Man has always been fascinated by space. We have gone from worshipping the moon to walking on it; we have gone from observing mars to sending rovers there; we have overcome gravity through rockets. Who knows what will happen next?
A few weeks back, I had an encounter with ETs. Yes, Extra-Terrestrials, and quite a few of them. You know where? Right here in Ahmedabad!
Now, what is the first thing that comes to mind when I say ET? Is it a small, green creature with big eyes? Well, I expected so! But my ETs are anything but that. These ETs travel millions of miles, holding the secrets of the universe within them. Meteoroids.
These fascinating chunks of space rock enter the earth’s atmosphere and become meteors. Others just burn up in the atmosphere but a few lucky meteors survive the journey landing on the surface and they are called meteorites.
I came face to face with them in the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) during the World Asteroid Day celebrations.
You see, World Asteroids Day is observed on June 30th to mark the day when a meteorite set a Siberian Forest on fire in 1908. Fun fact – asteroids are bigger space rocks while meteoroids are smaller. At PRL, the scientists conduct various experiments to decode the secrets of the universe through meteoroids from all over the world. I visited more than 10 labs there.
Here are my 4 favourites:
1. The Telescopes
How to see the vast majority of blackness that envelops our planet completely? The answer: Telescopes! Telescopes can help you see the universe around you.
At PRL, I discovered how telescopes help us study the moon and the movements of the Earth in relation to the celestial bodies. Sometimes, people take a photo using long temporal exposures to capture the motion of stars in the sky due to Earth’s rotation. These pictures are called star trails.
In fact, the pole star aligns with the North Pole, making it look stationary.
2. The Lightning detector
We all know lightning. It’s a natural phenomenon. But what if I told you that there is lightning in space? During my visit, I got to learn that scientists want to study the lightning of Venus! They have developed a test antenna, and are planning to make a bigger version of the same for orbiting around Venus.
I visited a simulator there. A simulator is a machine specially designed to provide a realistic imitation of something that everyone might not be able to experience individually. The scientists/operators first find out where the meteorite is from, then they take similar rocks from earth and try to recreate similar atmospheric conditions like its origins.
An example they gave was moon rock. It is cold and devoid of air on the moon, so they simulated the conditions and tested the rock. These studies help them to design machines for space explorations.
Do you remember Chandrayaan? The parts used to make Chandrayaan were all designed and tested in PRL!
4. Radiation detector
This device is capable of creating a light source, a satellite, angles and similar conditions for day and night. It detects radiation as well! Any solid subject can be studied with this machine.
Our constant quest for the universe has always been to look for life beyond earth and atmospheric conditions suitable to host life. Just like how moon rocks let us know about the origins of the moon and the red ferrous rocks on mars suggest the presence of water and iron rust, there might be a lot more that provides a lot more to human understanding.
This brings us to the question – how unique is humankind in this universe? To continue that quest, here is a quote from Stephen Hawking –
“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.”
Editor’s note: Kian Sarkar is a brilliant SciKid (grade 3) who excels in science, writing, oratory and whatnot! As a part of World Asteroid Day celebrated on the 30th of June every year, Kian visited the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad, where he got to interact with many experts from the field of Space & Tech. Kian wrote a beautiful speech commemorating the day, which is published today while we celebrate International Youth Day (12th August 2022).
SciKnowTech works with the philosophy: Exposure leads to Exploration, and Exploration to Innovation. We ignite the intrigue of our students by pushing them towards exploration with the help of correct exposure through experiential learning. At such a young age, our dearest Kian is an exemplary student promoting the same!