Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2003/04

   

   
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Friday, January 16, 2004

Hey All,

today was a hodge-podge of a day - packing bits and pieces, trying to get a vehicle to move gear, all the sorts of boring stuff that make terrible reading in a diary like this. I stomped over to the Dark Sector again though today it was blowing about 10 knots, and the nearly mile walk this time meant frosted eyelashes, and a neck gaiter that was frozen to my face and crusted with ice. I was allowed to crawl all over the new-ish submillimeter instrument SPIFI, which is amazing, and learned how they cool the detector down to 60 milliKelvin (-272.04 degrees celsius!). -273C is absolute zero. They use a superconducting magnet, that pumps 22 Amps of current through it, and makes a magnetic field of about 8 Tesla, enormous. The way they test to see if the magnet has ramped up enough is by finding the biggest heaviest wrench they have, and watch it snap out of their hands, onto the side of the instrument. It is a clever test because if the wrench drops to the floor while observing, they know something is going wrong with the cooling system!

A sad bit of news today was the discovery that 2003 South Pole marker has been stolen. Each year on Christmas day, there is a little ceremony where a GPS is used to reposition the exact spot where the Geographic Pole is now situated. Due to the ice shelf on top of the continent's gradual slide in one direction, the ice (and the entire station upon it) shifts by about 10m a year. It has been a tradition during the winter to have a design competition to create an image which the machine shop person carves into brass and is placed atop the new Pole to represent that year's season. There is a line of several Pole markers from about the last five years which is lovely as it gives a great indication of the motion of the ice, as well as the passage of the seasons at Pole. It is a source of quite a bit of pride and morale on station and so its loss was quite a shock, and unfortunately seems to coincide with the departure of a group of visitors who flew in for a few hours only. I only hope it doesn't appear on E-bay in a few days.

It is shower night tonight, so I think I'll go enjoy that now. Two whole minutes of water, yay! I hope everyone has a good weekend,

smiles
Jess







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