Sunset & Twilight 2019
Sun is coming back, kind of sad, always comes to fast. So I realized I don't like the June solstice, down here it means half of the winter is already over and back North it means the days are getting shorter again. And in 6 months it is already x-mas, time is going by too fast :)
But we had an awesome midwinter celebration. On Saturday, as always our cooks did an amazing job. There was also some historical Antarctic food, like hoosh, pemmican, some dried fish and sledding biscuits. Midwinter is the biggest holiday in Antarctica, it marks the midway point of winter and was already celebrated with the early explorers. Today it is celebrated on every year round station.
For several days we had temperatures around -70°C in the past weeks, which means nice clear skies. Just the last few days it's back to blowing snow and hazy skies and warmed up to -60°C, funny if you can say that :)
We had some pretty decent auroras, but also the moon for the past 10 days. But here is a movie from the moon rise.
Time is flying again, can't believe it is June already, in 3 weeks we passed already midwinter, just too fast, still so much to do. This year we had pretty good weather with not too much wind yet and some pretty magnificent auroras, even for the low solar activity.
Yesterday we nearly reached -100°F (-73.4°C) but only just, but more clear skies with hopefully more great auroras :)
And here I had a bit of fun editing this video :) from the pictures below. Watch the whole clip, the variety of auroras is amazing.
or on youtube
It's officially dark, sun is more than 18° below the horizon, also the last 2 weeks were without the moon, add some nice clear skies and some auroras and we had some pretty amazing displays on the sky
the past weekend.
More great auroras over the past few days, but also bad weather. Today the moon rose again. But talking about the moon. I did another 2 week time lapse at sunset, when the full moon was rising and setting
after 2 weeks as small crescent.
So we are in astronomical twilight, if the moon wouldn't be up, it would be quite dark now. But we had some quite nice auroras already for the past days and some nice clear skies. Aurora season 2019 is open :)
Of course we also had our Yuri's Night again :) One of the costumes of course also featured the first image of a black hole ;). That image went through the world press, congratulations on a great job. SPT in the next building over was involved as one of the telescopes for the past years. Unfortunately the program is on halt at the moment, since one of the telescopes in Mexico is in cartel country and it's not safe to be operated anymore :(
We are just entering nautical twilight, the first stars are visible, as well Jupiter and Venus and in the next days it should be dark enough to see Mercury as well. Besides a few days of storm the last
2 weeks were quite nice.
Nice weather for sunset :) We had our sunset dinner last Saturday, was again excellent and after the food coma, yesterday we had an open house in the dark sector at the telescopes. From the 42 this year there are only a dozen scientists all the other personal is support: medical, cooks, mechanics, logistics etc. so we can show them what they are supporting ;)
Last week we converted the telescope back to CMB observations from the calibration setup. That meant 2 days of work mostly outside.
Today the first South Pole winter-over launched into space to spend 9 months on the ISS, Christina Koch wintered in 2005 here at the Pole as cryo tech. Back then all the telescopes were open systems and still needed liquid Helium and Nitrogen every day to keep them cold. Christina was selected by NASA in 2013 and after years of training finally launched into space today.
Today it was also announced that she will stay for 9 months (Expedition 59, 60, 61) instead of the normal 6 months. Her two colleagues on today's launch were Aleksey Ovchinin and Nick Hague who had a launch abort in October and a ballistic reentry. That mishap changed the composition and duration of the next spaceflights.
Also my friend Luca Parmitano will launch on expedition 60 and will be commander of the ISS during expedition 61. See also winter 2013 when Luca was up for his first mission on the ISS. Once both are up there we will at one point have a live feed ISS-South Pole :) looking forward to talk to them.
Things are getting into the winter-groove. Sun is getting low, only a bit more than 4%deg above the horizon, the time of the long shadows, about 2 more weeks of direct sunlight, then it will be gone again for 6 months.
Telescope is running and we are still in the calibration mode. Hopefully we can take the big mirror off soon and get ready for CMB observations. The new telescope which will replace SPUD/Keck-array next season is coming along back in the States.
Pictures of the increasing shadows and the new flag line which helps to find your way to out buildings in server weather and darkness
The new Pole Marker for 2019, designed and made by last and this year's machinist Steele Diggles, a real master piece. The geographic South Pole is fixed of course, but the 3km slap of ice we are sitting on is moving about 10m per year, so every 1st of January the exact Pole is determined and the new Pole Marker is placed. If you compare the location with respect to the station over the years, you see how far it moved.
Back at the Pole for 2 weeks now, coming down worked flawless again, had 2 extra days in Christchurch, which was nice, although the temperatures were a bit chilly during these days.
Station closing was on February 15 and we finally getting settled in for winter. Telescope and MAPO weren't in the great state of last year, but by now things are shaping up.
The last Herc of the season with departing summer folks