iceman's South Pole Page

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Winter - 2012

View and sign my guestbook

Photo Galleries

first days

Picture of the Week

a few picture from work

Around Sunset

Yuri's night

Auroras 2012

an unusual day at work

midwinter celebrations

leaving Pole

November 2012

First day in the green world :) Nice sunny day in Christchurch, New Zealand. NOT WHITE - is nice! Had a look at downtown red zone and a nice stroll through the botanical garden with bare feet :) Off to Australia for a few weeks and hoping for nice weather for the solar eclipse on the 14th. Until next year :)

Flight situation is terrible, we had more boomerangs than flights, went out on the DV flight P005, i.e. only 5th flight this season so far. All boomerangs because of mechanical issues. Very lucky to got onto the plane today.

October 2012

First Herc arrived today - summer officially started. Time to pack up and get ready to move out.

Time is flying now, we started to pack a bit and some people already moved out of their winter rooms. This week we should get the first planes, a Twin Otter and a Basler, both on transit to McMurdo, no new people yet, but we hope the aircrews bring some freshies :)
The first scheduled Herc flight is in 10 days - the invasion, about 100 new people in a few hours. The last days were still quite cold so we couldn't use the equipment to prepare the runway etc. But now our operators have to work over time to get everything ready.

Today we had our Oktoberfest, that is now already a tradition during my winters. I had some help making big pretzels and decorating the galley, so at least it assembles a bit a beer hall :).

One week earlier, Spencer, one of our cooks and I made Wiener Schnitzel with German potato salad. About 40 people went through 45 lbs of Schnitzel, all gone in one evening :)

September 2012

The sun is back up, yesterday after a few days of storm, like last year, the whole disk of the sun was about one sun diameter above the horizon.

August 2012

August brought us some more good auroras, but now the sky is getting a bit bright, we are half way through nautical twilight and sunrise is 3 weeks away, as well we got the moon at the moment.

The last weeks we could nicely observe how fast Mars was moving across the sky.

Time is flying, and in less than 2 months the first plane is supposed to be here.

Yeah, the star trail picture made Astronomy Picture of the Day

After many hours of processing and many new ideas, the film for the WIFF (see below and last years entry in August)is starting to take shape. I found some awesome software to play around with star trails. Check out Achim Schaller's site and Markus Enzweiler's StarStaX
Here is a first result, a 24h star trail picture, so of course you need 24h of darkness, what you only get in winter time in the polar regions and you have to be right at one of the Poles to have no star rising or setting. I tried it already with slide film back in 1998 (2nd picture), when it was a real 24h exposure, of course you had to stop down totally not to overexpose the image and the SNR - Signal to Noise Ratio isn't great.

Some of the challenges here to take a picture like that is of course, you have to leave your camera out for at least 24h at temperatures down to -70C. That of course only works in a heated box and external power supply. But then again to run cables and power to the box in these temperatures is a challenge by itself. :)

July 2012

After the great aurora displays from the 10th to the 15th and really clear skies, weather turned to the worse and we had 10 days ho high winds, blowing snow and barely any stars visible. But a few bad days once in while at least give you a chance to catch up on some sleep ;).
Just about the middle of the months, one of our He lines, we use pulse tubes coolers, to precool our receivers to about 4K, sprung a leak and we were losing Helium at an increased rate. With a leak checker, kind of a He sniffer I tried to locate where the leak was. Luckily right next to the bad line was a spare going from the compressors through all the cable wraps up to the detectors in the telescope, so we were able to switch lines without even warming up.

The last weeks I also started to really dig into a lot of new software to do more time lapse movies, the WIFF 2012 - WInter Film Festival is coming up and I'm working on a little project, so stay tuned, downloads will be available soon. The WIFF started a few years back and anybody on the continent can participate

On November 13 UTC there is a total solar eclipse visible from Cairns, Australia, if everything works out and I get out in time, I might make it there, that will be quite the temperature jump form South Pole to tropical Cairns :), but I'm very exited.
Today we also passed into astronomical twilight, i.e. the sun is less than 18 below the horizon.

Today we had the first great auroras again, on my personal scale from 1 to 10, that was a 10, because of brightness, structure and movement. Besides the sky being very bright with the moon close to full, they were incredible bright and I could reduce the exposure time to 1.6 to 2 s at 6400iso.

WOW, I've seen quite a few auroras by now, but last night were some of the best ones I've ever seen, very nice corona with long rays, quite bright and the colors on the photos are just breath taking, I call them "rainbow auroras" since they are so colorful. Here is a small sample more soon in my aurora album :)

Coldest day so far with -74.2C or -101.6F and it's holding out around there, so we hit the magic -100F mark already a few times this year.
Also the last few days we had the best auroras so far :)

see also from the 10th and from today :)

Telescope is working good, the repair was a success, attacked another problem with the AZ encoders, after building a little spring scale we found out that the pressure the AZ read heads are pressed on the mount was way to big and that caused all the wear on rollers and bearings, so slowly we are getting there to get all the problems solved :)

June 2012

After a successful fix of the the telescope yesterday, Derek and I were definitely ready for midwinter celebrations. It started in the morning with a farmers market with freshies from our greenhouse, then getting the galley ready for the big feast at night, while at the same time movies were playing in our "drive in" cinema in the gym (see invitation below).
The galley crew did again an amazing job and delivered an astonishing feast :)

An unusual day at work: About three weeks ago the telescope started to have some problems with the third axis, this is our dk axis and besides moving the telescope in azimuth and elevation, this axis rotates the receivers around the optical axis.
First there were sporadic shut downs of the motion program, due to some strange feedback from the motor, but over the last weeks it got worse and last weekend I couldn't move the telescope any more, it would immediately terminate the motion program if I would try to move around the dk axis. The problem with that dk motor is that is inaccessible during winter since it is mounted up in the drum next to the cryostats, to even see what was going on I built a "camera on a stick" out of an old webcam to investigate and we very quickly found out that the bolts holding the motor in place were missing. We had a very violent incident with the control program about 3 months ago, were the controller went nuts and caused violent oscillations on all 3 axis, shearing the bolts on on the az motor and some on the el motors. So we thought that caused the problem for the dk motor as well, but still we couldn't get to it.
After a few days we got the ok to cut into the front panel above the motor and try to fix it. Here are some pictures of this unusual day at work.

This morning at 11:09 (June 20, 23:09 UTC) was solstice, i.e. out midwinter, the sun reached it's lowest point below the horizon (-23.5) and is now back on it's way South, so sunrise will be in 3 months :).
As mentioned before, it became a tradition to invite all the other stations to join us for midwinter celebrations, of course travel in Antarctica during winter is more or less impossible so we don't expect for anybody to show up, but we want to be good hosts and sent out our invitations :).

Here is our invitation, a letter from the White House and our Wall where we post all the nice invitations :)

Make sure you look at all the other nice invitations from around the continent :)(Not working yet, but I'm working on it :))

Uuuppps, I guess it's time for an update again, auroras improved and we had some good ones, but still nothing correlating to the sun activity. But we had some pretty decent weather and 3 days ago and last night we reached -100F, a few brave souls did the 300 Club again.

We had a nice full moon, the moon is always 2 weeks above the horizon and 2 weeks below, we could witness the partial lunar eclipse, also it's nothing to get excited about, and no we could not see the Venus transit since we don't see the sun, therefore no transit ;)

We used the full moon on June 5th to take our midwinter picture. This picture will be sent out to all the other stations with an invitation to join us for midwinter celebrations. These invitation became a tradition, and all the Antarctic stations send them out to the other stations, knowing that nobody can come ;)

May 2012

After a stretch of bad weather, we finally has some clear days again, hope it stays like that, the space weather forecast looks good for some nice auroras, I keep my fingers crossed :).
I also updated Picture of the Week.

We had a couple of beautiful clear days with a beautiful star sky, but now it is totally overcasted again and we can't even see the moon which is nearly full and came up 3 days ago. Here at the Pole the moon is 2 weeks above the horizon and then 2 weeks below, so that gives us some light during winter, but I prefer the dark sparkling star sky and some nice auroras ;)
But so far the aurora displays are quite moderate for what is happening on the sun, but it's just the start of the season and there is plenty of room for improvement :).

April 2012

Finally had some auroras, nothing spectacular, but it is a start :) and it's not totally dark yet. The weather lately is also not very cooperative.

This afternoon, local time, exactly 100 years ago, the Titanic struck an iceberg and sunk 2:40h later. So we had a Titanic afternoon, with some original footage from 1912, two Titanic movies - "A night to remember (1958)" and "Titanic (1997) and lots of documentaries, all together about 8.5h without breaks.

The night before we had Yuri's night, to celebrate the 51st anniversary of humans in Space, which happened actually on the 12th of April 1961

Getting dark, but we are still in nautical twilight, but it's beautiful outside.

Beautiful sky, first dozen of stars are visible :) Telescope is back to CMB observations and drive system behaves.

March 2012

After a few very long days in MAPO, the telescope is working again, we were lucky, the motor and gear box are ok, and damage to the encoder tape and other parts is minimal. Still investigating what caused the problem, but we replaced a few parts and I'm feeling more confident now again to run the telescope.

Last night we finally saw the sun, 8 days after equinox - very unusual, but it was beautiful and a lot of people gathered in the galley to have a look. I set up the telescope and you could even see bits and pieces of a green flash.

This morning disaster struck in MAPO, the drive system went nuts and caused strong oscillations on the az axis, shearing off the bolts the gearbox and motor were mounted on the telescope. MAPO was shaking like during an Earth quake, amazing how much power the small motor got. So now we are down for the time being.

Open house in the dark sector today. Cynthia made the awesome drawing :)

It was also the first day after a week long storm with some more decent weather. But we missed the sunset, bummer for the first timers here.

Sunset dinner but no sign of the sun, it's blowing outside. The galley crew did an awesome job and provided a fantastic meal.

The sun is getting really low - time of the long shadows as I call it. 2 nights ago I took advantage of the nice weather we have the last few days (it's cold though, -65C) and I put one of my cameras on the mast on top of MAPO and took this picture of the the telescope, I'm standing next to it. Check out the long shadows and my other 2 cameras are clicking away in the background in heated boxes trying to capture the sunset for a timelapse.

Strange weather, very warm, only -30C and it snowed, that's doesn't sound strange, but it is, it's so dry here that we normally get very very little precipitation, but this was quite some large snow flakes for the Pole.

The sun is getting lower every day and we finally started our CMB observations with the telescope. When the summer crew left we were still operating in calibration mode, a big mirror was installed on top of the telescope to look over the ground shield at a source up on a mast on the neighboring building. After two long and cold days outside and with the help of some station personal we removed the big mirror and set the telescope up for winter observations.

The SPUD/Keck telescope but we also named it now the SPICE telescope for South Pole Inflationary Cosmology Experiment and each receiver is named after one of the five Spice girls ;)

February 2012

Last planes today, winter started :) and after our old tradition on the day when the last plane departed, we watched "The Thing" this time the 2 newer versions.

Last flight out for 8.5 months.

Today I arrived at the South Pole again, after a few months further North.

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