Tuesday, February 19, 2013

On Radiotelescopes & Expectations

Hark all you beautiful people
Waiting on dreams but losing hope
Here's a touching personal tale
Of me and a magnificent telescope

I'll admit my version of astronomy
Only stretched to the optical kind
While a radio-window to the stars
Waited, in other wavelengths, to blow my mind*

Wavelengths beyond my presumptions
Its 'vision' in radio most unique
Instead of the anticipated optical lens
30 giant antennae constitute its physique

Not one, not two, but 30
Radio receivers listening to the sky
Reaching deep into space & history
With data sensitivity that could make you cry**

Oh the things this telescope can tell us
Painting pictures of the radio-universe
Astounding in prospect & meaning
That can't be put into optical verse

And so at the GMRT***
I learnt a lesson about great expectation
That the things I define most narrowly
Might, in reality, exceed imagination

So its not about the desperation
With which you searched or the time it took
But the openness with which you sought
And the new places it made you look


* Radioastronomy is a delightfully mind-bendy way of studying objects in the sky, where stargazers don't use visible light to capture images. In fact the whole act of 'seeing' is re-defined, as astronomers use non-light waves i.e. radiowaves to observe a facet of celestial objects one couldn't otherwise observe. 
As an analogy: There are many ways to 'look' at the human body: One is using only the optical light that our eyes can see. The other is using X-rays. Both give us radically different perspectives of the same human body.

** Especially if you're into really accurate data about pulsars

*** The Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope at Khodad (80 kms from Pune, Maharashtra): http://gmrt.ncra.tifr.res.in/gmrt_hpage/GMRT/intro_gmrt.html

**** What is it about bad poetry that makes you feel so good? 

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