Summer is returning to Antarctica and researcher teams from around the world are heading south for the (relatively) warm season. Among them are members of a Russian team that drilled into Lake Vostok last February. Vostok is a subglacial lake some 4,000 meters below the surface of the ice, and the plan is to send a robot down there this summer to collect water samples and sediments from the bottom. Research also continues at the South Pole Telescope, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, and dozens of other locations around Antarctica. Gathered here are recent images of Antarctica, its environment, and some of the scientific work taking place there.
The IceCube lab, illuminated by moonlight. Scientists are using the world’s biggest telescope, buried deep under the South Pole, to try to unravel the mysteries of tiny particles known as neutrinos, hoping to shed light on how the universe was made.
The Peltier Channel separates Doumer and Wiencke Islands Antarctica’s Palmer Archipelago. It was named for Jean Peltier, a noted French physicist. Photo taken on May 17, 2012.
Nacreous clouds, observed on January 6, 2011. These polar stratospheric clouds at 80,000 feet are the highest of all clouds. They only occur in the polar regions when the stratospheric temperature dips below 100 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-73 C). They are also the site of chemical reactions that break down ozone in the upper atmosphere and contribute to the creation of the ozone hole above Antarctica.
Construction crew members stand in front of the South Pole Telescope (SPT). Joshua Miller, Ryan Kunz, John R. Mallon III, Chris Kendall and Eric Nichols assembled the ground shield (the ‘squarish’ outer rim) around the 10-meter parabolic dish during the 2011-12 austral summer. The shield will help prevent ground reflection interference. The SPT is examining Cosmic Microwave Background and Dark Matter. Photo taken on January 11, 2012.
A magnificent green aurora australis encompasses the South Pole Telescope (SPT) at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, on May 15, 2012. The SPT, designed to study the Cosmic Microwave background. is the largest telescope ever deployed at the South Pole.
What appears to be dirty snow in this aerial photo of Cape Washington are actually groups of emperor penguins, seen on November 2, 2011. Dr. Paul Ponganis and his team (Scripps Institution of Oceanography) have been studying emperor colonies throughout the Ross Sea area for decades.
Emperor penguin adults attending to their chicks at Cape Crozier, Ross Island, Antarctica, on October 15, 2011. Dr. Paul Ponganis (University of California-San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography) and his research team study penguins’ diving behavior. Emperors can dive to depths of 500 meters for five to 12 minutes at a time.
A helicopter carries the SkyTEM instrument, an electromagnetic mapping tool, on November 29, 2011. The TEM in SkyTEM stands for ‘transient electromagnetic method,’ which refers to a method of creating a magnetic field using a 24-meter by 16-meter transmitter loop. A current running around the farme creates the magnetic field, which penetrates into the ground. Scientists are mapping the coastal areas of Antarctica with SkyTEM.
The full moon over DeLaca Island, located close to Palmer Station, on April 6, 2012. The island is named for Ted DeLaca, a biologist who worked in the area in the early 1970s.
An aurora with rainbow colors illuminates the night sky near McMurdo Station, on July 15, 2012.
South Pole employees remove snow from the top of buildings during the winter darkness, on May 9, 2012. Red lights are used outside to minimize light pollution during the winter, to lessen the impact on the scientific telescopes. An almost full moon illuminates the darkness. The plume at left is the heat exhaust from the station.
The moon and the aurora australis above the IceCube Laboratory at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, on August 24, 2012.
The majestic beauty of the Antarctic Peninsula area, photographed on June 30, 2012.
A leopard seal on the prowl at Cape Washington, Ross Island, on November 22, 2011.
McMurdo Station, Antarctica, November, 2011.
A halo frames the silhouette of a US Antarctic Program participant near McMurdo Station, on October 1, 2012.
Communications satellite receivers at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, seen on August 23, 2012. The predawn glow on the horizon indicates the sun will be rising in a few weeks.
A Digital Optical Module for the IceCube South Pole Neutrino Observatory is lowered into the Antarctic ice.
Argentine aerospace engineer Pablo de Leon, a NASA team member, tests a space suit designed for possible use on Mars, at Argentina’s Marambio base in Antarctica in this photo dated March 13, 2011. The NDX-1 space suit, designed by De Leon, endured frigid temperatures and winds of more than 47 mph (75 kph) as researchers tried out techniques for collecting soil samples on Mars. The $100,000 prototype suit, created with NASA funds, is made out of more than 350 materials, including tough honeycomb Kevlar and carbon fibers to reduce its weight without losing resistance.
A scientist enjoys the winter cold and darkness outside the Ice Cube Laboratory at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, on August 17, 2012. The green glow is the aurora australis. Above that is the Milky Way Galaxy.
An iceberg near the Antarctic Peninsula, photographed on October 24, 2011.
A spring sunset at Palmer Station, on March 31, 2011. Torgersen and Litchfield islands are in the distance.
Raised footprints in the Antarctic snow. After a storm, the loose snow surrounding the compacted snow under a footprint is scoured away by the wind, leaving elevated strange-looking footprints.
The Vostok research camp in Antarctica, in a January, 2005 photograph. Russian scientists are using this base to drill into the prehistoric sub-glacier Lake Vostok, which has been trapped under Antarctic ice for 14 million years.
An aerial view of Russia’s Vostok research camp in Antarctica.
Russian researchers pose for a picture at Vostok station in Antarctica, on February 6, 2012. Russia said it had pierced through Antarctica’s frozen crust to a vast, subglacial lake that has lain untouched for at least 14 million years hiding what scientists believe may be unknown organisms and clues to life on other planets.
A Pisten-Bully tracked vehicle on frozen McMurdo Sound is dwarfed by the Royal Society Mountains about 40 miles away, on November 27, 2011. Small tracked vehicles are used by science groups to travel short distances away from McMurdo Station to conduct research on the annual sea ice.
An iceberg near the Antarctic Peninsula, on October 24, 2011.
The back deck of the research vessel NATHANIEL B. PALMER is engulfed in frigid water as the ship sailed the South Atlantic Ocean, on October 1, 2011.
The deck of the research vessel NATHANIEL B. PALMER is encased in ice as it sails the South Atlantic Ocean, on October 3, 2011.
The sun rose above the horizon on September 22 for the first time since March 22 at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, seen here on September 24, 2012. The Ceremonial South Pole, shown here, is surrounded by the flags of the original signatory nations to the Antarctic Treaty.
Fire and smoke rise from Brazil’s Comandante Ferraz station in Almirantazgo Bay, in the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica, on February 25, 2012. The Brazilian navy said the fire broke out Saturday morning in the machine room that houses the energy generators of the station where one man suffered non-life threatening injuries, and at least two people were reported missing.
A mother Weddell seal pokes her head out of a hole to communicate with her young pup, on November 30, 2011.
This Norwegian Lutheran Church is located at the abandoned Grytviken whaling station on South Georgia Island, seen here, on September 27, 2011. The island is governed by Great Britain via King Edward Point Station, located a short distance from this church.
The Milky Way and an aurora australis, as viewed from Ross Island, Antarctica, on July 15, 2012.
NOAA scientist Heather Moe walks upwind from Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to collect clean air samples on February 7, 2012. The clean air samples are monitored for a variety of constituents such as carbon dioxide and ozone levels.