Monthly Archives: June 2013

more arts and crafts, closing time

I had to return to Cleveland on Thursday night, but here are some pictures from before I left.  Lots more “arts and crafts” to get things ready…

Natalie (U Toronto grad student) applying aluminized mylar tape to the inside of an electrical box, which helps cool the components when the instrument is up wehre there’s no air…

and Lorenzo (Caltech postdoc), buttoning up a receiver

and Bill (Princeton prof) using his favorite tool, the power drill.
You would think that we were always serious, toiling away at our science, but here you see the usual mood, which is rather upbeat – in this case Anne and Jon doing some wiring
Sean doing some dremeling,
and Ziggy (Pton postdoc) doing some painting with black goo on our 2K baffles.
Finally (for the arts and crafts pictures), here’s Barth, examining the big carbon-fiber support the UT group built for the sun shields… this is going to look very interesting, when on the gondola!
The afternoon before I left, I took a walk out to the launch pad, where they (used to) launch balloons, and where you can get a great view of the highbay we work in, with the water tower behind it.
Today, from what I hear, the top and bottom domes went into place, so soon the cryostat will be on the pump.  I’ll be headed down in earlyish July to help with the optical testing, once the thing gets cold… keeping fingers crosse for all that!

Arts and Crafts

Some people think that scientists sit at computers all day.  Or wear white lab coats, perhaps working with fancy instruments with streamlined panels and lots of buttons and lights.  One of the great things about building a new instrument like Spider is that we often get to do hands-on arts and crafts.

That’s right, to be a experimental cosmologist you need to tape, glue, and use scissors.

Here’s Ed, a graduate student from Princeton, doing some taping of a special filter that’s part of our telescope optics…

and Anne, another Pton grad student, doing some aluminum taping,
and Johanna, one of my students at Case Western, after assembling a filter stack (the mirror-like thing),
and Becky, a Caltech graduate student, playing with a filter assembly.  (Okay, she’s actually working, not playing… but it looks like fun, right?)
Finally here’s yours truly, taking off some electrical connectors at the bottom of the cryostat (which involved undoing tape and string), as part of getting ready to put telescopes into the cryostat (where they live during flight) for fit checks.
All the arts-and-crafts work got our telescopes a little closer to being ready to put into the cryostat… a couple more days and we hope to have them in place.  We did discover one small “feature”, an alignment issue of the telescopes with the halfwave plates at the top of the cryostat;  we’ll have to adjust the alignment of each telescope to its particular halfwave plate in a custom fashion, since we found the first one was a little out of alignment if we just put it in its default position.  This isn’t a big deal, but gives us a little more “arts and crafts” to do over the next couple days!
So, if you want to do my kind of science, learn to cut, tape and glue well… and because we work in groups and rely on eachother to figure things out and get things done… practice playing well with others.  :)

Spider: the journey begins in Texas

For the past… maybe 7, 8? years or so, we’ve been working to build a balloon-borne experiment to measure the polarization signature of Inflation (if that signature is there) in the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation – the remant glow from the big bang.   We call it “Spider” because that made some sense in the early days given what it was supposed to look like and do… the design has since changed but the name stuck.

Finally, the instrument is coming together. We’ve just begun our “integration campaign” in Palestine, Texas, at NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility. We’ll spend the next couple of months getting the instrument together and checked out with NASA’s flight equipment, after which we’ll box it up and send it off to Antarctica for the flight in December. (More on that later).

 The first people on our team arrived a week ago, and I just got here today – I had to finish up a little hectic last-minute work on some hardware we need here before I could come down. It’s getting late on the first night here, but I thought I’d post a couple pictures. Here’s the highbay we’re working in:

 The big doors are so tall because the payloads we work on have to be picked up by a crane to be pulled out of the building once they’re completely assembled. Tomorrow I’ll post pictures of the highbay from the inside. Here’s a sunset shot looking through the trees to the balloon launch pad they have here – quite a beautiful site in West Texas… sunset is always welcome when the day was in the 90′s.

 Finally, for the aficionados, here’s a picture of five of our receivers (aka telescopes) getting put together… still lots to do, but things are coming together fast!

 Finally, here’s a terribly-focused picture of some of the crew in the kitchen/eating area in the highbay enjoying home-cooked pizza, thanks to Jon Gudmundsson, one of the Princeton grad students, who slaved over a hot oven for our benefit. Thanks Jon!  (That’s him in the back, in the brown shirt)