Thursday, May 25, 2017

Aurora and time lapse photography from the South Pole!

The past couple of weeks have been busy and exciting here at the South Pole.  There has been a great deal of activity with the detector, but also, the moon has set, which means that the aurora are visible again. The moon is so bright that when it is up it obscures all but the brightest of aurora and even those aren't as exciting when you try to view them under a full moon.  Now that the moon has set and it has gotten dark, many of the photographers on station have broken out their cameras again and there will be more photos flooding their various social media accounts!

Before we get into the aurora, it is worth noting that IceCube had some big happenings last week. We generally run our detector configuration a year at a time.  It's not that there is a big difference from one year to the next most of the time, but it is a way we can break our data and filtering up into more manageable segments.  Most of our offline analyses are actually done a year at a time or with collections of "years" of data.  Last week, we transitioned from our 2016 physics run to our 2017 physics run.  This marks another year of successful data collection by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory! Martin and I assisted some of the scientists and technicians in the North in the transition.  This process involves updating some software on the detector, and in this case, we actually retired an older system in favor of a newer and hopefully more robust one. Overall the transition went well, and we are excited to be starting another year of particle astrophysics research with one of the greatest experiments ever built... not that I am in any way biased or anything!

Not only do I get to work on such an amazing experiment, but I am also very happy to say that I get to live an amazing environment.  Mostly, I don't spend a great deal of time outside, but when I do, there are times that I am treated to one of the most amazing light shows I have ever seen.  Martin and I had to do some repairs the other day out at the IceCube Lab.  Just as a reminder, this is a 3/4 of mile walk away in temperatures that lately range from around -70F to -80F with wind chills well below -100F.  While out there, Martin set up his camera to do a short time lapse (available soon for the public?).  He got some amazing shots, including one of the stills below.  After we had finished our work, we headed back, but the aurora were so amazing, we stopped several times to admire them.  Martin even tried to get a few more shots in before his camera froze. I have included one below that he took of me in front of the aurora.  For those interested in more of his photography, here again is a link to his flikr account:

Here in the near future, I think I am going to try my hand at a little bit of aurora photography. I don't know that I will be able to get anywhere near as good as Martin is, but maybe I can get a few good shots in here or there.

Besides Martin, there are also a few other people on station who have gone out several times to get aurora shots.  One in particular is Robert Schwarz.  Robert has spent more time at the South Pole than any other person ever.  He is currently working on his 13th winter at pole, and is planning to come back next year for one more winter.  Over the years, he has developed a skill at photographing aurora this includes a great deal of time lapse photography as well. He has a few websites with many pictures and his time lapses posted. I encourage you to check them out.

Between Martin and Robert and several of the others who I will try to link to in the future, we have an amazing group of photographers down here! They have done an amazing job of capturing the beauty that we get to see down here on a fairly regular basis, barring light pollution from the moon!

Other than that, things have mostly been going as usual. I am still working on learning French, and I think I am about to start on Russian. I have been practicing more on the violin, and I am starting to think about trying to memorize a few specific pieces I have been working on. I was trying to read a science paper a day, but that has slowed down a bit over the past week.  I am hoping to get a little more focused on that over the next week or so and maybe do some extra reading to get caught up. That being said, I am sure I know why you are all really reading this blog, so here are the pictures!

Martin snapped this picture of me (James) in front of some aurora and the South Pole Telescope (SPT) on our way back from fixing hardware problems at the ICL - Martin Wolf IceCube/NSF

Martin laying down in front of the ceremonial South Pole and the station, looking at the stars and aurora - Martin Wolf IceCube/NSF

Martin standing in front of the station with aurora in the background - Martin Wolf IceCube/NSF

Aurora over the South Pole Telescope (SPT) - Martin Wolf IceCube/NSF

Aurora over the station - Martin Wolf IceCube/NSF

Aurora over the station observation deck - Martin Wolf IceCube/NSF

The IceCube Lab in the starlight - Martin Wolf IceCube/NSF

The moon over the South Pole station - Martin Wolf IceCube/NSF

Martin out in front of some aurora - Martin Wolf IceCube/NSF

Martin got this pic of our station physician assistant taking pictures of aurora... How meta!

This is a shot of our station physician watching the aurora - Martin Wolf IceCube/NSF

Another aurora shot with the Milky Way in the background - Martin Wolf IceCube/NSF

A shot of the Large Magellenic Cloud from the South Pole - Martin Wolf IceCube/NSF

Martin and James posed for a picture in front of the ICL to send to the IceCube Collaboration during their most recent meeting - Martin Wolf IceCube/NSF

16 Hour DarkSector Sky Time-Lapse at South Pole
16 Hour Dark Sector Time Lapse at the South Pole (you may need to click on this one to really see it) - Martin Wolf IceCube/NSF

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing, very beautiful! I know Martin took the pix, but your blog & effort to post them is also appreciated. Stumbled onto Iceman's posts many seasons ago and have been hooked ever since. Always thinking of the folks enduring the long night for science, and all who support them. Be safe, please keep posting, and good luck with your own aurora photogs!

Best wishes from "chilly" SoCal (under 70F in the Sotuh Bay this Memorial Day weekend - horrors!) and hello to Robert,