Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's that time of year again

Tomorrow night, I will begin my journey to the south pole for the second time. It's very exciting, although I'm not looking forward to leave civilization behind for so long.

For anyone new to this blog, or for a refresher, check out my first post from last year to hear about the science aspects of my trip. I intend for this blog to have a very small amount of science content and mostly describe what life is like at the South Pole.

As a quick refresher, I am part of team BICEP 2, which is a telescope at the south pole that is looking at the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background, the glowing remnants of the big bang, for evidence of the early gravitational waves that torqued our early universe during inflation, leading to the interesting universe that we see today. That's a bit dense, so in layman's terms, the telescope looks in the microwave spectrum (vs the visible spectrum of the Hubble). At this wavelength, the universe glows--a ghost signal from the big bang. Hidden in this glow are clues as to how the universe formed. We are looking for a certain signal that will show when the universe underwent a very rapid expansion--an expansion that explains several "strange" things that we see in the universe today. We're located at the south pole for two reasons. First, it's very dry there. Since we're looking in the microwave spectrum, we don't want a lot of water in the air absorbing the microwaves that we want to see. Next, there's a spot visible from the south pole that has the lowest galactic foreground contamination (it's empty) which is where we observe.

I leave tomorrow night at 11:30 and arrive in Auckland, New Zealand at 9:50 am two days later. I then get on an hour long flight from Auckland to Christchurch where I'll be staying in a hotel in Cathedral Square in downtown. Last year I stayed at a bed and breakfast which was nice but the rooms were tiny and I had to share a bathroom with the whole floor. Although they had decent food and a very nice staff, I think I'll have more fun downtown. The following day, I go to the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) to pick up my extreme cold weather (ECW) gear. Then, the next morning I will depart for McMurdo, Antarctica for an overnight stay before arriving at the South Pole on December 31st--just in time to wish in the new year.

Please post or email me any questions about the trip or random questions about the pole and I'll answer them with a FAQ section. I will have a phone number and email address where I can be easily reached assigned to me once I arrive so I will post them once I know them.

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