Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Greenhouse, room pix, and Skynet testing in the Dark Sector

One of this summer's projects in my group was building and sledging a portable Skynet antenna about a mile out from the station to look at the RF interference in the Dark Sector radio telescopes. This project began after I arrived so I was able to work on it. One of the three satellites that we do track is Skynet and that antenna is in a fixed radome that does interfere with the Dark Sector. So we are looking at moving that radome to a less interfering location.

The Dark Sector houses all of the South Pole radio telescopes.  The scientists here are studying what the universe was like after the big bang.  They are using microwaves to see the light at a point in space where it is no longer reflecting off other objects something like 180 million light years away.  By studying this light, and it's heat, they can tell what the universe was like in the very beginning. 

A week after I arrived a new arrival found his way to our lab looking for tools to work on a portable electronic device he was carrying. I directed him to the tools and then went back to my work. Saturday night at dinner I sat with him and asked if he had fixed his device. An interesting story unraveled about his life. He has spent a career building and using portable devices to measure black carbon (soot) in the atmosphere. This black carbon is a part of global warming and has damaging effects on the atmosphere. He has traveled the world mapping out this carbon and has spent the last 20 summers conducting research in the South Pole. Fascinating fellow. 

The greenhouse is being refurbished.

It's going to be some time before we have a salad.

My new goggles arrived. They are larger "over the glasses" goggles and have a small fan to exhaust fog producing moist air.

Fogging is reduced with this fan that is powered by two AAA batteries on the left.

Laundry day. I wash then hang everything up to preserve the clothes and provide some moist air in my room. There is a drying line in all rooms.

I use my larger laptop for entertainment and enjoy watching old movies.

Fine wine with Pringles. Unfortunately the red wines are out already.
The other day I had a snowmobile class.

On the way to work. The sled is used to drag equipment.

The temporary Skynet testing site about a mile from the station.

Skynet antenna.

Checking for RF interference with the radio telescopes at the Dark Sector in the background.

Generator with a drum of fuel.

The RF Shed.

Eccosorb squares, that cost $100 each, were attached onto a plywood wall to attenuate the RF signal.

Removing the Eccosorb squares and foil.

All directions from the South Pole are north but 830 miles behind me is McMurdo Station.

Nice spot for a tan or probable burn. Work at the Pole is exhausting and we are encouraged to take naps whenever possible.

The South Pole Telescope in the Dark Sector. It is called the dark sector because during the austral winter months, when the sun never rises, light-sensitive equipment is used, and so no external light sources are permitted in the area.

The Dark Sector in relation to the station.

Martin A. Pomerantz Observatory (MAPO). Also known as AMANDA for the Antarctic Muon And Neutrino Detector Array. Pomerantz was an American physicist Antarctic astronomy leader.

10 meter South Pole Telescope for observations in the microwave and millimeter wave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Where modern technology meets old. Yes - this is an outhouse as there is no plumbing in the building. It is heated to about +50 degrees F with solar power. I guess in the upcoming winter it won't get used much.

When the barrel is full the lid is attached and a new barrel put in place. I bet the scientists don't take out their own...
The building to the left is the IceCube Neutrino Observatory lab.
IceCube - buried under the ice - a story in itself.

We have a test setup on the 2nd floor looking out a window to the portable Skynet antenna.

Looking at our Skynet antenna is an x band feed horn (top right of ladder) connected to a spectrum analyzer. The antenna was rotated and we measured the signal every 10 degrees.


  1. My students enjoyed seeing pictures from the South Pole.Thanks for sharing!

  2. You and your class are welcome. The last flight left a few hours ago with a terrific flyby of the LC-130. I think everybody had goosebumps. And there were hugs all around. What a moment in my life! We are all alone now. I feel like we are in a spaceship waiting to launch to a different galaxy. As we reentered the station the rock song "Welcome to the Jungle" was blaring throughout the station. Thank you for letting me achieve my dream of exploration - wintering at the South Pole. Only 2,000 in this world has ever lived this dream adventure.

    1. Hi Mike!
      I was sharing this site with the fifth graders and had to have the teacher read this note from you, I am such a sap! Your friend's new pictures of the C-130 are very informative as the students don't understand how cold The Pole really is at this point. I can't imagine 6 months of darkness combined to the temperature...
      We are experiencing a colder weekend with clear skies and lots of chilly wind...don't laugh! Florida is so different and this year the trees and plants are already starting to bud like it is spring...oh oh. That means the snow birds are crowding the environment!
      The freshies look so good and I am happy you will have some wonderful treats to fill you up. I have enjoyed the box of Sees candy you sent me, oops, I mean "gave" me! Interesting how a special day is not needed, because every day is a cause to celebrate being alive!
      Take care and keep us posted, Love always, Andee

  3. Love all the spacey designs for the buildings and domes/dishes. Will definitely be using some of these pictures as reference / photoshop scrap!