We got to go on a guided tour of ice formations jutting up from the ice sheet, then a couple days later I was on my way home. What an experience!

Near the New Zealand base, the ice sheet over the frozen ocean is under pressure from ocean currents flowing in the liquid below, and pressure from the ice itself freezing. Or at least that’s what I remember our hike guide telling us…you’d have to ask him more about the physics of it all! Anyway, the result of all this is beautiful pressure ridges, striking formations of blue ice that change even day to day in response to the pressure that forms them. …


The mountains in the distance are beautiful, but there are also some hills nearby that are fun to climb.

There’s plenty of work to do during the week, but so far I’ve had every Sunday off which is very nice. After getting the Outdoor Safety Lecture, you can go on hikes around the station. The first one I took was up the nearby hill, you could call it a small mountain, called Observation Hill. It’s not actual mountain climbing, but it’s a pretty steep hike, and at times it feels slippy. But it’s safe, and the view from the top is wonderful. …


I’ll write a little about the work I’m actually doing here, and the work I did for my PhD thesis that brought me here in the first place.

From my first post on medium, you can read some about the big-picture science of why we’re in Antarctica getting ready to operate our telescopes from a high-altitude balloon. We’re among several groups directly observing the early universe to make measurements that will tell us about the physics that powered the big bang.

To see this glow from the aftermath of the big bang, we have three telescopes that are sensitive to light waves at a frequency of 95 GHz, and three more that are sensitive to light waves at 150 GHz. For comparison, cell phones communicate using lower frequency 1 GHz waves, and regular visible light we see with our eyes is at much higher frequencies, roughly 600,000 GHz. This means that our observing frequencies are too high to borrow conventional cell phone technology, and too low to borrow conventional optics technology, so we need to build our own detectors and telescopes. …


I finally made it to McMurdo, Antarctica! I’ve had two good workdays so far out at the balloon facility here, but I’m getting ahead of the story.

First, I flew from Phoenix to Los Angeles, a quick flight. Then after a few hours of a layover, I took the longest flight I’ve ever taken, LAX to Sydney. 14 hours, two nice meals, the person seated next to me was also going to Antarctica, and I managed to sleep some on the overnight portion of the flight. All in all, a very nice flight.

After seeing the Sydney opera house out the plane window as we approached the airport, landing, and walking across the airport, I got on the last commercial flight, Sydney to Christchurch, New Zealand. This flight was Emirates Air, which has really great service. They served a great lamb lunch for us, and I had some 7-up from the coolest can I’ve ever had of 7-up! …


I’m Sean, I grew up in St. Paul, went to college at the University of Minnesota, did grad school at Case in Cleveland, and now I’m living in Arizona and working at ASU. Ever since I saw a Nova episode about it as a kid that mentioned it, I’ve been interested in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). I’ve been really fortunate that I got to work on Spider, an experiment to measure the CMB in grad school. It’s really awesome that we get to fly our experiment this fall on a balloon from Antarctica! …

Sean Bryan

The Early Universe, Microwave/RF, python, and everything in between. Spider is an awesome CMB experiment, Case was great, and working at ASU is fun!

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