Sunset & twilight 2018
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
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.
We had a long stretch of really warm but bad weather, temperatures were as high as -36%degC, 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%degF (-73.4%degC) 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!!!
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%deg 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 :).
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.
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" ;)