Sunday, January 07, 2007

The reflector is on the telescope!

A few days ago we reached a huge milestone for the South Pole Telescope. 43 days after we arrived, the reflector has been installed on the telescope. My internet connection is about to die, so I've got to leave it at that, but I promise more later!

More later: so this was a really big deal for us. To begin with, Steve, Tom, Jeff, Joaquin and I had spent the better part of the past 7 months working on the reflector in some form or fashion, including a multi-month test build in +100F East Texas Summer. More recently were the 2000 man-hours of work involved in assembling the reflector here at the Pole. Of course none of this would matter if we didn't have a telescope to put the reflector on, so let us not forget our rock-solid iron crew, led by Erik "Grande" "Baby" Nichols. Not only do these men and women work wonders with 5 ton pieces of steel in -60F weather, but also consistently risk social humiliation by hanging out with us beakers (south pole for "scientists"). They are a very fun group of people and are, 4000 man-hours later, responsible for building the bulk of the South Pole Telescope.

Due to the impressive logistical and managerial skills of the higher-ups (such as Steve Padin), the telescope and reflector were finished within days of each other. What followed was a multi-step, multi-day lift of the reflector onto the telescope. Here are some photos of the lift.

The reflector is lifted from the adapter cone (which, for those of you who know a little about materials with extremely low coefficients of thermal expansion, is supposedly one of the largest pieces of invar in the world).

The adapter cone is lifted onto the telescope.

The big day arrives. About 40 people -- SPT people, iron workers, station managers, photographers, film makers -- were present at the lift. The two crane lift was captured nicely in this photo by Jerry Marty. That's Jeff, Tom and me on the left, doing what we do best.

And we're done! Iron worker Brian Hardin rightfully celebrates the flawlessly executed lift.

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