February 2006-Issue 44 - University of Maryland

Young Soo Yoon---Antarctica

I am part of Professor Eun-Suk Seo's research group, which studies energetic cosmic rays. People in our lab build detectors for measuring energies and charge identities of the cosmic ray particles. The detectors are assembled to build a sophisticated instrument that is launched on balloons provided by NSBF (National Scientific Ballooning Facility) and NASA. The payload is flown around the Antarctic Continent in the stratosphere at about 125,000 feet elevation.

The 2005-2006 season marked the second flight of the CREAM (Cosmic-Ray Energetics And Mass) instrument and my first visit to McMurdo Station in Antarctica. McMurdo Station, which is a 7-8 hour flight from New Zealand, was built on the bare volcanic rock on the Hut Point on Ross Island, it is Antarctica 's largest community. Several hundred scientists in addition to supporting staff, work there during the summer season to conduct research in biology, geology, physics, and atmospheric sciences.

For our balloon experiment, we had to commute everyday to the LDB (Long Duration Balloon) site at Willy Field, located on permanent ice. Over there, I could see snow and ice spreading to the horizon. After proper testing of the instrument, it was launched on December 15, 2005 and started collecting and transferring data to the Science Operation Center at UMD. Our experiment was successfully terminated and landed on Jan 12, 2006 EST.

My stay at McMurdo station lasted from Nov 16th to Dec 22nd . It was an exhilarating experience. It was early summer, so I did not have a chance to see any penguins; but I did see a couple of seals sleeping on the ice. Moreover, the Sun does not set in Antarctica until sometime in February and sleeping under the midnight light is quite an experience. The weather was not extreme, although we did have a couple of severe snowstorms. Naturally, it was an unforgettable experience in my life.

There are a number of people at UMD who are seasoned veterans of Antarctic trips. One IPST engineer, Larry Lutz, has been to Antarctica 19 times, Professor Seo has been there three times and several others from our department have been there multiple times. This was a captivating trip for me, since it was my first.

Young Soo Yoon
Cosmic Ray Physics Group

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CREAM Launch
CREAM launch


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