Friday, January 8, 2010

Why (and When) Am I Going To the South Pole?

Because it will be awesome!

I'm lucky to be going to the South Pole to work on the IceCube Detector. Deployment of the IceCube Detector has been going on since 2004. When it's finished it will be a kilometer array of 80 strings, each with 60 sensors looking for light in the ice from neutrinos. Every year during the austral summer (i.e. now) large numbers of people head down to the South Pole to install new strings, do detector maintenance, and get their picture taken by the South Pole marker. This year we're planning to add another 18 strings and we should reach our goal of 80 strings next year. My job is to help figure out the exact position of every sensor on these new strings. Each sensor has a series of LEDs which I will be turning on for brief data runs. By looking at the arrival times of the light from the LEDs in the newly deployed sensors we can calculate their position.

Also I will be taking lots of pictures and posting them here, but I'm pretty sure that's not in my official job description.

I leave Saturday January 23rd at 10:50 PM. After a quick 40 minute stop in Sydney, I (and hopefully my luggage too) arrive in Christchurch at 2:05 PM Monday January 25th. Upon arrival I'm scheduled to get my extreme cold weather gear (pdf) so I probably won't be at the hotel until a few hours later.

The next flight to McMurdo Station (webcam) is January 26th. I'm assuming I'll be on it since I'm scheduled to be at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station (webcam) on the 27th, but I won't know for sure until I get there.

Flights to McMurdo are on C-17s. Flights to the South Pole use LC-130 Hercules.

The South Pole station uses New Zealand time which is 21 hours ahead of PST (so effectively three hours earlier).

My return flight is tentatively scheduled to arrive at 8:55 PM on Sunday February 14th.

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