iceman's South Pole Page

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Winter - 2018

Photo Galleries

Sunset & Twilight 2018


Auroras 2018

Twilight & Sunrise 2018

October 2018


Winter is officially over, the first summer people came last Thursday, after a couple of days of delay - what's new ;) The first 6 winter-overs left on the first plane. Today came the second Basler and took out another 5 winter-overs. Weather looks good for the next days, so hopefully we get a Basler per day to keep up with the opening, since the LC-130s are not flying yet. Taking off at altitude the Basler only takes a max of 6 people out per flight.
Packing and cleaning is coming to an end and hopefully our guys are coming in as planed.


McMurdo got their first plane on Tuesday 15 days late and about 10 flights behind, there were over 500 USAP people waiting to get to the ice and quite few people in McMurdo waiting to get back to the green world after their winter there.
We got the first Twin Otter and Basler on Monday from Rothera and some fresh fruits :). It's always a nice gesture of the air crews, because they pay for it to bring us apples, oranges, bananas, avocados - what a treat. They left on Tuesday for McMurdo as well, they have to make a fuel stop at Pole.
The Basler is supposed to be back with the first 10+ summer people on the 22nd. So a few more days of winter peace and then the real invasion starts 28th of October if the Hercs are working and flying.
First Saturday in October we had our Oktoberfest, already a tradition since I'm here. It was a lot of fun and now more people are familiar with "Ein Prosit" ;)

If you are interested in our work here, the collaboration just published a new paper.

Also the album Twilight & Sunrise 2018 is online now. I already miss the night sky and the auroras!


Sky is bright with 24h sunlight, well mostly, sun was hiding well behind clouds most of the time since it is above the horizon. Tomorrow we might get the first 2 planes of the season for a fuel stop on their way to McMurdo. And the first summer people should arrive in 2 weeks, only a few, because it looks like the Hercs have problems again - yes what is new, and the opening will happen with Basler flights. Baslers are DC-3 with turboprop motors, so they only can carry about 10 people, so it will take a bit longer.

September 2018


Sunrise is 2018, not that we see anything, because the last 3 days a storm moved in, before that I even commented "One of the nicest weather for sunrise I can remember" - maybe I shouldn't have said that. But the temperatures warmed up from about 70°C to 50°C so outside work for station opening can start. We were notified a few days ago the first Twin Otters could be here as early October 9. So a lot of work to get the runway ready and the fuel pit etc. setup.
Last night we had an awesome sunrise dinner, the cooks outdid themselves again. Always amazing how fast the time goes by from sunset to midwinter to sunrise.

I finally uploaded the rest of the aurora images from this year and just about to finish the aurora movie 2018 so stay tuned.
The Bicep-Array mount arrived at the University in Minneapolis, this will be the new telescope that will replace my current one next year, after 9 years of service and will be also be a good cut for my last winter.


Yesterday I could only see Venus and Mars, the other planets and stars faded away, the moon just rose as well. Time to start wrapping my projects up and do some packing and preparations for the summer.
Now with the sunlight already hitting the atmosphere above the Pole, the Ozone hole is forming again. And every few days NOAA is launching an ozone sonde. Here are a couple of pictures from Monday.

Here is an approximation of the distribution of daylight, twilight and darkness at South Pole, so it is dark for about 5 months.


September, time is going by too fast again, stars and auroras are fading :( But I guess it's always better this way than the other way around and time is dragging.

Another panorama of the twilight and the moon with a cross, a rare reflection on ice crystals.

As Mercator projection

360° view pano 28-08-18

August 2018


It's over, kind of the night is unfortunately already coming to an end. A very faint glow of the sun is visible on the horizon. Today the moon will come up again and will brighten the sky for the next 2 weeks and then it will be only 3 weeks until the return of the sun. It definitely wasn't the best aurora season, partly due the huge amount of bad weather days this year.

I took a few more panorama pictures. In the second set you can see the twilight already with Venus just at the horizon.

Panorama from 17-07-2018 as Spherical projection

As Mercator projection

Panorama from 09-08-2018 as Spherical projection

As Mercator projection

with explanations and all the Southern constellations and 4 planets in the sky

Definitely also check out the cool 360° views FB generates when you upload a panorama image

360° view pano 09-08-18

360° view pano 17-07-18

360° view pano 11-07-18

We also had the WIFF again, the WInter Film Festival, where most of the year round stations participate. There is the 48h category and the open one. To compete in the 48h category the film must be created, and submitted within a 48 hour period, it must be no longer than 5 minutes, and must include the following items, which are chosen by various stations and are revealed 48h before the deadline.
This year:
1) a sound - fire alarm / station Alarm
2) an object - a clock
3) a famous quote - "I need your boots, your clothes, and your motorcycle" from the Terminator films.
4) a winter team member - a Plumber
5) an action - Throw / Toss a Snow Boot

Here is the South Pole contribution in the directors cut, a bit longer, so not the version submitted.

And here my two contributions for the open category. The first is a real time aurora from 1st of August, and the second a "Day at South Pole" a bit more than 24h of the whole sky.

July 2018


Did I write telescope is running well in the last entry, I guess you should never do that, had a tough week with several faults, but all good now again ( I didn't really write that ;) )
But yesterday we had the lunar eclipse, we were looking at the forecast for the whole week, because we also wanted to take our winter-over pictures during the time of totality. It turned out that the weather wasn't perfect, winds around 25kts and blowing snow and hazy skies and the auroras were lacking a bit, right now the sky is ablaze again with the green lights and of course it is clear again, always the same if there is an eclipse ....

Since we are on the Southern Hemisphere, Mars is on top and the Moon on the bottom of the picture

And here two short clips, the first one to the end of totality and the second one from a tracking mount, where you can also see how it is shaking due to the wind and at the end the lens gets covered with snow, although the lens and camera were heated.


Clear days, nice auroras, telescope is running well, all good here :) Time is flying but winter projects are advancing well. A few days ago I took another panorama.

As Mercator projection

As Spherical projection

with explanation


Coldest day yesterday for this year so far. Reached -71.6° C, close to -100F but only close ;). Moon is gone and the cold temperatures gave us a nice clear sky. Finally some good data with the telescope and we also had some nice auroras.

June 2018


Sun is coming back towards our side of the planet, well it will take still another 3 months until sunrise, but solstice was on June 21st 22:07 local time. And finally the weather cleared, so the astronomy class just made it outside two hours before midwinter and I could point out the constellations etc with a green laser pointer, also just before the moon came up.
On Saturday we had our midwinter dinner, another awesome feast by our kitchen staff. Midwinter is the biggest holiday in Antarctica, since it is the same for every station and nationality, greetings are send out to all the outher stations.

Midwinter greetings from around the continent

Just before midwinter another dinosaur appeared in the galley, made out of trash cardboard :)

And some selfies under the moonlight


Bad weather doesn't stop and a new storm with high temperatures is predicted. In all my years down here I can't remember 6 continuous weeks of high winds. The worst part about the wind is the drifting. In the past 10 days we needed 3 times a loader to dig out the entrance of our lab.
At least the telescope is running without major problems, not that the data are great with the hazy skies we had. Only one week until midwinter. So the sun is nearly 23.5° below the horizon.

Last week I found out that two of my friends will be on the ISS next year. American astronaut Christina Hammock-Koch is gonna be up there for expedition 59 and 60, she wintered here at the Pole in 2004/2005 and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano will join her for expedition 60 and 61, how cool is that!!! Luca will be also commander of the ISS during expedition 61. I'm very excited for both of them :) During Luca's first flight in 2013 I did a comparison in my 2013 blog between winter at the South Pole and the ISS. Being here during winter is a little bit as being in space in some respects, that is why I sometimes title South Pole winter - space for the poor or space for the little man ;)

2015 I had the idea to do a moon time lapse, the moon is here up for 2 weeks and down for 2, so it goes through half its phases when it is above the horizon. Besides the North Pole (or at least close to it) that are the only places where you could do a time lapse like that. So I rebuild an old amateur telescope mount, which would work in the cold, with an arduino and a stepper motor to track the moon. But the only time the time lapse will work is right at sunset or sunrise, because exposure has to be short enough to actually see the phase of the moon. First try was in 2016, the second one last year, which didn't turn out because of bad weather.
So I tried again this year, weather was mostly good, but I had some problems with the tracking mount, which is needs to run flawless for 2 weeks at temperatures below -60°C. Unfortunately it got stuck a few times :( but since then I replaced a faulty part of the drive and hopefully it will work better at sunrise or last chance next year.
But here is the video from this year, watch the changing phase of the moon from nearly full to a very small crescent.


Wind, Storm, Wind, bad weather continues, yesterday wind reached up to 45kts which is about as high as it gets here, the buildings are shaking, lots of blowing snow and huge drifts and one of the worst side effects is the static. We already have a problem with static during normal conditions, since the air barely has any moisture, but with the high wind and blowing snow the static charge that develops and then the discharges can be enormous. Yesterday our sister telescope had to shut down, after static discharge while moving took out several components. They all came back to live but prevent possible damage we wait until the peak winds subside.

Hard to believe it is already June and less than 3 weeks until midwinter. The new telescope, Bicep-Array is in the works but is not gonna be finished for deploying this summer so SPUD/Keck the current telescope will be running one more year, which means one more winter for me. So officially now next year will be my last winter at Pole.

May 2018


We had a long stretch of really warm but bad weather, temperatures were as high as -36°C, but the high temperatures come with the price of high winds, blowing snow and overcast or at least very hazy skies :( and especially all the snow shoveling that comes with the high winds is a big nuances.
Two years ago at the same time we hit the first time -100°F (-73.4°C) which I prefer much more because of the nice clear skies.
Astronomy class is nearly finished, hope to take everybody outside next week under clear skies.
Time is already flying again, less than 5 weeks until midwinter!!!

April 2018


Pretty dark now, but the moon just came up again, spoiling the night sky a bit. But we are well into astronomical twilight. Already had some nice auroras. All windows are covered up again and this year we had some nice new window covers again.
Also a new impressive cardboard T-Rex showed up in the galley :)

And some first aurora impressions from the past days.

On April 14th we celebrated Yuri's Night, which became kind of a tradition in the past 8 years. The actual date is April 12th, celebrating first human in space and first Space Shuttle launch.


Southern Cross is out, Mars and Saturn joined Jupiter and are visible now as well. We had some nice days lately and are now in nautical twilight. Here are some pictures from sunset & twilight
SPT got there focal plane safely back in the lab and can start repairs, anything like that is a major undertaking in winter with only few people on site who can do the work.

By now I spent a 1/4 of my life in Antarctica, more than 95% of that time at the geographic South Pole... I will add a few more months, but I'm also looking forward to some summers back home again as well.


Already April, equinox was 2 weeks ago and we are just about to enter nautical twilight (the sun is between 6° and 12° below the horizon). the brightest stars are visible and Jupiter is out for nearly a week. Also the full moon came up last Sunday. Conditions were perfect, not much wind and clear skies. On Sunday April 1st we also had an open house in the dark sector to show the rest of the crew, why we are here and what we are doing. It was the perfect day to be outside :)

SPT the South Pole Telescope has some major problems, and lot of effort goes into trying to fix it. At least Bicep3 and SPUD/Keck-array are behaving well lately.

On Saturday March 24 we had our sunset dinner. Again an awesome meal, the cooks really outdid themselves. Otherwise we are getting into the winter groove. We have a quite busy rec schedule again. Yesterday was already the 6th astronomy class, then we started a Spanish group/class, there is a team sport in the gym every weekday. For the next 19 Sundays we will show a Bond movie - already did the last 5. Several nights are game nights as well and a cribbage tournament is running right now as well. So it doesn't get boring at all :).

March 2018


The equinox is only a few hours away, that means the sun will disappear below the horizon in the next few days, because of refraction on the light entering the atmosphere we sill have direct sunlight for maybe 4 days, depends on the density of the air and how clear the horizon is. The only sunset in 2018 for South Pole, it also means during equinox the sun is right over the equator and tomorrow it will be well into the Northern Hemisphere, so hang in there, spring is coming ;)


We are already in full winter mode. Most of the station closing tasks are completed. Yesterday we spent most of the day outside to get the telescope ready for CMB observations. Of course now that weather matters again it turned bad with overcast skies and blowing snow, the first drifts are already developing.
Everybody is eager now for the sunset, looking forward to see some stars and auroras again. But now the light is getting already nice, the time of the long shadows has begun.

February 2018


Back at the Pole for 10 days now, coming down worked flawless, no delays, although a few extra days in Christchurch as payback for the missed summer leaving wouldn't have been bad. But it's great to be back.

Telescope and lab are in great shape, now it's a bit of chaos again, since I'm unpacking all my boxes. But I moved into my 2 rooms. The last 11 summer people left on Friday, a day after the last scheduled flight due to weather on the second to last plane. Then the second lamest flyby ever - they didn't do one, but at least they announced it, not like a few years ago, where everybody was waiting but the plane never came back. At least the hazy skies gave a nice Halos AND we had a partial solar eclipse in the morning of the closing day - kind of a sign "winter is coming" ;)

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