Curiosity Challenge: Weather and Animals in Antarctica
“What’s the weather like in Antarctica?” — Aaliyah Bester, 7
“How do animals survive in the Antarctic?” — Josephine Sawyer, 8
|My friend Rachel stands on the bottom of the world
with the Geographic South Pole marker!
Courtesy of Rachel Bowens-Rubin.
|Rachel helped build this part of the
BICEP telescope, then fly it to Antarctica.
Notice the heavy cold weather gear she had to wear,
even while working. Courtesy of Rachel Bowens-Rubin.
Why did she have to go all the way to the bottom of the globe to use a telescope? The answer has to do with Antarctica’s crazy weather.
Believe it or not, Antarctica is actually a desert. It isn’t hot and sandy, like how we usually picture a desert, but it has very little rainfall. It stays so cold that no clouds can form, because any water droplets that might be in the sky freeze right away and fall as snow. (None of this snow ever melts, so there’s snow and ice in Antarctica that has been around for thousands of years! Studying this ice can tell us really interesting things about what the Earth was like back then.) The lack of water droplets means that the sky is very clear, making it the best place on Earth for Rachel and her fellow scientists to use their telescopes and do their experiments!
What’s a day like in Antarctica?
|A diagram of the Earth’s tilt, which causes the 6-month
seasons at the South Pole.
|Scientists working on the South Pole Telescope,
which is 10 meters (30 feet) long!
Courtesy of Rachel Bowens-Rubin
One of the strangest parts about living at the South Pole is that there’s only one full day a year: the sun shines for about five months (the austral summer), there’s about three weeks of sunset, and then it’s dark out for five months straight (the austral winter). This weird schedule has to do with the constant tilt of the Earth as it revolves around the sun over the course of the year. For one half of the revolution, the South Pole is pointed at the sun, and for the other half, the South Pole is pointed away. Can you imagine going to bed when it’s still light out, or not seeing the sun for six months?
|A giant Patagonian Toothfish captured by NOAA scientists
in the Antarctic. These fish live at depths between 45 m
(148 ft) and 3,850 m (12,631 ft) below the surface.
withstand the enormous water pressure at those depths. Some animals switch between shallow and deep waters, like the Antarctic krill, an important food source for many whales and fish. They’re one of the largest population of animals on earth: their schools are so big that they can turn the water red!
|Some researchers approach seals near McMurdo Station,
on the “New Zealand side” of Antarctica. The seals are not used to seeing people,
so they’re not scared at all! Courtesy of Rachel Bowens-Rubin
…At the Cambridge Science Festival:
- On Wednesday, April 20th, the Mass Audubon Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary is hosting Animals and Plants: Use Your Eyes from 4pm-6pm. Come learn about how some local animals have adaptations of their own! Registration is required.
- Interested in learning more about how the earth revolves and time is measured? Drop by the Cambridge Library from 12m-4pm on Saturday, April 23rd, for a demonstration of an Annosphere. It’s an antique but very useful scientific instrument, and the demonstration is free!
NASA’s Antarctic page for Students grades K-4:
More Emperor Penguin facts from National Geographic: http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/animals/emperor-penguin/
- Some more information about scientists at the South Pole from Time Magazine: http://www.timeforkids.com/news/south-pole/140736