48 Days since my last post… embarrassing!
Well a lot has happened… Let me try to recap and at least post some pretty pictures.
I gave up editing my ultra video. You can find the ‘final’ video here ( I only half recovered the video clips so there’s lots of flaky video and audio in there unfortunately): https://drive.google.com/file/d/1J0CwGQ5PpP5QA4ftgsRkFjxyIGOTf7Xd/view?usp=sharing
We observed black holes with the Event Horizon Telescope!
The South Pole Telescope also houses one of the receivers for the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) which is a set of millimeter/sub-mm wave observatories around the world who all observe the same sources at exactly the same time. This network of telescopes creates a single synthetic telescope with a primary dish (approximately) the size of the Earth, giving us much higher resolution than would be possible by building a big telescope (angular resolution of a telescope is proportional to wavelength/diameter — if it’s diffraction limited).
In order to prepare for the observing run, the SPT needs to install mirrors which deflect the light from the SPT-3G receiver and into the EHT receiver (which lives next to ours inside the cabin). We also must turn on all of the EHT electronics and ensure that everything is working properly before the observations begin. Mirror installation went smoothly with calm winds, clear skies, and temperatures near -80F.
The observing run is about 1 week long, during which the SPT participates in 5 “tracks”. Each track consists of many observation sets of science targets with calibration sources in between, the total track length may be upwards of 16 hours with individual observations lasting between 1 and 20 minutes. Our jobs is to make sure the SPT is observing all of the targets at exactly the right time, by scheduling the observations and calibrations (time permitting). The data recorders are set to begin recording at exactly the right time, for the right length of time, and don’t care what the telescope is doing so if we’re not on target we are recording crap. This means constantly checking the state of things during the 16 hour track, and quickly transitioning to the next source if things go wrong (which only happened once to us over the entire 5 observing days)!
After finishing the EHT observing run in late March, we switched back to SPT operations and began observing the 1500 square degree patch of sky which we will observe until next summer. As the sky darkens and temperatures drop, we are truly getting into winter and I can remember why I love this place so much!
I’ve been doing a lot of work trying to get analysis done for my Thesis and trying to write things of consequence in the thesis… very slow going. Getting code ready to run / running up north has been pretty challenging, but the analysis I’m focusing on now has been pretty fun and interesting. I’m searching for large solar system objects in our 1500 square degree patch that we’ve observed for the past several years. Some challenges of this is deciding on the parameter space to search and trying to figure out how to optimize the code to be able to run a blind search over many orbits in a reasonable amount of time on a computer with a reasonable amount of RAM. Anyway, it’s kept me busy but I will hopefully be ready to run the search soon.
Aside from work, I’ve been running a bunch and doing all the community sports and events (even started waking up at 5am to watch Ken Burns’ documentary on the National Parks on the treadmill in the gym). I’m also considering starting an inaugural “South Pole Endurance Triple Crown” to go along with the standard triple crown that happens here… while running outside last night I thought this up and I think it will give me something to challenge myself with this year. It consists of the following three things: 90 miles at 90 South (run 90 miles in under 24 hours, outside of course), Everest in a Day (climb the height of Mt. Everest in the beer can in <24 hours) , and the mid-winter marathon (an outdoor marathon at/below -90F). Two of the three of these things I have failed to complete on my first attempt, and the third I have yet to attempt. I like this because there are things I’ve failed to complete, and things I’ve wanted to do (the -90F marathon would be the world’s coldest!). So that could be fun and something to keep me interested in working out and pushing myself to get better.
We also had our sunset dinner (Aman and I were in the middle of EHT observations, so couldn’t really celebrate) and more recently (as in last night) had celebrated human space exploration with a Yuri’s night party!
It’s getting dark, but the moon is up now (and nearly full), so no good auroras yet. We’ve definitely seen some bright ones, but it’s been to bright out to fully see the colors. It think it’s supposed to be a good year (high solar activity)! I’m also excited to see the Milky Way again! Bring on the winter!!