The following post is from Steven Mohammed, an undergraduate student at Colgate University and a member of the Undergraduate ALFALFA Team.
I am Steven Mohammed, a senior at Colgate University. This was my first time to Arecibo and I arrived to learn more about ALFALFA and overcome my fear of heights (more on that later). We arrived and immediately began what would be a series of “scavenger hunts” which introduced us to material related to ALFALFA. We signed up for observing shifts in the early hours of the morning and despite a severe lack of sleep, we were able to learn how the telescope works and how to take data using it.
We also had a tour to the Gregorian dome, which was amazing and scary. I am, of course, really afraid of heights. I made my way along the catwalk pointing my camera at the ground and taking blind pictures so I wouldn’t have to look at the floor. It didn’t help that the catwalk was shaky. We saw some of the workers hanging from wires over the various structures that held the platform together.
As I walked through the platform I finally was able to put my fears behind me and peek at the dish below us. We were so high up we could see the ocean as well as the now miniature-sized cars that laced the Observatory grounds. We made our way to the room containing ALFA and found a cute kangaroo named Pat on it.
We have one day left but this experience has been absolutely incredible. The amount of material I have learned from the talks, scavenger hunts and talking to professors is overwhelming but it will eventually soak in. I have had only six hours of sleep in the past two days but who needs sleep with an opportunity like this?