Less than 30 hours to go before we leave, and time is whipping by so fast my ears are starting to ring. As always, the last few days are the big crunch time due to the fact that we have to wait for our holes to freeze completely before turning on new strings.
Just a few hours ago we ran the first successful test with all 59 deployed strings. It was very touch and go for awhile since several things didn’t work properly at first, but now it looks good and it’s a big relief – the climax of the third act.
As our test was running, we traipsed out in -50F (-75F windchill) to the Dark Sector for a tour of the South Pole Telescope. IceCube and SPT are the 'big two’ at South Pole and it was very cool to see the other one. Like IceCube, SPT is a simple device by the standards of modern physics (compared with detectors at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, for example) but the SPT folks are doing very exciting, fundamental physics, using galactic clusters to probe the role of Dark Energy in the evolution of the Universe. (Not only is the science exciting, but their device makes a cool sound while it’s running, unlike the IceCube counting house which just sounds like any old data center.)
Back in the station and running our final tests now. There is enough time to finish our tests, sleep a bit, pack and get out of here — barely. A great season, though. If it’s the last time I come here I will feel good about it, even though I haven’t gotten out of doors much, at least in comparison with my earlier seasons.
The biggest technical glitch of the summer seems to have been the breaking of my glasses this morning out at SPT. I have a spare pair, but they are too geeky even for me. But, if looking like an uber-geek is the sacrifice to be paid for getting 19 new IceCube strings commissioned and running, I guess I’m willing to pay it.