CMBR project in 1986-87

What you see above is a seminal cosmology hero shot, although those of us who were there had no idea that this project would someday create the need for what we now know as the Dark Sector. From left: Mark Dragovan, Bob Pernic, Martin Pomerantz, Robert Pfeiffer, and Tony Stark.

[I was on station when this photo was taken in January 1987, I visited this site and met most of these people, but as this was my first time at Pole since 1977, I was far too busy looking at station facilities and power stuff to take photos of this.]

The project (which apparently did not have a catchy acronymic name, unlike most other Pole astrophysical efforts) was located about a mile grid south of the station on the same side of the skiway (remember that there was no Dark Sector on the other side of the skiway back then). It consisted of a 1.2m offset telescope with a switching scheme connected to two one-pixel (!?) bolometers, which were chilled to 0.3K with liquid helium. Unlike Marty Pomerantz's EMILIE project of a few years earlier, this time the LHe delivery (2 500 liter dewars) worked flawlessly, but the primary radiometer could not be made to function. So the project failed to detect any CMB anisotropies (which was the goal). Fortunately, Tony Stark had brought along a less sensitive radiometer named "Miss Piggy" which successfully observed sky noise and opacity. Their success encouraged 3 teams to return to CMBR Land for the 1988-89 summer.

rock and roll
Here's a photograph of the 1.2-meter parabolic primary instrument, along with an as yet unidentified
cosmologist. As you can see, the 1986-87 telescope had no azimuth drive other than the Earth's rotation.

These entire projects were shipped in, erected, calibrated, tested, operated, and then completely dismantled and shipped out, all during the brief summer season, and the resultant short midsummer observing season is the warmest and wettest and thus the worst period of the year. People started to think about setting up permanent experiments.

The group photo at the top of this page appeared in the paper Cosmology from Antarctica by Robert W. Wilson and Anthony A. Stark, presented at a Smithsonian Institution IPY symposium in May 2007; it outlines the history of cosmological research at Pole and is available here. The symposium web site is no longer online; an archive of the agenda with abstracts is here, and the full proceedings (with all of the presented papers) is here (16mb PDF file; all photos are black-and-white). The photo at the bottom of the page is courtesy of 2006 winterover Denis Barkats, who also co-authored a 2007 paper with John Kovac--another excellent historical record--CMB from the South Pole: past, present and future. Another reference source used here is the late Marty Pomerantz's memoir Astronomy on ice--observing the universe from the South Pole, an American Polar Society book © Martin A. Pomerantz, 2004, which is available for purchase here from Xlibris.