Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Our first live outreach and another care package at the South Pole!

The past couple of weeks have kept us pretty busy.  Since we got our cargo in, we have been working to do upgrades on hardware and software in the IceCube Lab (ICL). Mostly things have gone very smoothly, but occasionally, something in the upgrade process hasn't gone as planned and we have had to spend a few hours troubleshooting.  We also had to carry what I have been informed was a literal ton of batteries upstairs in the lab.  I would like to characterize this as routine (or I suppose not in the case of the batteries), but that seems to be the exact wrong word to use.  Every day is different here, at least during the summer.  Additionally, We have had more people shifting in and out of the station. While I look forward to the new faces coming in, I am definitely sad to see some of the old faces leave.  Sometime in the next few days, we will be losing a couple people in the IceCube summer crew, but later in the week, we should be getting a couple new people in to work on different projects. It is somewhat bittersweet.

There were a couple of more interesting things that happened over the past couple weeks, as well.  Last week we did an outreach over the Internet with a couple of schools up north: Avery Elementary 3rd-5th grade in St. Louis and Preeceville School 9th-12th grade in Canada.  Martin (my winterover colleague), Jim and Chris (IceCube summer crew), and I all sat down at about 6am and gave a small presentation about our experiment and life at the South Pole.  We got some excellent questions.  I actually love telling people about the work I am involved in and in general astrophysics.  The problem I ran into with this outreach is that I had to try to explain it to very young students.  Normally, when I try to explain particle astrophysics, I am talking to adults, albeit with a limited science background, but I think this is the first time I have tried to explain it to 3rd graders.  Overall, I think it went well.  Mostly, for the younger group we focused on life at the South Pole with some science thrown in for good measure. Several of the questions that were asked were very good, especially for the ages asking involved. I look forward to our next outreach opportunity.

Another very exciting thing happened last week as well. I received a care package from a friend of mine, Tim and some students from Whitesburg Christian Academy back in Huntsville, Alabama.  It had some wonderful things in it, including some snacks (yay beef jerky!) and some other things that are very nice to have.  I have to say, though, my favorite items in the care package were all the Christmas cards!  The cards and envelopes were all decorated and each had a little message inside.  I have a couple of favorites that I am posting below.  I am very grateful for all the thoughts and effort put into the cards and care package.  It is nice to know that people back home are still thinking about me!  Everyone has been so busy here, we haven't done much decorating just yet. I am going to share the cards with some of the other people around station to help spread some Christmas cheer.

Overall, we have had a good couple of weeks, and I am looking forward to the weeks ahead.  Hopefully, after Christmas, things will slow down a little bit, and I will be able to blog more about the science we are doing here at the South Pole!

 A care package I received from Tim and some students at Whitesburg Christian Academy in Huntsville, AL!

I selected two of my favorite cards, though they were all great!  I am going to share the rest with the other people on station to help spread a little Christmas cheer.

These were the same batteries we had to let dry out after they got soaked in transit.  We had to carry them all up stairs after testing.  I was told they weight over a litteral ton!

We did a quick picture up in the control room outside the server room.  I never thought as an astrophysicist I would get to wear a lab coat to work, but I now I do!  These jackets help minimize electrostatic discharge, so they are a must in the very dry air down here when working on the servers.  (left: Martin, center: Ralf, right: ME! )


Kim Kreiger said...

Great post, and an excellent photo of the three of you. Summer is always this busy, if not more so. You will be surprised how fast the time flies by. Enjoy the Solstice Dinner and Christmas at Pole, a truly amazing week. I hope that our detector gives you some peace and quiet so you can relax and have a great time after all of the madness!

James Casey said...

Thanks Kim! I hope everything is going well for you and everyone up in Madison! Time has already been flying. I am interested to see how things go during the winter!