Astronomy On Ice

by Martin Pomerantz



Book Details

Language :
Publication Date : 12/22/2004

Format : Softcover
Dimensions : 5.5x8.5
Page Count : 289
ISBN : 9781413468601

About the Book

Astronomy On Ice: Observing The Universe >From The South Pole Martin A. Pomerantz The story begins in 1930 with a Tenderfoot Boy Scout's first contact within hailing distance of Commander Richard Byrd and Eagle Scout Paul Siple, both seated in the back of an open limousine, in a ticker-tape parade through Brooklyn honoring their return from their first trip to Antarctica. The story ends with the author's final observing campaign at South Pole Station in 1994, and the dedication of the Martin A. Pomerantz Observatory by the Directors of the National Science Foundation and its Office of Polar Programs. The narrative is not strictly autobiographical, but it does unfold through events and personal choices of the author, along with the history of the science, the evolution of the cutting-edge astrophysical enterprise that is the centerpiece of the research program at the U.S. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. From his first taste of physics to his last trip to the South Pole, Astronomy on Ice presents, at a level aimed at an educated public, the scientific research the author carried out over 50 years, concentrating on his efforts to arouse interest within the astronomical community in the unique scientific resource offered by the South Pole. In the face of the initially cool reception of his idea, he conducted a number of experiments, first bootlegged and later sanctioned, with outstanding U.S. and foreign collaborators in multiple fields: solar astronomy, submillimeter astronomy, ultra high energy cosmic-ray and gamma-ray astronomy, and millimeter measurements of the microwave cosmic background radiation. These experiments proved the singular advantages of working at the South Pole for each of these astrophysical subfields . With instruments on the ground, on ships, aircraft, aboard balloons, and even on an early satellite, the author's cosmic ray research carried him to the sub-polar and north polar regions, as well as to many other sites around the earth. These experiences led to his initial Antarctic research in 1960, when he established the first year-round cosmic ray detector at McMurdo Station. In his initial visit to South Pole, during the first of 26 austral summers in Antarctica, the author recognized a number of potential advantages of this unique site for certain types of astronomical observations. Although preliminary tests, published in Polar Research: A Survey in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences Polar Research Board, supported the idea, it was not until 1979, after numerous rebuffs, that the first authorized solar astronomy experiment proved that South Pole was the best site in the world for the new field of solar seismology: probing the sun's heretofore invisible interior by "listening to its ringing." Collaborating with both domestic and foreign experts, Pomerantz then conducted first-time campaigns in other subfields of astronomy, each revealing that South Pole was better than anyplace else on earth for conducting their specific types of astrophysical research. Paradoxically, manifold advantages stem from working at the earth's remote rotational axis, atop the extremely cold and forbidding 9300 feet deep polar ice cap, at a pressure altitude of about 12,000 feet. The scope of fundamental problems studied at South Pole ranges from the nature of earth's electromagnetic environment, to conditions throughout the sun's atmosphere and interior, to stellar evolution, to exotic physical processes in and beyond our galaxy, to the beginning of structure in the Universe after its birth in the Big Bang.

About the Author

Biography Physicist and astronomer Martin A. Pomerantz is director and president emeritus of the Bartol Research Foundation of the Franklin Institute, his scientific home for more than half of the twentieth century. Leader of many cosmic-ray expeditions, especially to both the north and south polar regions, Professor Pomerantz has received numerous honors for his pioneering astrophysical research at the South Pole, where he spent twenty-six austral summers. Dr. Pomerantz has served on national and international boards on space science, geophysics, and polar research, and was chairman of the U.S. Committee for the International Years of the Quiet Sun, 1964–65. He lives in San Rafael, California. . A physicist and astronomer, Professor Martin A. Pomerantz is director and president emeritus of the Bartol Research Foundation of the Franklin Institute. He is the recipient of three honorary degrees, as well as awards for his pioneering scientific work in Antarctica, including the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement; the National Science Foundation’s highest honor, its Distinguished Public Service Medal; and the Royal Academy of Belgium’s quinquennial Prix de la Belgica. An honorary member of the American Polar Society, he is a long-standing member of its board of governors. Along with his research, he has taught at Swarthmore College, the New School, and most recently at the University of Delaware. He also served as visiting professor in India, South America, Japan, and South Africa. Dr. Pomerantz was a member of several National Academy of Sciences boards, including polar research, space science, and geophysics. He was chairman of the U.S. Committee for the International Years of the Quiet Sun, IQSY, 1964–65, sequel to the International Geophysical Year, IGY, 1957–58. Leader of a number of National Geographic Society expeditions, he later spent twenty-six austral summers in Antarctica working in the United States Antarctic Research Program under the aegis of the National Science Foundation. A geographic region in northern Victoria Land and the South Pole Astronomical Observatory are named in his honor.