Ever wonder what it’s like doing science at the South Pole? Join Ira Flatow and his guests today on Science Friday in this wintertime roundup of Antarctic science. Or check out this video from Liesl Schernthanner. She’s the winter site manager at the new South Pole Station (videos).
In January 2008, a century after Norwegian Roald Amundsen erected his small pyramidal tent at the South Pole, the NSF will dedicate the third and newest U.S. scientific station, the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station (above), sitting on the very bottom of the world.
The International Polar Year 2007-2008, officially begins March, 2007. IPY promises to bring about fundamental advances in many areas of science.
The new $153 million Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is a technological and engineering marvel. It will support an array of scientific investigations, from astrophysics to seismology. The South Pole is a unique environment for science with extremely dry, cold air. Scientists at Amundsen-Scott are studying:
- Cosmic microwave background – scanning the faint light left by the Big Bang.
- IceCube — an international high-energy neutrino observatory, one mile beneath the ice.
- Monitoring the condition of the Earth’s protective ozone layer using balloons.
- The South Pole Remote Earth Science Observatory (SPRESO), operated by a research consortium of 100 universities is located 5 miles from the Amundsen-Scott Station. It’s the quietest seismic listening post on the planet.
- Biologists study microorganisms that survive the long and cold, dark Antarctic winter while undamaged by high levels of ultraviolet radiation and an extreme lack of liquid water. The results may show what limits there are to living creatures on Earth—and perhaps elsewhere. Vanderbilt geology professor Molly Miller studies the burrows and tracks that ancient animals left more than 200 million years ago.
Geosynchrous satelites like TDRSS and Inmarsat normally cover the entire globe except North of 80 deg North and South of 80 deg South. You can’t use Inmarsat in the interior of Antarctica, but it’s used frequently by polar stations and ships around Antarctica’s coast. The South Pole TDRSS Relay (SPTR) works since it’s not directly over the equator. GOES-3, TDRS-1, and MARISAT-2 are visible to the South Pole several hours a day (live webcam).
McMurdo Station (above) is the largest Antarctic station. It’s located at 77 degrees 51 minutes S, 166 degrees 40 minutes E. McMurdo is built on the bare volcanic rock on Ross Island, the farthest point south that is accessible by ship. Research at McMurdo includes; aeronomy and astrophysics, biology and medicine, geology and geophysics, glaciology and glacial geology, and ocean and climate systems.