Monday, December 24, 2012

A White Christmas, with sun-dogs

Sun Dogs, credit Jeffrey Donenfeld
Merry Christmas from the South Pole.  Having lived most of my life in warm places, the idea of a "white" christmas is a novel one.  But this year, I had that one pretty well covered. 

The big festivity of the season is on Christmas eve: The Race Around the World, which is a 1.7km race that makes a loop around the south pole.  The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes for each gender were 10min, 7min, and 5min showers.  For reasons of fuel consumptions, we're ordinarily allowed only two 2-minute showers per week.

Unfortunately, I was working on data analysis all "night" long until 6AM that morning and the didn't have the energy to participate (not that I had much a chance of winning!).  So I slept through the race and ran it on my own today (Christmas).  It's really hard to run down here because the air is so cold, and it took me about 25 minutes to do that short course.  The cool air makes your lungs burn a bit.

On the plus side, I finally saw a "sun-dog."  When hexagonally shaped ice particles are suspended in the air, light refracts through them like a prism into a 22-degree radius halo around the sun.  This rainbow effect is pretty common.  Less common is when the particles align vertically, such that the light tends to refract along an axis parallel to the horizon, giving rise to multiple images of the sun.  This happens in the Northern US as well, but again, I wouldn't have had much opportunity to see these having grown up in California and Texas.

I didn't have my camera with me on my run (it's batteries do poorly in the cold weather), but one of the cooks at the base here, managed a good photo of one back in Novemmber.  That's shown above.  These are more common at the beginning and end of the summer when the sun is closer to the horizon and the cooler air helps align the ice particles better.

No comments:

Post a Comment