Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Neighborhood

A few days ago I got the chance to take a tour of BICEP, one of the nearby telescopes. It's located a relatively short walk out onto the ice.

On the way there we were passed by a bull dozer moving an integral piece of equipment around.

There are actually two buildings, the one on the left is where BICEP and the South Pole Telescope are located. The one on the right is the MAPO building, which used to be the control center for AMANDA, the predecessor to IceCube. AMANDA is the experiment that I did my thesis on, and now that I've finished, I have fond memories of the detector. Last year it was switched off and the cables coming out of the ice were sawed off, rendering AMANDA silent forever. Here's a shot of the MAPO building from a little closer:

At this distance, you can tell the cone is actually made of wood. Please don't ask me what it's for, as far as I can tell its main purpose now is to make the building really distinctive.

We visited BICEP for a while and one of the scientists was nice enough to spend a few minutes telling about the telescope. It's looking at the polarization of the cosmic microwave background (basically residual radiation left over from shortly after the Big Bang) and they like the South Pole because the atmosphere doesn't change very much. Normally the characteristics of the atmosphere change from day to night as it's heated by the Sun. The long Antarctic winter provides a very uniform atmosphere.

After learning about BICEP we went up on the roof of the building and took some pictures of the South Pole Telescope.

The telescope was pointed right at us up until the moment I got out my camera. Then it started to rotate away, so the best shot I could get was this profile. I think it's because some of us IceCube people have been teasing the South Pole Telescope people a bit. Instant photographic karma. The South Pole Telescope is actually gracing this year's pole marker.

The South Pole Telescope is the tiny white cone far in the distance. I was trying to go for one of those artistic shots with both the marker and the building together. However, my crappy camera and the fact that I have to take my glove off to take photos (it was -50F with in the wind that day) conspired to deliver this shot.

No comments:

Post a Comment