I have about a week and a half left at Pole and the tasks the Receiver Team set out to do are about done. We installed the camera back in the telescope on December 23rd, just in time to start running auto-observing scripts on Christmas Eve. We’ve been optimizing pixel yield since then and making sure everything looks nominal. So far, it appears the camera is working better than ever, and should be considerably faster than last year, which was the goal. (By faster I mean we can see fainter structures in less time observing the sky).
After upgrading the camera we needed to make sure everything was still in focus. Here's a portion of a map made of a point source at 150 GHz (2 mm wavelength). The source itself should be a point but the optics of our telescope and camera (the beam) smear it out. If we're in focus, at 150 GHz the beam should be about 1 arcminute (1/60 of a degree), and what we measured is bang on with expectations.
On Christmas Eve the annual Race Around the World took place. This year it was 1.75 miles. The course started at the geographic pole, headed past the ceremonial pole, and out towards SPT (which by then was in an attractive pose pointing at 45 degrees elevation to show off the fully completed side shields). Once we got to SPT we took a left towards the Ice Cube Neutrino Lab and then back to the station and around the back side to the finish where we started. My time this year was 19:38. Pretty crappy but not too bad (at least for me) considering it was at 10,000 feet, -7 F, and we had to slog through rough patches of snow (but kudos to the station team who set the race up this year. The course on the whole was in excellent condition). After the race we all got brunch and were rewarded with nalgene bottles with a cool race logo on it. Proof I ran around the world!
The map for this year's Race Around the World. We start and end at the geographic pole, after running through all the longitudes of the world.
The water bottle we got for completing the race. It might say 2013, but it's still a pretty cool bottle.
Later that evening was Christmas dinner. The menu was basically the same as last year (beef wellington, lobster tails, a couple choices for mashed potatoes, etc) and as always the food was excellent. We all have to give it up to the kitchen staff down here - they’re REALLY awesome.
Christmas Eve and Christmas day were the closest we’ve come to days off since coming down here (at that point 5 weeks in) - for me it was just a bit of coding and analysis and checking on some pixel yield issues. Frankly we didn’t know what to do with ourselves with all of the spare time. I took a nap, watched some Battlestar Galactica with my colleagues, played the BSG board game a few times and generally just hung out. It was a nice break. (And might I add... before coming down last year I bought the BSG board game but didn't get a chance to play it, though I noticed they had a copy at Pole. I brought it up early this season when we started watching the show as a group. Might have been a mistake... I think we've played it 10 times now... I have single-handedly made addicts out of seven or eight people in three different collaborations. To friends and loved ones of certain people who will remain nameless in the SPT, SPUD/Keck/SPICE, and BICEP II groups, I humbly apologize for their new addiction when they come off the ice).
The annual SPT Ladies' Night was the Friday before Christmas. Lots of wine, cheese, and chocolates. And slow dancing with a cosmologist! We managed to get our work done in time to share the telescope and the science we do with the support staff at the station that make all of this stuff possible.
A beauty shot of the fully upgraded SPT. This shot was taken from the roof of our lab at the moment of solstice. This is the highest the Sun gets at the South Pole (23.5 degrees) - effectively our noon. From now on it will very slowly set, and go beneath the horizon in late March until it pops up again in late September.