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… […]

Trunnion Toss and Group Photo

SPIDER group photo For mysterious reasons (possibly related to the cancellation of the arm wrestling tournament), Bill and Jon wondered how far they could throw a spare trunnion (a heavy chunk of steel). This led to a contest, and to an impromptu group photo shoot once everyone was gathered outside. For a little extra fun, I turned multiple similar group photos into animations of the team “dancing”. (Below the gallery.) […]

More Shiny, etc.

Sean takes a look Catching up of some of the action since my last post. Shinification of the SPIDER sun shields occupied me for a few more days. Once that was finished, we had a little fun with the space ship/party room before standing it upright. We have spend much of the past couple weeks busily testing SPIDER in preparation for eventually flying. Some of this involved attaching calibration devices to test the telescopes/detectors. With space in the highbay, we have also been able to scan the gondola, to test various observing modes. […]


Over a hill Today an emperor penguin showed up at LDB! It was first sighted near Willy Field by day shifters on their way home. But for night shift it came right out to to the balloon base. I don’t want to judge day shift to harshly, but I think I smell better than they do. I said it. (I also have backlog of photos from the past week since posting last. This warranted jumping the queue.) […]


The professors and lots of wine A week ago today was the big (American) Thanksgiving feast in McMurdo (on Saturday, like most celebrations, since many people have Sunday off). There was a delicious meal, lots of wine, and Freezing Man—a weird but fun dance party. These things conspired to distract me from photography. This is all I’ve got. […]

Liquid Helium and Shiny Things

Cynthia handles the stinger From November 26th to December 1st. With Theo mounted on the gondola, more critical operations can proceed. The cryo team can start filling liquid helium to get things extra cold. And the space formerly occupied by Theo is used to assemble the sun shields. These need to be covered in aluminized mylar, which makes them shiny and pretty (plus opaque, cooler in the sun, and radio interference blocking). Several people are engaged in arts and crafts for several days to complete the covering. […]