time reversal

the stories of four physicists separated by the whims of fate

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Thanksgiving, dance parties, and the dome

December 14th, 2009 by liz

It’s been awhile since I’ve written here, and much has happened. First of all, Thanksgiving happened! The pies we made were delicious, and after dinner there was sangria and dancing. In addition to the standard dancing in the galley after dinner, a large crew headed out to the summer camp lounge afterward for some more late night fun, again with much dancing. The next morning when I woke up I was sore and tired from all the dancing–it lasted a good 5 hours!

One of big projects on station this year is the deconstruction of the dome. The dome was the south pole base for many years before the new elevated station was built. For the last few years they’ve been storing food in the dome, but this season they moved it all to a new facility, and I got to go in the empty dome and take pictures before they started taking it apart.

John Ruhl examines a rip in the skin of the dome. Group photo inside the dome.
Left: John Ruhl examines a rip in the skin of the dome. Right: Group photo inside the dome.

There have been a few other dance parties here (one for Karen leaving, and an open mic night where Johnathan tore it up on guitar), which for the most part have been a blast. One of the things I love about the pole is that everyone is equal, and you find yourself dancing to the same bad 80s music with professors, dishwashers, and bulldozer drivers alike. I’ve had a lot of fun in between all the work, which I guess I should talk about at least a little bit.

We finished doing the receiver refurbishments, and hoisted the cryostat back into the receiver cabin. It was once again a task that required squeezing in behind the cryostat to attach pulse tube lines and tighten bolts, but after many bruises we got the cryostat in and operating. The next task was to attach all the cabling that goes between the cryostat the readout electronics. Unfortunately, there are over 250 connectors, so with Abby, Ruhl, and I all working together it still took us a few hours. We brought some speakers up to the cabin with us though, so we had a little dance party while cabling, and really surprised a tour group that Brad was leading when we opened up the cabin door at the end. Apparently most people don’t expect Michael Jackson to be blaring in a telescope control room.

The telescope is mostly on autopilot now–we finished most of our initial performance tests and are now running regular observations. We had a few hiccups in the last week though. We blew a breaker in the receiver cabin, but we couldn’t dock the telescope without knocking over the siding carpenters’ scaffolding, so I had to crawl in through an emergency hatch to fix it. Luckily, the only thing that broke was a router, which we had a spare of. The other problem was that some of the bolts on our elevation drive motors had worked their way loose, and they are located down a ~4ft. long tube, which is mostly filled with the motor. We were able to procure some tools from the heavy shop though, and with an incredible amount of effort with 3 people over 4 hours, we managed to tighten all 64 bolts to the ~180 ft.-lb. torque spec. Otherwise though, we’ve just been observing, greasing gears and bearings, and doing various tasks that sometimes require scaling the telescope.

Brad and Liz in the yoke arm tightening bolts.
Brad and Liz in the yoke arm tightening bolts.

We’ve also started quite a craze with the sauna. SPT and friends hit the sauna twice a week, and we usually run out to the pole afterward. We even managed to convert some skeptics, who claimed that running outside in a bathing suit was insane. So far, it’s been a ton of fun, and we’re scheduled for another sauna night tonight.

Left to right: Emanual, Liz, Brad
Left to right: Emanual, Liz, Brad

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