Oct. 20th – Day 293 on Ice

Whew, I’ve been slacking on these updates! Sorry!

Weather: It’s been fairly cold, around -70 to -80F with high winds (up near 20 mph) making wind chills well below -100F. Skies have remained relatively clear, despite the higher winds.

With station open looming only 2 weeks away people have begun getting antsy and the rumor mill on flights, delays and flight order has been churning. I’m not antsy because I know I have to stay at least until the 3rd week in November before heading out. I have to help train next year’s winterovers and perform the summer telescope maintenance that would normally be done by SPTers who come down for the summer.

I’ve been busy attempting to generate a schedule for training and to try and clean up some of the analysis code that I’ve been working on this winter.

One of the projects I worked on was looking at transient (short timescale) objects that show up in our maps. After the suggestion that perhaps these transient signals are caused by balloons (which might sound crazy here at Pole, but in fact is quite common — almost 2 balloons per day are launched for measuring atmospheric conditions and ozone levels, etc) I began to poke around at the data and ask the meteorology and NOAA folks about their balloon flight data.

As it turns out, 3 of the transient events were indeed co-located with balloon flights in both time and space, making it extremely hard to believe it could be anything else. To confirm this, we had to take GPS data from the balloons and pointing data from SPT, and correlate them in time. At the time of the transient events in the scans, the balloons happened to be in the line-of-sight of SPT!

Here is a video I made, showing the path of the balloon and the pointing of the telescope. At +-2seconds of the transient signal, you’ll see a red circle appear at the boresight of the telescope: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jYkyLkeCot8-tv2uqfThmpI9A4qBEBEw/view?usp=sharing

Because of this work, having talked a bunch with the NOAA person in charge of launching the ozonesondes, I was able to ‘help’ launch one of the large plastic balloons used to carry both the Met and NOAA payloads. I must admit, I don’t much like launching large plastic balloons into such a pristine environment, but it was going to be done whether I was there or not :/ .

Me holding the balloon, about to be launched. An unnamed NOAA employee holds the payload, which contains an ozone measuring device as well as gps units and met’s atmosphere radiosonde. The lift from the He was actually fairly ‘heavy’, not to mention the slight winds pulling on the balloon.

Here is a video of that balloon launch. Much thanks to Jeff DeRosa for freezing his fingers off and getting some pics and a video of me!

Balloons aren’t much of a scientific discovery but at least we know what some subset of our transient signal is caused by (part of a so-called ‘transient background’ which includes other non-astrophysical sources like satellites.).

All for now. Hopefully will update more frequently!

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