"Parting Thoughts" -- Life on the Inside, As Told by an Intern
Written by Sara Leeper, Spitzer Science Center
June 14, 2005
This article is a followup to "Astronomese", posted on January 28, 2005, "Finding My Way", posted on February 9, 2005, and "The Casual 'Cheers!' Moves Over To Make Way for a Buzz!" posted on April 1, 2005.
|The desk of one of Spitzer's sci-fi geeks.
As I start to pack my belongings during my last day working for Spitzer, I look back in retrospect on the time I've spent at the observatory. I leave knowing that it's possible for a complete stranger to astronomy to appreciate and understand the scientific discoveries that are taking place light-years from our homes.
It's taken several months, but I've finally gotten a general idea of what Spitzer is capable of and how many people it takes to make that happen. From software developers to observer support, instrument support teams to operations planning and scheduling, and pipelines processing to archiving and quality analysis; there are many people behind the data these scientists get back and the beautiful color images that NASA releases with captions that can't come close to demonstrating the awesomeness of these astronomical objects.
As amazing as the science is, the people behind it are also illuminating. The image of the quirky scientist fits well with this bunch! They are a close-knit group with a shared interest in the science that Spitzer is performing, and that shows every day. Yes, their sense of humor might be a bit off or above some people's heads sometimes, but you can't help but smile when you pass a desk decorated with science fiction figurines.
It's hard to explain in layman's terms to people like me what exactly Spitzer is accomplishing. The general populous tends to focus on the here and now. How will space exploration have an impact our lives? The simple answer is that it encompasses so many other dimensions and elements of our lives that any significant short-term impacts are barely noticeable -- except maybe for that beautiful four-color photo on the front page of the newspaper. What I realized is that the long-term effects are immeasurable as we start to discover the evolution of galaxies and solar systems like our own.
They were hard concepts for my mind to grasp sometimes, but when I listened to a scientist explain the processes behind the astronomical phenomena I must have tended to mirror the image with a "spacey" countenance. I knew when I finally had begun to understand what was taking place when I could literally feel the shivers from the awesomeness of it all!
My time working for Spitzer let me leave my small mark on this chapter of space exploration. Among other things, I developed a walking tour of the Spitzer Science Center. I hope that this tour will allow others to experience a slice of the awe that is the motivation for so many of the scientists on the Spitzer team.
And so, "Cheers!" to the Spitzer team; it's been a blast working with you all. Thank you for instilling in me the desire to understand the worlds outside our own.