Parts

hard drive scavengingSeveral years ago in Dr. Avery’s college class on digital logic (fun coincidence – this is post number 2^7 on this blog), or maybe it was a required “freshman projects” class, a question got asked along the lines of “why do we need to know this stuff when there’s fancy part X that already does Y and Z?”.

I don’t remember the specifics of the question anymore, but part of the answer involved a quip about tearing apart TVs at the South Pole to find a replacement part. Of course, at that point I was just a couple years separated from my first gig on the Ice, and so we had a fun little chat about Antarctica after class.

A few days ago, the Dobson (a very specialised instrument used to measure atmospheric ozone – more at NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory’s page) out at ARO broke, and the failure was traced back to a small bearing that had worn out. This is a really bad time of year for the Dobson to fail, as the ozone hole over S Pole opens up around our dawn, and one of our purposes here is to monitor such things.

A few days ago, I found myself hacksawing apart spindles of dead hard drives to get at the bearings inside, and the Dobson is now back to running.

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South Pole Ice Core

Next summer, drilling is scheduled to begin for the South Pole Ice Core. I read through their website recently and found a neat RADAR image of the area, which was used in selecting the site to drill.

It’s an interesting way to see the extent of some projects here, and some history too.  The main skiway is parallel to the older one, which as far as I know was used for the original south pole station (located between the text labels for MAPO and Dark Sector Laboratory aka SPT). In person, there’s no way to see many of the structures on this image. For instance, IceCube is clearly a hexagon in the photo below, but in person the detector is only marked by bamboo flags on top of each detector string. The old station has been buried (and then demolished), and it’s runway is completely invisible as are many of the old roads.

South Pole COSMO Sky-Med - Annotated RADAR

 

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ICL

30 July aurora over ICLIceCube Lab, where most of the computers that I maintain are kept, last week. The streak at the top of the photo is a polar-orbiting satellite.

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FreeCAD

Before this winter, one of the bigger questions in the back of my mind was how I’d occupy my free time for a full year at Pole. As it turns out, there hasn’t been nearly as much free time as I would’ve guessed, and when it happens, it’s not hard to find things to do.

Over the last month or so, I’ve finally gotten involved in a project that I’ve wanted to work on for a while. FreeCAD is an open source 3-D Computer Aided Design package, which seems to be on track to be a very useful tool. At this point, 3-D CAD is a big gap in available open source software, and I think that FreeCAD stands a good chance of closing that gap.

With 3-D printers becoming more common, there should be a growing audience for this kind of software, and I’ve got a vested interest for whenever I finally settle down and put together a little machine shop. FreeCAD seems close to the point where it works well enough for most of what hobbyists need in a 3-D CAD package, and I’m excited to see what happens when it becomes a commonly used program.

freecad-bb-tool-snapshot

The bottom bracket tool from several posts back

At this point, my contributions have involved GUI improvements, and in working on them I’ve got a growing list of more things that need to be done. If I run out of GUI things to work on, then it’ll be a coin toss between working on the FEM or CAM module.

My biggest project so far involved working on the little icons next to the green lines below. The icons represent “constraints”, which in this case make the top and bottom lines horizontal, the ends of the lines on the blue circle, the flats 1 inch apart, and the green lines the same length.

freecad-constraint-icon-snapshot

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Dark Sector: Neither dark, nor a sector. Discuss.

sky curtainsAnother aurora shot off the DA deck, and probably one of my last photos from this winter with the milky way visible. When it’s clear out, it’s not too hard to see where the sun is, so it’s just a matter of time until the sky is too bright for this sort of thing…

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The Arches Again

arches from outsideThis is what the outside of the Logistics Arch and VMF Arch look like from the outside, when they’re reasonably cleared out.

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Weather

300 club weather pageOne of the rare times when windchill is relevant here, happened today.

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