identifying satellites and exercise regarding the different velocities of black holes, and then deducing their general location. PhD student Steve uses the Murchison Widefield Array and radio astronomy techniques to detect satellites. Pikky studies black holes, which I found very interesting. She described time and space as a piece of material, and when you have a large heavy object like a black hole, space time can rip. Therefore, explaining why black holes are never ending. Ben and Jayden are working on a project together about radio galaxies, and they showed us graphs that show the relationship between the frequency of a wave and its intensity. The practical activity of locating and identifying satellites was good fun. Myself and two other work experience students found one satellite that was moving over the Murchison Widefield Array on the 9th of September 2019 and 2:35 pm. We identified this satellite as Intercosmos 24 with the help of the internet and an app called SKYVIEW. I really enjoyed the black holes activity. Basically, we were given three different positions of two different black holes, and using vectors, we discovered that one of the black holes was moving and the other one wasn’t moving. From this, we could deduce that the black hole that was moving is inside our galaxy, and that the black hole that wasn’t moving isn’t inside our galaxy. I really enjoyed this day because we already knew our way around because we had been to ICRAR Curtin on Monday and all of the information wasn’t as overwhelming.
Day four back at ICRAR Curtin, we were introduced to Dr Adrian Sutin Jo, and he heads up the engineering of the telescopes at Curtin for the Square Kilometre Array. He talked about the different parts of the antenna’s that form the array, electronics, data and signal processing and the different types of cables used such as copper cables and fibre optics. After that, we talked to PhD students Ms Bella Nasirudin and Mr Mike Kriele about the epoch of reionisation. Bella focused specifically on the epoch of reionisation and Mike focused on high precision mapping of the diffused low frequency sky. After lunch, we had a chat to Ms Kathryn Ross who studies irregular radio galaxies as part of her PhD, Dr Jack Line who studies the epoch of reionisation and Mr Daniel Ung who is an engineer that focuses on antenna modelling. I found it quite interesting when Kathryn showed us a graph that displayed the change in shape of a galaxy over the period of two years. Jack mainly talked about the amount of stuff that gets in the way of the signal he needs to measure. Things like sound, dust and gamma ray emissions. The engineer Mr Daniel showed us a model of the antennas that he had constructed using a code that he had written. Overall, I enjoyed my experience at ICRAR Curtin because of the caring nature of the people there and the opportunities that the university presents.
On the final day of my work experience, I was at ICRAR UWA, and we started the day off with talking to Mr Paul Luckas and he is the manager of the SPIRIT Telescope program. Paul actually made the SPIRIT two telescope as part of his PhD, which I thought was quite amazing. I was also quite excited about the fact the he said we could get a login to use the telescope. Then we went on to talk to Dr Brent Groves about the journey he took to get to where he is now, and after we went to plot of the week with Robin Cook and Ruby Wright, where the PhD students vote for the best plot. Since it was the last day, Robin and Ruby introduced us to arxiv vs snarxiv and geo-guesser, which are both fun internet games we played to relax a little. After lunch, we met up with Robin again to complete an activity that involved us calculating the weight of a galaxy in both kilograms and solar masses. I really enjoyed this, mainly because it involved maths and it was a practical, hands on activity. The last person we talked to was a PhD student called Ms Lucie Bakels, and she completed simulation work as part of her PhD. Overall, I enjoyed every day of this work experience because it has really opened up my eyes to the different types of radio astronomy. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the universe and is considering a career in astronomy.