Wednesday, August 24, 2011

ARIANNA 2010 - Part 4 - Finale

Here is the conclusion of Jordan's account:

And then came the fog. The fog drifted in from the south and obscured the helo pilot's ability to see where he was landing. After several unsuccessful attempts to descend through open patches, the pilot decided to return to McMurdo and try again the next day. Then, we saw from a distance, the helo descend through a patch of fog that had opened. The helo returned, 50 meters off of the ground, and dramatically landed right next to our camp in a whirl of snow and cheers. Although I looked forward to warm food and a hot shower back at the main base, I felt the Antarctic wilderness calling me back. I admired its raw untouched beauty as we ascended through the clouds above the glaciers, and looked back as our experiment disappeared in the distance.

The first flights leaving McMurdo were delayed, and it turned out we'd be spending Christmas in McMurdo. Steve and I had planned on this, and simply enjoyed the food and good company in the mess hall, which had quite a buffet for Christmas dinner. I also took the opportunity to hike to the top of Observation Hill, which looks out over McMurdo and the surrounding ice shelf.

After we drove to Pegasus air field, where our C-17 was supposed to embark for Christchurch, we met several physicists from the CREAM experiment. CREAM (Cosmic Ray Energetics and Mass) is an experiment designed to detect cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere by flying the detector on a balloon. We swapped stories from the field and took pictures. It was a fitting way to end the trip, in the company of fellow cosmic ray Antarctic researchers.

There has been a lot of activity since we returned to the USA. A paper on the results of our analysis of the reflecting properties of the ocean is going to be published in the proceedings of the 2011 International Cosmic Ray Conference. We are also gearing up for next season, and we plan on installing a second prototype station. We've added a new graduate student, Joulien Tatar, who is working on a way to link the two stations together via noiseless wireless communications. We are in the process of fabricating the circuit boards for the next station, which will include a new way of distinguishing the difference between an interesting neutrino-like signal, and radio noise.

Postscript from Spencer: Planning for the 2011 season is underway now.

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