To the Edge of the Universe With VERITAS

High-energy particle scientists traveled from all over the world to a tiny cluster of buildings, and four unusual telescopes, on the lower slopes of Mount Hopkins in Southeast Arizona. April 27th and 28th, they came to celebrate first light for VERITAS, leading edge technology in the quest to understand the universe through the interaction of high energy particles with our atmosphere. Of course any get-together of scientists is an excuse for a day of one-upmanship presentations on their own projects; funding is a dog-eat-dog deal among this group!

Trevor Weekes parked his pickup truck near this spot forty years ago. He unloaded a couple of surplus searchlights, aimed them at the dark clear Arizona sky, and launched an influential branch of science. Trevor has skillfully moved his observations from those surplus searchlights to a bank of four state of the art telescopes that could just possibly be the instruments that answers the all important question: just what is the stuff that makes up the majority our universe?

Claire was invited as independent journalist representative of Smithsonian Magazine. She has been following closely the progress of VERITAS for more than two years, and each visit to the site, about an hour south of Tucson, I have taken photographs to support the article. The Smithsonian has made no promises to publish what Claire writes; Smithsonian supports so many scientific projects that they can’t publish something on each, without boring their readership. We think VERITAS is special, and have reason to believe that important findings will be announced this summer.

The scientists were amazingly patient with us in explaining the basics of high energy astrophysics, and the role VERITAS plays in it. It’s heady stuff, having the leaders in an increasingly important branch of science, explain to you personally concepts of universal (literally) import.

Our two day stay at Veritas was made more comfortable by taking our motorhome, Turtle (there was a Turtle 1) and parking in the Forest Service parking lot just outside the gates to the Whipple Observatory Visitor’s Center (the Whipple complex is about 6,000 feet above us, and another story). We were so knackered Saturday night; our heads were bursting with heavy ideas, and the celebratory margaritas. What a treat it was to walk a hundred metres to our own bed and sleep under the quiet dark skies that VERITAS will help us understand ever more deeply.

Congratulations VERITAS!


Comments

To the Edge of the Universe With VERITAS — 1 Comment

  1. Congratulations, Claire at gaining the status of an independent jouralist. I have a friend who gets SMITHSONIAN NAGAZINE. I’ll get him to alert us if you make the printed pages. I’m so envious!

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