Sunday, December 9, 2012

Heading South Today

I created this blog to describe my travels to and from the South Pole this winter to curious friends and family.  I've always thought "Droppin' the MKIDS off at the pole" would make for a great title for a conference talk-  after all, puns are the highest form of humor, right?  For better or worse, that occasion has never presented itself, so I re-purposed the name for this blog.  Technically, the detectors we use at our South Pole experiments are TES-bolometers and not MKIDS, but if you can appreciate that difference then you're not really the target audience of this blog.

Antenna-coupled bolometer fo Keck (8mm wide)
I've never been to the Pole, but my detectors have- so I figured it was time to pay them a visit.  I've spent the past couple years as a post-doc at Caltech & NASA-JPL refining the detectors that we use in the Keck Array Telescope (not the famed Mauna Kea Keck Telescope).  Those are shown at left.  Close cousins of these detectors will fly in the balloon-borne SPIDER telescope next winter (to be flown out of McMurdo in Antarctica).  If the funding Gods smile upon us, we may even bring down an additional project called BICEP-3 next year with even more of those.  In a couple years, the South Pole Telescope will replace their camera with one that uses the detectors I developed for my doctoral thesis at Berkeley- those are shown below at right.
Prototype detector for SPT-3G, ~5mm accross

I will be at the base from December 14-Janurary 15.  The Keck Array deployed at the end of 2010.  Since then, we have dramatically improved the detectors we make at JPL and will be replacing some of the existing ones this year.   My work down there will primarily be preparing the cameras for the new detectors that one of my colleagues will bring down at the beginning of January.  We will also feng shui some of the detectors currently there to maximize sensitivity of the overall experiment.

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