Tuesday, April 23, 2013

South Pole Star Trails

Southern Celestial Pole above the Elevated Station at the South Pole
  With temperatures staying low, "April showers" have been full blown blizzards here in Boulder, Colorado.  When not skinning up the trails outside to do a little skiing, I have been staying indoors working on photos.  Here are a selection of my favorite "Star Trails" pictures I took while wintering over at the South Pole in 2009.  All of these are single images which I would do by putting the camera on 'bulb' setting and leaving it outside for 15 minutes or until the battery got too cold that chemistry stopped.  Thankfully the camera seems to always save the last picture BEFORE going kaput...
The 10 meter South Pole Telescope and Ice Cube Lab in the background.
  The South Pole Telescope was finally up in full operation during my winter scanning the entire sky mapping the Microwave Background Radiation.  This is the even temperature seen from the formation of the Universe and they would find giant galaxy clusters putting shadows on that background glow.  This was from one of their monthly calibration periods when the telescope would actually stay still long enough for a photo.  The rest of the time it constantly scanned back and forth.  Ice Cube Lab in the background (the red light) collected all of the data from the Neutrino detector grid drilled deep in to the ice.  The "cube" of neutrino detectors are buried 1 to 1.5 miles below the surface of the ice.
The Atmospheric Research Observatory and Milky Way at the South Pole.
  ARO, or the Atmospheric Research Observatory was where I spent most of my time running instruments.  The building is placed a quarter mile out in the "Clean Air Sector" in order to measure away from the exhaust and chemicals of the station operation.  Nearly all of the winds at the South Pole come from the same direction because of adiabatic cooling at the top of the ice sheet running down toward the coast.  This site definitely measures some of the "Cleanest Air on Earth."
The green LIDAR laser fires in to the celestial pole from the Atmospheric Research Observatory.
  The giant green laser on the roof of ARO.
The Elevated Station at the South Pole, Antarctica
  The giant, monstrous Elevated Station.  It's pretty amazing to live in but unless you have a regular reason to go outside, you can easily forget where you are on the planet.  Notice the two small Iridium Satellite flares going through the Milky Way.  They come through every ten to fifteen minutes and since the Earth has rotated beneath their path, they offset in the long exposure.
Aurora above a huge snow drift above the mechanical arch.  Elevated and Dome Stations in the background.
ARO at work

  And one of my favorites of me checking out the instruments while the LIDAR does a calibration.

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