Ladies Night at the South Pole Telescope
“Hello, ladies! Have you heard about Ladies Night at the South Pole Telescope?”
I turned to lend my attention to the bearded speaker who maneuvered his lean, tall frame into a chair next to us, fixing his smiling eyes on each of us in turn. I recognized him as the cosmologist who had given last Sunday’s science lecture on the Big Bang and the discoveries being made by the 10-meter telescope here at the Pole.
“My name is Brad. I would like to give you a personal invitation to come and enjoy chocolates, fine wines, slow dancing with a cosmologist, and an intimate tour of the telescope. What color do you like?”
Brad pulled out a selection of decorative invitation cards and filled in our names on cards of our chosen colors, handing one each to me and my friend, Kell.
“Dearest Lily,” my blue card read. “The South Pole Telescope requests your presence at Ladies Night, Friday 12/21, 7:30 pm at the 10m.”
I looked at Kell after Brad left. “You going?”
On the appointed day I shuttled to the party after work and by the time I reached the Telescope the slow dancing was over and the party had gathered serious speed. Techno music blared out of a room to my right where a joyous crowd danced in a red glow under white Christmas lights. Brad’s head bobbed along in double-time above the other dancers as he moved his feet surprisingly faster than what one would expect from such a gentle giant. Kell mixed in Kung Fu moves to the rhythm of the music with a pulsing energy. As promised, an assortment of fine wines and chocolates awaited us; I grabbed a chunk of dark chocolate and joined the throbbing crowd on the dance floor. Kell had started a martial arts sensation; several followers mimicked her moves and threw in some moves of their own, sometimes engaging her in a mock fight. “Beat ’em all, Kell,” I laughed. Kell just kept dancing, grinning and laughing the whole time.
After hopping around to the beat of the music for awhile I checked to see if it was too late to get in on a tour of the telescope. Liz George, one of the cosmologists, was happy to oblige. “I’m drunk, so it might be a little weird, but I’ll show you around,” she said. My fellow galley workers, Aaron and Marvie, joined me, and Liz took us to a display with many photos and graphics and began explaining the inner workings of the South Pole Telescope, then walked us back to the instrument itself, where a co-worker pulled a rope, parting the ceiling to the giant 33-foot wide telescope and bright sky above. Here’s a video of the tour:
After the tour ended I rejoined the dancers for a few more rounds, then found a driver to shuttle me back to the Station in the red van with tracks instead of wheels.
“It’s kind of weird, isn’t it?” my driver asked. “Creepy, actually. Brad going around and inviting all the ladies out for Ladies’ Night…”
“I liked it!” I responded. “I otherwise might not have come out. I’m not a party person and I already came out several weeks ago and saw the telescope, but Brad’s invitation piqued my curiosity and made me want to come. I’m glad I did; I had a really nice time.” And I meant it.