Today, we experienced a Fata Morgana mirage here at South Pole. These don’t seem as common here as they are in other parts of Antarctica, so it made a nice sunset treat for us and I went out to get a few photos. Fata Morgana is caused by a layer of colder air close to the ground than higher up, and makes it look like there’s a massive iceberg or cliff in the distance.

fata morgana

There’s not actually anything on the horizon. Flags lead to the summer tourist camp, and are roughly 2m tall

Interestingly, the mirage was quite visible from the second level of the station, but when I climbed up on the roof to get a good view (before taking the above photo, from the ground), I had gained enough elevation that I couldn’t see the mirage anymore. So, here’s a photo in the opposite direction, of the setting sun, over the cloud of ice that our generator exhaust produces. I suppose it’s the same thing as a contrail – just a long, low, cloud of ice crystals formed by the warm, moist, exhaust from our diesel generators.

sun over generator cloud

There was also a nice waning moon out; the Moon was a full moon a day or two ago, but I’ve been preoccupied with work and didn’t get any decent photos of it. As we’ve discussed recently in astronomy class, it’s not common to see a full moon at the same time as the Sun, except near the poles.

moon over ARO

Just to tie the post together; the building in that last picture is the Atmospheric Research Observatory, which we call ARO pronounced like “arrow”. They’ve got some of the longest running experiments at Pole, monitoring weather conditions, various gas concentrations, etc. ARO is located upwind from the main station, and no people or vehicles are allowed to go past it without permission lest they contaminate air samples.


About ianrrees

Nerdy guy.
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2 Responses to Atmosphere

  1. Shadowdr says:

    Very nice post! I thought that a full moon rises at the same time as the sun sets, so you would never see a full moon and sun at the same time??? I guess things would get screwed up at the poles. I used to understand this stuff. BTW, post more! What time zone are you in?

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