Visit to the Jansky Very Large Array

(click on images within grids for a bigger image)

When you’re building the world’s largest radio telescope, then you need to go and see how other observatories have done the same and learn what lessons you can – which are the good operational practices and what are the mistakes you should try to avoid.

Early in September, we went to visit the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, in New Mexico, USA. The JVLA is an iconic radio telescope with its distinctive ‘Y’ shaped configuration and featuring in various film and TV shows, most notably perhaps in the movie Contact.

At the time of our visit, the 25-metre dishes were being moved out to their very widest configuration where the furthest distance between two individual dishes reaches over 22.6 miles. They are moved, individually, by a transporter along the train tracks you can see in many of the images here.

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One town, One mile, One camera – Bakewell

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Is Bakewell a town or a village? Nestled in the heart of the Peak District it is certainly a very idyllic and picturesque place. We visited during the busy summer season because, well, Bakewell is a very idyllic and pictureque village nestled in the heart of the Peak District.

Whenever I go into towns with the intention of doing some street photography, I always look at the people around, the situations they find themselves in and the interactions between them. That’s what gets me into the right frame of mind for street photography, which is different to the landscape photography frame of mind I need to be in when we are hiking the hills and valleys.

Luckily, there were many characters on the streets of Bakewell that day.

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all you can hope for

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You can’t cheat death,
But that doesn’t mean
death can’t cheat you.

No matter what you do,
What details you alter,
What sacrifices you make,

You will always end up there.

Pain is what unites us,
Suffering is our burden.

There’s nothing you can do to change it.

You must accept the inevitable,
accept your fate

For in the end,
All you can hope for;

Is a simple tranquility,
A peaceful bliss.
An end to the strife.

Just like,
a sweet shot of whisky
At the end of a shit-smeared life.

© Mira Sophia Chrysostomou

One town, One mile, One camera – Valletta, Malta

This business trip took me to the capital of the Mediterranean island of Malta, Valletta. This was my first time to Malta and I enjoyed it very much. A typically mediterranean town especially at this time of year – hot, dusty, rocky. I found the language fascinating as it was very difficult, for me, to place. You could hear influences from the Latin and Arabic languages.

A week long meeting where I would spend the bulk of the day within a building listening and talking to people. So inspired by my post from Edinburgh I decided, over the course of the 5-day week, to enter street photography mode for the approximate 1 mile walk from the hotel to the University buildings where our conference and meetings were taking place.

Having never been there, I didn’t know what to expect of Valletta, but I quickly found that I really liked the town. It has character and charm, and more besides. Arguably, the island is most famous for receiving the George Cross from George VI following the great siege it suffered in WWII. A replica of the letter from the King bestowing the award is inscribed on the walls of the “Grandmaster’s Palace”.

The doorways and shop fronts in Valletta are both colourful, expressive and indivudual.

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One town, One mile, One camera – Edinburgh

A good friend of mine recently challenged me on Facebook to a 7-day B&W challenge. Take a single black & white image each day, for seven consecutive days, and post it on Facebook, and at the end pass on the challenge by nominating someone else. There are lots of these challenges around and I’m not normally a fan of them, but I felt different about this one.

I was spending the week in Edinburgh for a conference, so I wouldn’t have much time to explore the streets or spend sight-seeing. Opportunities for photography would be few and far between. Instead, the bulk of each day would be spent within the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, listening to people talk and talking to other people.

So there was a double challenge – the challenge itself and the challenge of fitting it into the time I had walking between the venue and my hotel, and the hotel to wherever we may be having dinner that evening.

But I did have a card up my sleeve – this is Edinburgh. Anything is possible from a creative standpoint.

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Western Australia, Day 3 – Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory

31 May 2016

Following our visit to the ASKAP array the previous day, a nice meal, a couple of beers and a good night’s sleep at the Boolardy Station. This morning, we’d be visiting the other telescope array at the MRO – the Murchison Widefield Array.

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Getting ready to leave Boolardy Station to visit the MWA.

The MWA is a low frequency telescope array, operating between 80 and 300 MHz, and is not made of traditional telescope dishes but of radio antennae. These antennae can come in a variety of designs. At the MWA they have an uncanny resemblance to crabs or spiders crawling across the landscape.

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Western Australia, Day 2 – Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory

30 May 2016

We left Geraldton mid-morning to start our 5-hour trip across the Western Australian outback to the Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory, the future site of the low-frequency Square Kilometre Array and the current site of two SKA-precursor instruments, the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) and Murchison Widefield Array (MWA). The Precursor facilities are defined as being those situated on the two SKA sites in Australia and South Africa.

Maybe an hour out of Geraldton, we stopped at a small town, Mullewa, for a quick pit stop.

Jonesys Cafe, where you can find quite possibly what are the best muffins in the world, and the hottest damned coffee I’ve ever tried to drink. Norm, our bus driver for the two day trip, was staying cool regardless.

Back on the road and we are truly in the desert now. The weather was beautiful, but the northerners amongst us were constantly reminded that this is the Australian winter, and that it is not always like this.

That’s a big ant-hill, Adam! Try jumping up-and-down – let’s see what happens.

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