Microwave telescopes at the South Pole

The South Pole Telescope

Since late in 2011, I have been working on the South Pole Telescope (SPT). The SPT is the largest microwave telescope inthe world. We observe the remaining light from the Big Bang. It has been travelling through the universe for almost 14 Billion years. In essence, it allows us to see a baby picture of the universe at much less than 1% of its current age.

By making very accurate maps of the CMB, we learn about the physics of the early universe, and how the universe has evolved since then. The measurements we take can also tell us a lot about the physics of the modern world. For example, data from the CMB is quickly approaching an accurate measurement of the masses of the neutrinos.

My work has varied from manual tasks as basic as greasing the gears that move the telescope to high level analysis of the data we have taken. As of June, 2014, I am half way through my second winter at the South Pole. Winters last 8 months (the time during which planes cannot take off or land). I maintain a blog about my experiences at the South Pole

Aurora self-portrait

Photography at the South Pole comes with a unique set of challenges. The first and most obvious is the cold. Our average winter temperature is -70° F. At that temperature, the grease inside lenses tends to freeze, and batteries die within 20 minutes. Furthermore, I have to try to operate a camera with 3 layers of gloves. However, we are rewarded with an incredible night sky and huge auroral light shows.

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