South Pole Diaries 1993/94



29th January 1994

From Michael Burton.....

Well the weather's kept up its show, apart from a brief interlude where it all cleared up and the sun shined in a blue sky for a couple of hours. Visibility got down to 300-400m at times, the the trek across to the Astro building felt a bit like a real Antarctic expedition. But I think it does us good to have to wander out in these conditions at times - reminds us of exactly where we are. You can really be a bystander to the environment here if you work in the Dome and always take the Cats when out on the ice. To tell the truth the gear we've got is so good that you really only feel the chill around the mouth and nose. No planes arrived today. This weather would be no problem however for our balloon-borne telescope.............

A good day work-wise though; the IRPS was put back together and the motors turned! Some minor panics when I couldn't initially calibrate one wheel, and with the other slipping. But a simple offset in the software fixed one, and tightening a screw the other. Our major concern is of things overheating! The heaters that Michael's installed really do their job, and in the lab we seemed to be getting into danger of melting the solder! We pumped on the vacuum for the first time in over two weeks, but its held really well, and we are hopeful we might not need to pump all winter. The molecular sieve (the 'getter' as the Yanks call it) is really doing its job. I played around with the detector in the lab, and it seems to work, and I took some CVF spectra. The most frustrating thing is that there is a minor software bug that is preventing me from graphing the results properly, so I haven't seen what I've got so far, just imagined it from the numbers!

We have now to pump the inner to solid N2, adjust the Fet Balance and flash the detector - and then it can go outside on the roof. I'm hopeful we'll get around to that either today or tomorrow.

Incidentally the gold mirror we're using to reflect radiation into the dewar has now been outside on the roof, unprotected, for about 3 weeks, with absolutely no sign of deteriation or contamination. Even in the ice-drizzle we've had the past couple of days, nothing sticks to the surface of the mirror; it's simply too dry here. CARA have done some expts leaving out mirrors all winter and found the same, so that will make life easier in some respects.

The weekend is the time we can make personal telephone calls, for the 5 hours or so when the GOES satellite is visible. It's imperative to be in the line to sign up early when the list goes up, otherwise you get stuck with the most undesirable times. I didn't know this vital bit of information, and am stuck with the 4am slot for my calls! You're expected to have an AT&T card to charge to as well, so my family is going to be paying for reverse charge calls from the States!


Addendum from Michael Ashley:

The heaters I installed regulate the temperature to +5C, unless the dewar is inside in a cosy +20C environment, in which case the stepper motor power is sufficient to raise the temperature to +60C, which is about 100 degrees too cold to melt solder :-)