Wednesday, November 30, 2011

South Pole 2011-2012

It's that time of year again, I've been PQ'd and ticketed and am off to the Pole. I thought I was leaving saturday but found out I'm leaving thursday so things just got slightly more hectic (and Sara got slightly more sad). The route is the same: fly to Auckland, NZ then to Christchurch, NZ leaving on the 1st and landing on the 3rd (thanks, international date line). Then off to McMurdo 2 days later and finally the South Pole the following day. I should be on the ice by the 6th and I'm supposed to stay until late January (around the 28th).

I'm definitely not looking forward to the long flights and hectic travel but I am very excited to get back to NZ and Antarctica. This year hopefully I will be able to visit my cousins in Australia who I have yet to meet, as well as catch up with Christian Heeres who I grew up with. I'm nervous as this year will be the first year that I will be the only one in charge of the telescope. Since everything is working excellently, we're down there with a skeleton crew doing testing and babysitting the cryostat so if anything goes wrong, it's up to me to fix it. My main goal this year is to test the frequency response of the telescope at the pole. To do this, I've shipped down a Fourier Transform Spectronomer (FTS) which produces light at frequencies from a few GHz up to about 1 THz with ~200 MHz resolution so we can see how our telescope responds to all frequencies within the band (125 to 175 GHz) and outside of the band. This will be an absolute pain. It's a large device (about the size of a dinner table) that weighs a few hundred pounds that I need to place on the roof of the lab and then couple the output light to the telescope using a series of mirrors and lenses that all need to be very well aligned. The only upside is to align them, I get to play with a really really bright laser.

I'm also anxious to see what state Christchurch is in after the latest earthquake which struck about a week after I left. There were already a large number of buildings in rubble and streets closed after the previous year's earthquake and this one was even larger. I have heard that the famous Cathedral in the heart of the city is in ruin.

So expect posts this year about:

- the state of Christchurch
- race around the world on christmas
- new years at the pole
- turning 27 at the pole
- Australia (Australia, Australia, we love ya amen)
- and many many complaints about how much of a pain setting up the FTS is