Origins of the Universe – South Pole Station

Origins of the Universe – South Pole Station

Music

To learn more about the early days of our universe, astronomers have been gathering signals from space at a remote site in the Antarctic. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Due to its location near the south Pole, the project site is dark for six months of the year. And this darkness, along with other attributes of this southernmost location, allows scientists to collect accurate data. John Carlstrom, an astronomer from the University of Chicago, points out that the radiation from space that he’s been trying to monitor is easily distorted by water vapor held within the Earth’s atmosphere.

“Well our research pertains to looking through the atmosphere, looking at the very early universe. And we’re doing this at wavelengths which actually are being absorbed by water vapor in the atmosphere. So we wanted to go to a very dry spot, and a very cold spot, so there wouldn’t be much water vapor in the atmosphere. Even when there’s not clouds, the air holds water, you talk about how much humidity is in the air. You know, if you took a hot summer day with high humidity and cooled it quickly, it would rain, thundershowers, water would condense out of the atmosphere. Well, going to the South Pole where actually in the winter it can be minus ninety, minus a hundred degrees Fahrenheit the atmosphere is very dry, it can’t hold very much water and therefore there’s not much loss. Lastly, the South Pole you might think of as just a big flat desert, but it’s actually high. It’s at an equivalent altitude of about ten thousand feet so it’s actually above a fair amount of the atmosphere as well. So we go there for very stable skies, low background, and a particular very low water vapor in the atmosphere.”

In future programs, we’ll hear what scientists have been learning about the nature of the universe. To hear about our CD please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Origins of the Universe - South Pole Station

The South Pole provides the best geophysical conditions for scientists to collect accurate data from the universe.
Air Date:09/25/2006
Scientist:
Transcript:

Origins of the Universe - South Pole Station

Music

To learn more about the early days of our universe, astronomers have been gathering signals from space at a remote site in the Antarctic. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Due to its location near the south Pole, the project site is dark for six months of the year. And this darkness, along with other attributes of this southernmost location, allows scientists to collect accurate data. John Carlstrom, an astronomer from the University of Chicago, points out that the radiation from space that he's been trying to monitor is easily distorted by water vapor held within the Earth's atmosphere.

"Well our research pertains to looking through the atmosphere, looking at the very early universe. And we're doing this at wavelengths which actually are being absorbed by water vapor in the atmosphere. So we wanted to go to a very dry spot, and a very cold spot, so there wouldn't be much water vapor in the atmosphere. Even when there's not clouds, the air holds water, you talk about how much humidity is in the air. You know, if you took a hot summer day with high humidity and cooled it quickly, it would rain, thundershowers, water would condense out of the atmosphere. Well, going to the South Pole where actually in the winter it can be minus ninety, minus a hundred degrees Fahrenheit the atmosphere is very dry, it can't hold very much water and therefore there's not much loss. Lastly, the South Pole you might think of as just a big flat desert, but it's actually high. It's at an equivalent altitude of about ten thousand feet so it's actually above a fair amount of the atmosphere as well. So we go there for very stable skies, low background, and a particular very low water vapor in the atmosphere."

In future programs, we'll hear what scientists have been learning about the nature of the universe. To hear about our CD please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.