The South Pole

The pole and I Once SPIDER finished, I spent a week at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The BICEP3 telescope deployed this year, and I went down to help integrate electronics for which I am the expert. While there, I made a mandatory visit to the two south poles: the geographic South Pole marker (which is updated annually), and the shiny looking ceremonial pole for photo ops. […]

Trails, Boats, and Seals

Roger on the Observation Hill loop One day during SPIDER’s flight, Anne and I walked down to Hut Point to check out the arriving icebreaker. We encountered some seals down there, which also break the ice by chomping holes. They make great huffing noises as the surface and breathe, which made them easy and fun to spot. I liked this so much that I decided to go for a hike every morning, after each night of watching SPIDER. Following the icebreaker, a series of other boats arrived. The main resupply ship arrived just before my return from the South Pole, as did some whales. […]


After a 16.5 day flight, SPIDER has landed. Due to proximity of field camps and fear of drifting over the ocean, we terminated far from McMurdo. Recovering our data will be a fun adventure. But for now it’s time for Sunday brunch. (Map made by John Ruhl) […]

Launch! (Continued)

SPIDER sweater spectators To start the new year, SPIDER launched! After a frantic night and early morning of hurried preparations, we spent much of the day waiting on the weather. Excitement rapidly increased in the afternoon when the winds settled down and the balloon was unboxed and inflated. After pausing to celebrate a successful day of launch operations, we ran inside to start monitoring SPIDER as she ascends. The first day of flight is exhausting, busy, and precious. While we can still see SPIDER, we have fast radio telemetry, which we use to get everything tuned and calibrated. Now SPIDER is happily scanning the sky. […]


Nat With other launches complete, and SPIDER all finished, we’re ready to get together with The Boss for our official pre-flight compatibility check. I get excited because this is the first time I see SPIDER outside (having missed other outings while on night shift). Because this process involves SPIDER sitting outside for a while on a beautiful day, we take lots of photos—including portraits with out soon-to-depart telescope. […]


SPIDER launched yesterday! At almost exactly the start of the new year back home, this is an excellent way to start 2015. (More to come, once I’ve rested.) […]

COSI Launch, Light Show

Awesome balloon eclipse COSI launched today, which means that SPIDER is coming up next. Unlike the usual zero-pressure balloons that are open at the bottom, they use a special pressurized balloon with a heavy valve plate on top to regulate pressure and avoid popping. This requires a smaller tow balloon to lift up the main balloon for inflation. A little over a week ago, they had a very unfortunate scrubbed launch after their fancy million-dollar balloon was out of the box and the tow balloon fully inflated. Due to extremely dense fog, that part of the process was invisible this morning, but the fog cleared up in time for us to see the launch. The lingering fog resulted in some spectacular light displays. […]

Anita Launch

Hanging out on The Boss In celebration of COSI launching today and in anticipation of SPIDER launching soon, I need to catch up on posting photos from Anita III’s launch on the 19th of December. After a gruelling week of scrubbed launches, they finally got off on a beautiful day. […]

Evolution of SPIDER (plus scanimation)

Finally with complete telescopes A couple weeks ago, SPIDER was mostly operational, but nowhere near ready to fly. Since then, we have discovered and resolved two major issues: with excess detector noise, and with funny behaviour of the pivot motor at the top of the payload. I have spent a blur of night shifts conducting tests, performing repairs, and shinifying/sun protecting many of SPIDER’s surfaces. Also included below is an animation from Christmas Morning of SPIDER scanning. […]

Merry Christmas!

Snowy SPIDER ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and at LDB, A SPIDER was scanning, cared for by Bill and me, Cyrogenic detectors, superconducting, Still stuck in our highbay, behind walls obstructing Her view of the cosmos, the microwave sky, Waiting for the balloon that will carry her high, And the night shift is quiet, St Nick too far north, So I watch SPIDER move, back and forth, back and forth… […]