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An observer immune to frostbite.

Researchers studying Earth's magnetic field might have a hard time finding a grad student to camp in the middle of Antarctica and gather data during winter. Even if one volunteered, it would be difficult to keep that person alive. So the U.S. Antarctic Program, run by the National Science Foundation, commissioned six unmanned observatories to do the job instead. Late last year, technicians set up the first of these Automated Geophysical Observatories (AGO), placing it 480 kilometers from the South Pole, the nearest manned station.

The AGO has six instruments designed to measure the aurora and other aspects of the magnetic field. Early this month, it weathered its first storm, which caused the instruments to shut down temporarily, One of the devices has not turned back on yet, but engineers will fix that fault when they visit the AGO next austral summer during their annual trip to refuel the observatory and download data collected by the instruments.

Ivars Peterson reports from Washington, D. C, at an American Physical Society meeting
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Title Annotation:US Antarctic Program's Automated Geophysical Observatories measure Earth's magnetic field
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Apr 24, 1993
Words:171
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