Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Night Log 2013-04-01

SA: Brent
SO: Thea
Others: BBC Travel Channel film crew and later some czech astronomers from small telescopes


On a wind swept and squally night deep in the dark Karoo desert, a BBC film crew emerged from the ridge cloud to interview the SALT astronomer (SA) on duty. After a lovely chat the crew left for the warm beds awating them at their guesthouse in town. Just as the SA was leaving he noticed a small business card on the SALT kitchen benchtop. He swore he didn't see the card there before while making a cup of the finest aromatic chai. It was a most curious thing with an iridescent sheen of green, purple and black, all at the same time, like those paint jobs on doof-doof cars rich people's teenagers have but somewhat more appealing to the eye. On the business card were a set of coordinates on the sky and a strange set of pictograms that included some stick figures with very large eyes and long fingers. These pictograms looked befitting of some cheap C-grade movie prop, so their meaning was not immediately obvious. The SA made another cup of tea and played with the card in the light
, dazzled by the pretty colours, for at least 20 minutes. After losing track of time, it came to him. Aha! The pictograms suggest a changing beacon of light...a lighthouse! This didn't make sense. Not only were we hundreds of kilometres from the ocean, we also didn't have a lighthouse. This puzzled the SA considerably. After conversing with his trusty sidekick SO, the SA decided to simulate a lighthouse with SALT. Even though it was too windy outside and raining, the SA thought it was really important to open the dome and spin it like a lighthouse. After all, those colours were really amazing! Almost like nothing on Earth could have made them. With the lights on, the SALT dome was spun up to an amazing 2.5 times its nominal speed to simulate a light house. Nothing happened for at least 10 minutes, but something was telling the SO that she had to keep going. Just when they were both getting a bit bored with playing with the pretty business card again, the SA could hear a low
frequency humming sound. Kind of like what The Doctor might have acc
ompanying him in the TARDIS. No, The Doctor was not visiting SALT, that would be ridiculous. In fact, it was a large UFO, of the saucer variety, rotating very slowly to create the low hum in a most majestic fashion. At this point both the SO and SA were blinded by a white flash and slept as good as anyone might sleep on a long haul economy flight to whoop whoop. Some time later both awoke to find everything back to normal. The telescope power cables that had earlier been struck by lightening were fixed and the dome nice and dry again. How could this be they thought? Astonishingly the ridge cloud, and indeed all clouds, had also vanished. The SA remarked upon the serious voodoo that must have went down earlier to bring about such a drastic change in the weather. The SA was heard saying "Nobody messes with the ridge cloud, that is, unless they were...not of this planet!". They both check if the telescope was operational again and astonishingly the mirror was already aligned. Th
e aliens must have used some advanced mirror alignment algorithm, the likes of we had never seen before, since the seeing was 0.3" (FWHM) on RSS. While fetching another cup of tea the SA came across the shiny coloured card again. Twenty minutes later after playing with it in the light again, he came up with the idea of pointing the telescope to those coordinates on the card. Obviously the dynamic duo didn't point the telescope to these coordinates, as we all know that headphones are the most sensitive means to pick up alien civilizations. As the SKA didn't exist yet, the Meerkat commissioning team were asked to check it out. Unfortunately, that night, the coordinates happened to lie directly behind the moon and no observations could be taken. Earth's only chance of discovering other life in the universe, and most importantly, life that could create such pretty colours on a bit of cardboard, was thwarted by our only natural satellite. THE END.

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