March, 2001
updated: March 27, 2001; 07:00 GMT

SUNSET!... .the sun is now gone for 6 months  (scroll to the right to see entire panorama)

It is hard to believe that it is already the end of March and the sun is gone for 6 months. It will be a couple of weeks until it is completely dark because of the extended twilight here. The inside of the dome is dark now and we use lights when necessary. The temperatures have dropped as low as -85 degrees F during March and we broke 2 records for temperature and tied one for wind speed at almost 30 mph. At that wind speed one must cover every square inch of flesh in order to avoid frostbite. We closed the large plywood doors on the front of the dome entrance to keep out the blowing snow. They will be kept closed much of the time now. We are still doing quite a bit of work outside, because it is just have to wear more clothing now.   dome entrance boarded up         sprite entering the dome        working outside         frosted eyelashes    .   At these low temperatures the condensation cloud from your breath is huge and the freezing condensation makes it sound like a flame-thrower as you exhale    exhaling at -80 F inside the dome     .

As the sun was getting very low in early March and the shadows were very long, the moon was full and by definition was directly opposing the sun.   long shadows     Here at the Pole you can watch the opposing sun and moon rotate through a full 360 degrees in one day. As sunset approached the moon was waning and the sun was approaching the moon in the azimuthal direction until they met and we had a new moon.   waning moon over ARO tower      . The earth is inclined 23.5 degrees off of the ecliptic plane and the moon is approximately in the ecliptic plane so the moon rises, reaches its greatest height and then sets within 2 weeks (about half the lunar orbit) and then goes below the horizon and back the other two weeks.  We will see the moon two weeks out of each month during the dark winter. Of course, the correspondence between the moon phase and the location in its two week appearance change as the seasons progress. I can't wait to see the stars and the aurora. We are going to move a hut over to a quiet spot about 1/4 mile out to use as a winter shelter when we want to go out and take photos and view all of the phenomena in the dark. We will set it up near the flag line we set up for our daily walks out to the atmospheric research observatory (ARO) , 1/3 mile out from the dome.   sun getting low, 3-15         sun getting low, 3-19       station as seen from the top of the ARO tower on 3-19        snow-covered ARO    .

Sunset was last week around March 21st, but the light refraction here at the pole is very high and we saw the sun for several days after sunset. Sunset was amazing on March 24 and now we can see the orange glow on the horizon and also the shadow from our own earth on the opposite side of the horizon. We had a sunset party inside the new station which is under construction on the 22nd, but it was one of the cloudiest days I've seen.   sunset party         sunset party-dome out window       On the 24th, it cleared somewhat and the sun was spectacular. Everyone went outside and took lots of pictures and we also watched the sun from the skylab lounge where there is a telescope. We saw the "green flash", but at the pole since the sun sets so slowly , we saw the green flash effect for hours; quite a unique experience. We are all looking forward to total darkness now, but it will take a couple of weeks to get dark. The stars will be seen and they are stars that I have never seen before. Also, the milky way is much more visible down here.  victorian sunset         dome sunset    . Our nurse and heavy equipment operator drives her "cat" when not working with Doc Ron in BioMed:   caterpillar sunset         caterpillar sunset II       caterpillar entering dome (photo by Dr. Shemenski)      .   A great place to view the sunset is the skylab lounge on the third floor above my two laboratories, Cusp and Cosray:     skylab sunset viewers        skylab sunset       .

On March 26 you could still see the orange glow on the horizon, but now because the sun was low enough below the horizon, you could actually see the shadow of the earth on the opposing side of the horizon.   glow on 3-26        earth's dark shadow near the horizon    .

The last few days of March have been very windy, up to 26 knots and visibility has been poor and working outside has been tough windy   .

Work has been as hectic as ever. I guess I'm realizing that with 10 projects to take care of, something is always failing.

Here are a few photos from inside of the dome in early March. You can see some of the buildings. There are white freezer doors on all the buildings and each of the berthing rooms in addition to another door inside. I sleep in upper berthing , the building on the right. dome buildings       berthing freezer doors        inside my room    .

We occasionally make beer from grain in the galley and its called "dome" brew.    separating grain        filling beer keg    .

NEXT MONTH..............Darkness, Auroras, and Stars