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PLATO Gone Cold

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

After 204 days of continuous operation the PLATeau Observatory (PLATO) at DOME A has lost power. During the winter PLATO was powered by one of two German built diesel generators, which now have apparently failed due to an exhaust leak. They use Hatz 1B30 engines. Coincidently, the smaller version of the Hatz 1B40, the engine that has been used in one of my favorite motorcycles.

PLATO has a number of instruments for site testing for astronomical telescopes at the future Chinese Dome A Station location. They look at the sub-mm spectral region, atmospheric turbulence in the first few tens of meters above the surface, and cloud cover. This will hopefully lead to an even better site than South Pole for the next generation of sub-mm telescopes.

We had a similar site testing program, run by some of the same scientist, here at the South Pole. It was originally powered by a propane generator, which failed in 1997 and filled the whole building with propane and shut the observatory down. It was as much an actual site test as a test of a remote observatory. Later one of the propane tanks developed a leak on one of the LC-130, which caused a bit of excitement too. During my first winter at the Pole the observatory was run off Station power, but it again failed and was shut down sometime during the winter.

Scientist are hopeful that PLATO will be able to generate power through its solar panels once the sun rises high enough.

Motorcycles in Antarctica

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Denis Quinlan from velocette.org.au has a look at the historic use of motorcycles in Antarctica. My favorite bit of the article is a 1968 picture of Frank Scaysbrook on his MAC 350cc with an Adelie penguin on his lap and a Husky looking at him, none of which would be possible today.

Check out the post on The Vintagent