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Science - Space and Atmospheric Physics
The season before SuperTIGER-II's successful 2019 flight, the payload had an unexpectedly short flight over Antarctica. Brought down after less than a day because of a problem with the balloon carrying it, it landed in a crevasse field 150 miles from McMurdo Station. This could easily have ended in calamity. Instead, it led to one of the most daring and complicated recoveries of a long-duration balloon payload in recent memory.
In December 2019, SuperTIGER clawed its way back into the upper atmosphere. The second flight of the SuperTIGER cosmic ray experiment, officially dubbed SuperTIGER-II, flew high above the icy continent for more than a month, collecting data on the high-energy particles that zip through the cosmos.
The biggest experiment at the South Pole is getting a significant upgrade. Over the next three years, IceCube, the neutrino detector located at the South Pole, will be getting numerous new detectors added to its core. It's the biggest upgrade to the IceCube detector since its completion in 2010.
High above the surface of the Earth, flow giant, invisible clouds of charged gas that can degrade radio transmissions, disrupt GPS Signals and play havoc with other communications and navigation systems. But they're not always showing up when scientists predicted. This year geophysicist Alex Chartier traveled across Antarctica to figure out what's going on in Earth's upper atmosphere.
Antarctica can be a double-edged sword for astronomers: conditions there are some of the best in the world for observing the heavens, but the harshness of the place can be hard on equipment. In December 2018, astronomers who launched the x-ray telescope "X-Calibur" to study neutron stars and black holes got a taste of that contrast.
Using data gathered by the National Science Foundation- (NSF) funded IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole, scientists have for the first time identified a super massive black hole as the source of some of the highest energy cosmic rays.
The telescope at the bottom of the planet spent winter calibrating and collecting data after its vision enhancement last summer. Researchers installed a new camera system in the South Pole Telescope, a major upgrade that allows researchers to collect more data than ever before.
As a giant helium balloon lifted the alabaster solar telescope GRIPS (Gamma-Ray Imager/Polarimeter for Solar Flares) aloft, the excitement on the ground was palpable. The team of researchers, who had spent seven years working on the project, jumped for joy and snapped photos of their experiment in the air for the first time.
Scientists working at the South Pole are trying to detect the imprints of gravitational waves from when the universe was only a tiny fraction (about one trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth) of a second old. But first, they have to finish clearing away the galactic dust obscuring their view.
Four years ago, scientists set up the High Elevation Antarctic Terahertz (HEAT) telescope in the middle of the high Antarctic plateau, more than 500 miles from the South Pole. The harsh environment and unique atmospheric conditions here make it one of the best places on Earth to study the cosmos.
The longest running experiment at McMurdo is leaving the station, but it's not moving too far away, Antarctically speaking. The CosRay experiment, which has been recording changes in the stream of cosmic rays striking Earth since 1960, is relocating to the new South Korean station, Jang Bogo, about 230 miles away.
The South Pole Telescope has been involved in investigating some of the greatest mysteries of the universe. Now the powerful instrument in Antarctica will be used to form an Earth-sized telescope to study a black hole in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.