McMurdo Speaker Series: Antarctica, Space, Lasers (Oh my!)

McMurdo Speaker Series:

Antarctica, Space, Lasers (Oh my!)

In Partnership With

Dr. Xinzhao Chu of the University of Colorado Boulder has traveled to both ends of the Earth to study the unique environment where Earth’s atmosphere transitions into space. She specializes in the development of lidar (LIght Detection And Ranging) instruments — powerful lasers which when shot into the sky can measure properties of the small amount of atmosphere that exists more than 60 miles above Earth’s surface. Dr. Chu has flown these sophisticated lasers over the North Pole and deployed lidars at the South Pole in Antarctica, along with various other locations around the globe. The most recent of these field campaigns has continued studying atmospheric and space weather processes in greater depths, with an added focus on observing how the upper atmosphere in Antarctica changes over long periods of time. 

 Dr. Chu’s team has been operating lidars at McMurdo Station, Antarctica continuously since 2010, which has led to many new and exciting discoveries. But such scientific discoveries don’t come easily. Each year, a team member spends an entire year at McMurdo Station caring for and operating the lidar instruments. In this role they experience each of the unique seasons of the polar regions, from constant daylight in the summer to months of darkness in the cold winters. Working in Antarctica for a year may seem like a daunting task, but many accept the challenge in order to continue collecting the valuable data that is helping us better understand the workings of Earth’s atmosphere and its relation to the space environment. This Fall Dr. Chu will travel to McMurdo Station with four of her students, one of whom will stay in Antarctica until the next Fall, and they’d like to bring you along on this journey to learn about the upper atmosphere and see what it’s like doing research in one of the most isolated parts of the world.

Join With Your Class!

The events will be 45-50 minutes long and feature a 15-20 minute presentation from a speaker, followed by a live Kahoot! quiz and then Q&A with the speaker. These live events are free for classrooms to join and educators can choose to join in one of 3 ways:

1) Camera spot

Your class will appear on camera in the event and get a chance to interact directly with the speaker during the Q&A. There are a limited number of camera spots, 6 for each event.

2) Watch the live stream

Your class can tune in live via the YouTube stream during the event and still participate in the live Kahoot! quiz and send in some questions via the live chat.

3) Tune in later

These events will be recorded and placed in a playlist that can be viewed at anytime afterwards by the classrooms.

Check out the events below and use the links to register. We’ll reach out and set you up with all the details you need to join the live events!

Event #1

A Day in the Life at McMurdo

October 11th @ 1:00pm eastern

Join McMurdo scientists, Jackson Jandreau, from McMurdo Antarctica for a 10-15 minute lesson on a day in the life at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, followed by a Q&A. Jackson and his colleagues will explore:

  • Where is McMurdo and how do we get there? 
  • How many people live there and what is it like? 
  • What does Jackson’s day look like while he is down there? 
  • Who is the McMurdo LIDAR team? 
  • What other science is happening? 
  • What do you do for fun in Antarctica? 
  • How can you become a Polar Scientist in Antarctica? 


Event #2

Seasons in the Antarctic

October 18th @ 1:00pm eastern

Join McMurdo scientists, Ian Geraghty, from McMurdo Antarctica for a 10-15 minute lesson on Seasons in the Antarctic, followed by a Q&A. In this lesson, we will cover what causes the seasons and why is Antarctica’s seasons so unique; learn about Polar Night and Day and how life adapts to these seasons. Ian and his colleagues will explore:

  • What causes the seasons? 
  • Why is the long dark winter important for LIDAR research? 
  • Why do we stay in Antarctica for over a year at a time to study the atmosphere? 
  • What is it like in the summer and winter in Antarctica? 


Event #3

Intro to the Upper Atmposphere

November 8th @ 1:00pm eastern

Join McMurdo scientists, Yingfei Chen, from McMurdo Antarctica for a 10-15 minute lesson on an Introduction to the Upper Atmosphere followed by a Q&A. In this lesson, we will cover what the upper atmosphere is and where it is located; learn how scientists study the upper atmosphere; and how it connects to our weather and climate. Yingfei and his colleagues will explore:

  • What and where is the upper atmosphere? 
  • Why do we want to study the upper atmosphere? 
  • What are we studying in the upper atmosphere? 
  • How do we study the upper atmosphere?
  • What is LIDAR (light detection and ranging)? Check out our instrument!


Event # 4

Intro to Space Weather

November 15th @ 1:00pm eastern

Join McMurdo scientists, Arunima Prakash, LIVE from McMurdo, Antarctica for a 10-15 minute lesson on an Introduction to the Upper Atmosphere followed by a Q&A. Aruima and her colleagues will explore:

  • What is space weather and how does it impact us? 
  • How do we study space weather? 
  • Why are we interested in space weather? 

We have some amazing photos of the aurora and space at night. Come join us and be inspired by Arunima to dive deeper into space.