Program 7 LABORATORY ON THE ICE (14:58)

Key Science Content

After viewing the video and participating in one or more of the Hands-On Activities, students will be able to:
• describe the reasons why the South Pole has specific advantages for astronomical observations by referring to the electromagnetic spectrum and to characteristics of Earth's atmosphere
• describe and discuss the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET), and explain why so many meteorites can be readily found out on the "Blue Ice"
• discuss some of the personality characteristics which may make researchers well suited for life in remote field camps and in adverse living conditions (e.g. an awareness of why, according to Ralph Harvey, Principal Investigator, ANSMET, "geeks are good!")
Program Description
Previous videos have focused on earth and life science. Program 7 offers entry points to discuss some key aspects of physical and space science: the electromagnetic spectrum, the composition of the atmosphere and the nature of meteorites. Scenes of "The Antarctic Search for Meteorites" provide a way to introduce NSES 3, "Understands essential ideas about the composition and structure of the universe and the Earth's place in it", (Project 2061, Benchmarks for Science Literacy, page 61.)

• "'Spaceship' South Pole" (03:32) We begin by flying to the Pole and sliding to a halt in one of the huge, ski-equipped "Hercs." Expect altitude sickness and drink lots of water is the advice which welcomes us. We discover the "three South Poles" (ceremonial, geographic-90 degrees South latitude-and the magnetic pole) and see a little of life around Amundsen-Scott Station, including the annual "Round-the-Pole" race and a vigorous game of "volley-bag." Drifting ice crystals infiltrating the Dome remind us of the reasons for the ongoing construction of the new South Pole station.

• "Astronomy@90o South" (02:08) Using NASA animation, we review why the high, dry polar plateau is one of the best places on Earth to do astronomy. With only 4 mm of precipitation per month, water vapor in the atmosphere is minimized, allowing clearer and more sustained views of the sky. We see the digging of tunnels for the new South Pole station, where a large portion of research will be astronomy.

• "The Antarctic Search for Meteorites" (07:40) The celebrated but still mysterious Martian meteorite, ALH84001, was found in Antarctica, in the Allan Hills in 1984. But only in the mid-90's did NASA researchers announce that they believed minute shapes inside the meteorite might be fossilized microbes. This sequence shows "The Antarctic Search for Meteorites" in action, videotaped in weather that was some of the coldest PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE experienced in our entire time on the Ice. ANSMET P.I. Ralph Harvey and field safety coordinator John Schutt are seen preparing crew and equipment in McMurdo, briefing pilots, and then supervising their small team out on the remote blue ice. Harvey explains why the Antarctic is the best place on Earth to find meteorites. As ice sublimates (changes from a solid to a gas without becoming liquid) anything that's fallen on the ice sheet becomes increasingly visible. Glacial movements also serve as natural collectors of the meteorites. We ride along with the ANSMET team as Laurie Leshin finds her first meteorite, and describes her excitement. Harvey, who looks and talks a little like Sylvester Stallone, says that "geeks are great" for happily enduring sometimes adverse conditions, such as when you're confined by high winds to a tent for a week. Jesuit brother Guy Consulmagno is an astronomer with the Vatican Observatory and another member of the ANSMET team. He concludes the program by comparing the empty horizons of the ice sheet to the beauty of the ocean. He says that the discovery of the Martian meteorite and his work with ANSMET makes him feel that no place on Earth, and no place in the solar system is truly alien. "We're all part of the same Universe…"