U.S. Antarctic Program news round-up
Kenneth Verosub , a professor of geology at the University of California-Davis and an antarctic researcher, was honored in October 1997 with a Professor of the Year award bestowed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Verosub, who is the first UC-Davis professor to win the coveted award for California, has taught at the university since 1975. His research focuses on the magnetic properties of sediments and sedimentary rocks. Most recently, he has received grants from the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs for research related to the Cape Roberts project ("Paleomagnetic and mineral magnetic characterization of drill cores from the Cape Roberts Project" and "Paleomagnetic and mineral magnetic studies in anticipation of the Cape Roberts Project" ).
In 1988, Verosub was awarded the UC-Davis Distinguished Teaching Award, and in 1996, he received a $30,000 UC-Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement from the UC-Davis Foundation.
The Professor of the Year awards are sponsored in cooperation with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
On Christmas Day, the Laurence M. Gould, the National Science Foundation's new research ship, left Louisiana for Punta Arenas, Chile. The Gould passed through the Panama Canal on 2 January and arrived at Punta Arenas on 16 January. While en route, crews from Antarctic Support Associates, support contractor for the National Science Foundation, and Edison Chouest Offshore, the firm that built the Gould, performed final ship testing and made underway equipment assessments. The Gould replaces the Polar Duke, which in 1997 completed 13 years of service in support of antarctic science. (See the tribute to the Duke at http://hahana.soest.hawaii.edu/pd uke/polarduke.html.)
After an exceptionally smooth crossing of the Drake Passage, the Gould arrived at Palmer Station, Antarctica, at 11 a.m. on 26 January 1998. The Gould's first science cruise began 2 days later when it left Palmer carrying researchers from the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) project for research in the Bellingshausen Sea.
Four days after the 7 January launch of a massive data-gathering balloon from McMurdo Station, Antarctica, by personnel from the National Scientific Balloon Facility, the flight had to be terminated. The balloon, which is capable of carrying over 2,200 kilograms of payload into the stratosphere for a nearly unobstructed view of outer space, had a "flawless" launch, according to project coordinator Steven Peterzen, and was supposed to stay aloft for 20 days, circumnavigating the entire continent. Researchers and balloon experts speculate that the skin of the balloon probably developed a tear, causing it to drop below the minimum altitude needed to conduct the planned research.
The balloon carried a high-resolution gamma-ray and hard x-ray spectometer (HIREGS) to view and record the gamma-ray and x-ray portions of the electromagnetic spectrum in the galaxy. HIREGS is designed to
In addition, a prototype Pulse-Shape-Discrimination system for background discrimination was tested on the flight.
"From a science perspective, the flight was a success," said Peterzen. Within 12 hours of launch, researchers began receiving useful data. "Scientists still got more out of a 4-day flight than any conventional flight." By comparison, data gathered from a Space Shuttle flight might comprise only a few hours of observation time. "From the start," Peterzen says, "things are against you here in Antarctica. We're talking about floating a balloon made of ultrathin fabric around the continent. So much can go wrong; that's why any success, whatever its size, is so sweet."
When the balloon began to descend, Peterzen and his team sent it commands to release ballast in a series of efforts to maintain altitude, but the attempts failed. On 11 January, Peterzen decided to terminate the flight and sent a command to trigger a small explosive, collapsing the balloon. The balloon and gondola went into a brief free fall before the parachute opened and brought the scientific equipment safely to the ground near Vostok Station and automatic geophysical observatory 4 (AGO-4). The Air National Guard flew an LC-130 to the AGO-4 site and recovered the balloon's payload.
On 12 January, the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station community gathered to dedicate the new Atmospheric Research Observatory (ARO). Joseph Bordogna, Acting Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation; D. James Baker, the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at the Department of Commerce; and David Hofmann, Director of NOAA's Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, participated in the dedication.
ARO, which replaces the old Clean Air Facility, is located in the northeast sector of South Pole Station, an area receiving prevailing winds that have traveled thousands of kilometers without direct human influence. Even planes flying in and out of South Pole are kept downwind of the facility to avoid contaminating the air, which is the cleanest in the world. Among projects housed in ARO are air-monitoring instruments for NOAA's Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory, the University of Illinois lidar experiment that is measuring the vertical structure and dynamics of the lower stratosphere, Biospherical Instruments' UV-monitor, and instruments measuring effluent aerosols upwind and downwind from South Pole Station. Completed in 1997, ARO has served as the base for these experiments for just under 1 year.