This morning, I got to work, logged onto my computer, opened the terminal, ssh'd into my supervisor's computer network....and almost cried. I had run a bunch of data analysis processes overnight, because each one takes a BAJILLION hours (there are TERABYTES of data. I use a computer cluster with 11 machines, and it STILL takes a bajillion hours.) As I switched from screen* to screen, I realized that all of the processes had ended with error messages.
*"Screens" in Unix: a tool to run lots of things in the background, without having a million terminal windows open
I looked for the output files. No luck. I took a deep breath, restarted the processes, and sent an e-mail to my advisor (Scott) explaining the situation and describing the mysterious error messages.
An hour later, he came in grinning.
Me: AHHHHHHHHH I CAN'T BELIEVE IT CRASHED! I'M SO HEARTBROKEN!
Me: I THINK NIMROD* RAN OUT OF PROCESSING SPACE IT SAID IT WAS OUT OF MEMORY
Me: DON'T WORRY I STARTED IT AGAIN HOPEFULLY IT'LL BE READY SOON
Scott: All the files are there.
Me: IT MIGHT TAKE ANOTHER FEW HO-what?
Scott: The process finished. The files are there.
Scott: Yup! I checked. They're all there.
Me: I-what? Why did it say it ran out of memory?
Scott: It just wasn't able to actually load the images, because of the screens
Me: Oh! Sweet. Wait. WAIT. That means the files are on there???
(Part of the problem was that it put the files in a place I didn't expect.)
*Nimrod is the computer/computer cluster that I ssh into in order to run my stuff.
I started freaking out. Freaking. Out. I was pretty much hyperventilating, I was so excited to see those plots (I've become very fond of plots.) My hands were shaking so hard that I messed up the command line over and over again (Scott was, fortunately, very patient) - and then it appeared! The Plot.
Of what looks very much like a pulsar.
A new pulsar.
That no one has ever seen before.
His name is Terzan5j, and if *actually* confirmed (he has "very likely" status - it's difficult to confirm without lots of different observations of the same thing, but yeah), he will be the 35th and faintest pulsar ever found in Terzan 5, which is part of why he escaped notice before - the other reason is that he most likely has significant scintillation going on (he's brighter at some times than others...basically, he twinkles through the intergalactic medium, like a star.) There is now a picture of him (more specifically, four graphs of his behaviour) on my wall.
I should mention that this "discovery" has very little to do with me, in the sense that all I did was run a bunch of Python scripts that my supervisor ALREADY WROTE, on brand new fancy shmancy data collected by the instrument that HE built. But still. I was the first person to ever see that pulsar. And for MILLENNIA after I'm gone, he'll still be spinning at >700 times per second. And that's pretty cool.
Love and scintillation,