Last Friday was my last day in the lab, and over the past week I’ve been thinking a lot about the experience I had and what it means for me going forwards. The last day I spent in the lab was similar to Thursday. Simon and I worked on a second cold load to measure the detector response using alcohol, liquid nitrogen, and dry ice.
I was able to run the program to start the detector response curve this time, and I could see the graph move as Simon slid the lid under the box. As we looked at the graphs, Simon and I talked about the future of the project.
“Will you still get a picture, even if it’s running .1 milliKelvin over what you were expecting?”I asked.
“We’ll definitely get a picture.” said Simon. “It’s just a matter of how detailed it is. Keep in mind, this is the one of the highest resolution telescopes of this kind that’s ever been made. We’ll still get to see the skies. And it’s looking good for the telescope. We know what’s wrong, and hopefully by opening up the cryostat, we’ll be able to fix it. It will set us back by a few days, but we think we can fix the temperature. There is hope for this telescope to work the way we wanted!”
This was good news for me. I couldn’t even imagine the frustration I would feel if I had worked on such an expensive and difficult project for so long just for it to fail. But the hope Simon was feeling and the determination he had to make the project made me confident they would find a way to fix their problem.
After spending a week in a lab, I have a better idea of what it means to be an astrophysics. Sara described that there’s a lot of small-scale work and programming work to get to the big stuff (looking at the galaxies). This was something I never thought of, and it’s a good thing to know going forwards if I want to do this kind of work. Sara also said there’s a more theoretical side to astrophysics, one where theories are developed and ideas are thought up. It seems that it’s possible to do a multitude of things in this field. Although sometimes working in the lab was difficult and tedious, with lots of tests being run and lots of data to sift through, I can only imagine what it leads to. Doing the tedious work is worth it to look up into the sky and through time to the beginning of our universe. Spending a few weeks, a few months, a few years working on a telescope may seem boring, but it’s worth it to look up at the stars and to start to understand how we got here.