The sun is now ~13deg below the horizon and we’ve officially entered the period known as Astronomical Twilight (with the sun between 12 and 18deg below the horizon). The moon has risen and casts stark shadows against the sastrugi and station. There’s a faint glow on the horizon following the sun, the moon is full and luminous, and still the brightest stars are clear as ever.
We’ve had a good round of iridium flares this past week as well and the first spectacular displays of Aurora Australis the Southern Lights. They’re ephemeral, sliding slowly from black nothingness to grey and maybe into green or a very faint red. Sometimes it disappears as quickly as it came, sometimes I’m not sure if I’m imagining it, and then it pulses bright and there’s no doubt. Lots of playing with cameras and tripods to get a good shot…When a call goes out on the radio that there’s a good one it’s a stampede down the hall with everyone running to see. I’m sure our excitement will wane eventually, but for now it’s a new experience.
Things are chugging along in the seemingly perpetual cold and dark with temperatures ranging from -70F to -85F. It’s beautiful, quiet, and utterly awe-inspiring at times – Especially when I’m working outside and look up to see the milky way unfurled above me, stretching across the sky…
Inside the station, with cardboard over the windows, it feels a bit like groundhog day. We have a good group overall and I’ve made some good friends, but it’s interesting to watch the petty issues like dish washing and toothpaste left in the sink become big deals. With little else to distract us we make news for ourselves. The smallest of things become the most exciting topics for lunch conversation. We only have a few hours of internet each day, something I’m happy with. If there was internet access 24/7 some people would never leave the computer, but we’re not totally isolated from global events either.
So here are some of my favorite shots from this week:
The iridium satellites pass overhead every 9 minutes 10 seconds or so. They’re our emergency connection to the outside world and the basis for iridium phones. The name “iridium” apparently comes from the initial plan to have 77 satellites in orbit (77 being the atomic number for the element iridium). For several reasons however, only 67 satellites are in orbit. When the solar panels or antennae catch the sunlight reflecting it towards us it becomes the brightest point in the sky, baring the sun and moon.