Friday, April 26, 2013

Yuri's Night and continuing work on my book

During a South Pole winter one has lots of time to think. My daughter Jocelyn and I are considering an around the world bicycling journey. We would like to fly from Florida next March to Lisbon, Portugal then bike through Spain, France, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Japan, South America, Then west to east across Canada then drop down home to Florida on the east coast. This trip is very workable and would take over a year. Portugal to Shanghai, China is about 7,000 miles and about 7 months. 

Mikey the red-nosed Polie! One of the satellite tracking systems I work on failed and so I made two trips out to the radome (3/4 mile). Since it is dark now the walk is difficult in the cold and wind. It is easy to stumble and fall. The little red light just doesn't cut it. It is a harsh continent.
We just had a two day weekend so we opened up the South Pole Drive-in Theater.

Excellent video and sound system.

A nice big screen too. Fun times.

On April 12th we celebrated Yuri's Night.
Yuri's Night is an international celebration held on April 12 every year to commemorate space exploration milestones. The event is named for the first human to launch into space, Yuri Gagarin, who flew the Vostok 1 spaceship on April 12, 1961. In 2004, people celebrated Yuri's Night in
34 countries in over 75 individual events. The launch of STS-1, the first Space Shuttle mission, has also been honored, as it was launched 20 years to the day of Vostok 1 on April 12, 1981.

The goal of Yuri's Night is to increase public interest in space exploration and to inspire a new generation of explorers. Driven by space-inspired artistic expression and culminating in a worldwide network of annual celebrations and educational events, Yuri's Night creates a global community of young people committed to shaping the future of space exploration while developing responsible leaders and innovators with a global perspective. These global events are a showcase for elements of culture that embrace space including music, dance, fashion, and art.

Yuri's Night was created by Loretta Hidalgo, George T. Whitesides and Trish Garner. The first Yuri's Night was held on April 12, 2001, on the 40th anniversary of human spaceflight.[1] This global celebration was preceded by Cosmonautics Day (Russian: День Космонавтики), which was established in the Soviet Union in 1962.

The official poster of Yuri's night.
Yuri Gagarin.
My costume was a model of a GOES satellite. We track this satellite about 5 hours a day for internet and phone usage.

The first mate of the TV series space western Firefly.

During the last two Antarctic winters I have been writing a book about my daughter's and mine bicycle adventures. Part 1 is complete and part 2 is with the editor.
Without maps or pictures the manuscript comes to 189 pages. I hope to have it published and a copy on my desk when I redeploy.
A successful Antarctic season is when you redeploy with ten fingers and ten toes.

I came across this picture I took last season in McMurdo of fog coming off the ice shelf and splitting around Observation Hill. Interesting picture.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Exercise 'travel' to McMurdo and the South Pole Greenhouse is going off

A goal of many winter Polies is to 'travel' the 840 miles to McMurdo by way of walking, running, biking, elliptical, and rowing in the gym. Unfortunately it is now too dark to run outside as only a red light is permitted (because of Dark Sector science) so I am on the dreaded treadmill.

Each mile is marked on this chart. I just reached the half way point but have a long way to go as I plan to do a round trip. If I'm not working, sleeping or eating I am in the gym.

I'm at 420 miles after starting February 18th.
The South Pole Greenhouse is really producing a large variety of lettuce, vegetables and fruits. A salad is served with homemade dressings most days of the week. I have never had spicy lettuce but with some sprinkled on regular lettuce makes for an interesting salad. Along with that we have a seemingly endless supply of ice cream and cookies. Every three days or so a batch of 250 cookies are made. We know when the cookies are fresh out of the oven as the smell permeates the station. The fresh eggs will be gone by the end of the month. The chef does make a variety of delicious pancakes almost daily. 

The South Pole in the winter is not a good place to break a tooth. This crown broke off with the tooth inside. Since neither the doctor or the physician's assistant have dental training I hope the tooth that is broken at the gum line can last until November. If not they will have to learn how to use a dental drill. Not a good thought.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

South Pole ARO Lab in the Clean Sector

Winter has officially started at the South Pole with a depression of the "Winter Switch" in the Atmospheric Research Observatory (ARO), an Earth Systems Research Lab of the Global Monitoring Division (GMD) which is part of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

The Atmospheric Research Observatory (ARO) at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is a National Science Foundation facility used in support of scientific research related to atmospheric phenomena.  ARO is located approximately five hundred meters grid east-northeast of the main station, physically separated and generally upwind of all other station facilities. 

GMD's mission involves answering key scientific questions in three areas of research -- Climate Forcing, Ozone Depletion, and Air Quality. By asking critical scientific questions and conducting detailed and carefully designed research addressing these three themes, GMD scientists provide a basis for assessing the prospects of change in the global climate or in the health of the atmosphere, both of which can significantly affect human health and well being across the globe. GMD is dedicated to acquire, evaluate, and make available accurate, long-term records of atmospheric gases, aerosol particles, and solar radiation in a manner that allows the causes of climate change to be understood.

Atmospheric Research Observatory

The official Winter Switch.

It is now Winter!

Monitoring the air quality at the South Pole.

The South Pole Light Detection and Ranging (LIDaR). A laser beam is sent into the sky to detect the levels of clouds.

Part of the air sampling equipment.

We were given a small bottle to take home a sample of the "Cleanest air in the world".

Corking the bottle.

The sun elevation is now -7 degrees.

This ozone measuring equipment is called the Dobson Ozone Spectrophotometer built in the 1920's. It is still used today to measure total ozone from the ground. The cart is rolled around and a prism on top of the device collects ozone from one of five windows that open. 

This device measures and collects black carbon (soot) in the air.

Surface ozone measuring.

Surface ozone collection.

This devices sits on the roof during the summer and tracks the sun. The small black disk to the right (on the arm) blocks the sun as measurements are taken.

This Dobson Ozone Spectrophotometer is 1920's technology...except for the laptop.

To the right of the laptop is the prism that is pointed outside of an open window.

Originally a piece of trace paper was attached to this wheel to record measurements. Today the laptop is used.

The AERO Lab with the moon to the right.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Open house at the Dark Sector Part 1

As part of the sunset weekend there is an open house in the Dark Sector. I am re-posting this from April 11, 2013 winter as all the science labs and experiments are the same. 

I will later post part two which will include a new set of pictures. 

The three labs that compose the Dark Sector presented an Open House after sunset.

Why science at the South Pole?

copied from:
Sitting at a fixed point while the Earth rotates, telescopes at the pole can track celestial objects for long periods of time from the same elevation in the sky. For many years, the equipment there was used to make long, continuous solar observations—some lasting more than 100 hours.
The extremely dry, cold air is also perfectly suited for observing the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation—the faint light signature left by the Big Bang that brought the universe into being nearly 14 billion years ago. The pattern of these ancient photons reveals the contents and structure of the infant cosmos. Astrophysicists know that the universe has been expanding since the Big Bang occurred 13.8 billion years ago. In the late 1990s, astronomers using exploding stars as cosmic tape measures discovered that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. This led them to the idea that Dark Energy pushes the universe apart, overwhelming gravity, the attractive force exerted by all matter in the universe.
In 2007, the massive South Pole Telescope--the largest radio telescope ever built in Antarctica—collected its first observations and has since been gathering data about the accelerating expansion of the Universe. The $19.2 million telescope was funded primarily by the National Science Foundation (NSF), with additional support from the Kavli Foundation of Oxnard, Calif., and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation of San Francisco.
The telescope stands 75 feet (22.8 meters) tall, measures 33 feet (10 meters) across and weighs 280 tons (254 metric tons). It was assembled in Kilgore, Texas, then taken apart, shipped across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand, and flown from there to the South Pole. For more information about the South Pole Telescope, its science mission and its findings to date, see

If the South Pole telescope is examining the universe on the galactic scale, another relatively new and equally impressive observatory is searching for evidence of the existence of particles at the subatomic level.

Built into the ice sheet, the one-cubic-kilometer IceCube Neutrino Observatory records the rare collisions of neutrinos--elusive sub-atomic particles--with the atomic nuclei of the water molecules of the ice. Some neutrinos come from the sun, while others come from cosmic rays interacting with the Earth's atmosphere and dramatic astronomical sources such as exploding stars in the Milky Way and other distant galaxies. Trillions of neutrinos stream through the human body at any given moment, but they rarely interact with regular matter, and researchers want to know more about them and where they come from.

In December of 2010, the last of 86 holes had been drilled and a total of 5,160 optical sensors had been installed to form the main IceCube detector, culminating a decade of planning, innovation and testing, construction. This landmark brought to a close one of the most ambitious and complex multinational scientific construction projects ever attempted. NSF contributed $242 million toward the total project cost of $279 million.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison, as the lead U.S. institution for the project. In addition to researchers at universities and research labs in the U.S., Belgium, Germany and Sweden--the countries that funded the observatory--IceCube data are analyzed by the larger IceCube Collaboration, which also includes researchers from Barbados, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit the IceCube Web site at
Air and Ozone
The pristine quality of the air at the pole makes it an ideal benchmark for changes in the quality and composition of the atmosphere elsewhere. Such data has been collected since NOAA established its South Pole Observatory during the 1957-58 International Geophysical Year (IGY)—one of the longest continuous records in atmospheric science.

Other atmospheric research at the pole includes releasing balloons to monitor the condition of the Earth's protective ozone layer. Data from these studies helps keep track of how well international treaties, aimed at curbing the use of harmful chemicals, are working to heal the seasonal hole in the ozone layer. To view recent and past ozone data collected by the balloons, visit the NOAA Global Monitoring Division Web site at
Seismic Science
Eight kilometers (five miles) from Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, scientists supported by USGS and others are recording shudders from earthquakes around the world. Seismographs have been operating at the pole since IGY, and data from high-latitude seismograph stations has helped to prove that the Earth's solid inner core spins at a slightly faster rate than the rest of the planet.

One of the newest stations in the Global Seismograph Network (GSN) is called SPRESO: South Pole Remote Earth Science Observatory. Operated by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, a research consortium of 100 universities, it is the quietest seismic listening post on the planet. It employs instruments installed roughly 300 meters (1000 feet) beneath the surface of the continental East Antarctic ice sheet to recorded seismic waves that ring through the globe like vibrations in a struck bell. Further information about GSN is available at
Off-World Simulations
Even the relentless wind that carries and drifts snow across the Antarctic plateau, while a continual obstacle for designers of the new station, is beneficial to scientists. In 2004, the Tumbleweed Rover, a product of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, left South Pole station on a 70-kilometer (40-mile), wind-driven trek across Antarctica. The test was designed to confirm the rover's long-term durability in an extremely cold environment, with an eye toward eventually using the devices to explore the Martian polar caps and other planets in the solar system. Further information about Tumbleweed's trek across the Antarctic plateau is available in NSF press release 04-024 at

—by Peter West

Open House at the Dark Sector. This is the MAPO Laboratory with radio telescopes.

Looking up to the SPUD (South Pole Upgrade DASI mount)/KECK Array. This system also does cosmic microwave research of the universe.
SPUD/KECK Array is on the left. The building is called MAPO.

This is one of the five receivers/detectors that make up the telescope.
This picture I took earlier in the season shows the topside of the receivers.

A large amount of cable wrap. The array of five receivers rotate inside the stationary parabolic reflector.

It is commonly called the South Pole Inflationary Cosmology Experiment (SPICE) antenna and fits the five SPICE Girls. Photo credit: Robert Schwarz.

The South Pole Telescope (SPT) looks back to the universe almost 14 billion years ago.

This is the perfect spot for SPT. The air is clean, cold, dry, and dark in the winter. There is no air or light pollution.

A previous picture of the IceCube Laboratory.

The neutrinos captured by the 5,484 Digital Optical Modules (DOMs) as shown on a previous post are captured and displayed on this monitor. Data from the detectors is processed and sent to researchers from 39 institutions in eleven countries. 
A Digital Optical Module (DOM)

The cables from the 86 strings and thousands of DOMs come up from the ice in the two IceCube columns.
The cable tray coming from one of the lab columns.

Patch panel for all the cables.

The cables are routed to the rear of the computer servers.

There are close to 100 servers.

The layout of a server.