MOSAiC Monday - December 16, 2019

An Arctic in Darkness

Beautiful clear skies and cold…. Below -30C for the first time at MOSAiC. Silence. This is really it: the Arctic winter. Full darkness with stars. And what a beautiful day.  -Dr. Matt Shupe, research scientist and co-coordinator of MOSAiC. Dr. Shupe is currently on the Polarstern.



Dark Arctic


Could you spend months in a place where temperatures get lower than -30°C (-23.8°F) and the sun never rises in the winter? MOSAiC scientists and crew on the Polarstern are currently doing just that, but for how much longer?


The Northern Hemisphere winter solstice is right around the corner. This week, we dive into what the solstice is and what it means for MOSAiC. Photo: The Polarstern's spotlights are a bright spot in the otherwise dark Arctic. Photo credit: AWI


Read Dr. Matt Shupe's Postcards from a Frozen Icebreaker

10-minute clock icon Quick Bite: What is the Winter Solstice? 

The 2019 Northern Hemisphere winter solstice takes place on December 21st. So what exactly is the winter solstice? 

Watch this video from NASA of the earth as it orbits around the sun over the course of a year (one seasonal cycle). You won't actually see the sun, as the video has you positioned as if you were orbiting with the earth from a fixed vantage point. The Northern Hemisphere winter solstice happens at about 3 seconds into the video. Using this hint, can you define what the winter solstice is? If you'd like to watch the earth orbit the sun from a different reference point, check out this seasons interactiveExtension: Does everyone in the world experience the solstice the same?


What is the Winter Solstice?


NGSS - ESS NGSS - Engaging in Argument NGSS - Patterns

15-minute clock icon What does the winter solstice mean for MOSAiC?

Note: This activity was first featured in the November 11th edition of MOSAiC Monday.

How long will the Polarstern be in polar night? When will those aboard the icebreaker next see the sun rise? In small groups, have students predict what day they think the sun will next rise for those aboard the Polarstern. Write all predictions on the board. Then, have students use the Day Length Calculator to figure out what day the sun will next rise based on an estimated location of the icebreaker. Photo credit: Anne Gold

Seeing the sun for the first time in a while

How to use the Day Length Calculator

1. Enter in a latitude and longitude location for the Polarstern in the 'Location' box. This will be the predicted approximate location for the Polarstern for whatever date the students chose for when the sun will rise next--they can use the map in this article of the Polarstern's projected drift path to estimate a location. To keep it simple, you can ignore the time zone (this means the predicted date of next sunrise could be off by as much as one day, but it's close enough). 

2. Enter in the predicted day of next sunrise in the 'Date' box. Double check the year is correct, and choose whatever time you like. 

3. The calculator will automatically do its thing. The 'Apparent Sunrise' will either display the date of the next sunrise at the location you chose if you did not choose a date far enough in advance, or it will show the time of sunrise if you did. Play around with the calculator until you figure out the date of the next sunrise at the Polarstern. How does it compare to your prediction?

Day Length Calculator


NGSS - ESS NGSS - Models

Question icon#askmosaic: Polarstern Personnel

Submitted question: How many people are on the ship at once, and why do you need so many people?

MOSAiC baker

“On each leg there are around 100 people on the ship. This includes the ship's crew (master, mates, technicians, mechanics, stewards and catering personal, etc.) to run the ship and a lot of scientists (from different subjects) that do measurements and take samples for all the research projects that are taking part in this expedition. Most projects on board aim to get data from the whole year but cannot send one person for each project for the whole time.  This means that the people on board have to do a lot of different tasks for other projects including the work for their own project. Additionally there are also some logistics people on board that help with a lot of general work.”  

-Dr. Julia Regnery, Sea Ice Physicist and Scientific Coordinator for the MOSAiC Ocean and Sea Ice teams.  Dr. Regnery will be returning soon from Leg I of the MOSAiC expedition, then will go back to the Arctic in mid-April of 2020 for Leg IV of the expedition. 


Photo: Maren Zahn, baker on the Polarstern, wakes up at 3:45 am every day to bake bread, prepare breakfast, and bake cakes to be served in the afternoon. Photo credit: Esther Horvath

Send us your questions!

10-minute clock icon MOSAiC Weekly Tracking

Plot the Polarstern

Each week we will provide you with the latitude and longitude coordinates of the Polarstern so that your students can track its journey across the Arctic in your classroom.

Download the map to plot coordinates

Download a larger map of the Arctic for a bigger picture view of the expedition area

Location of the Polarstern
 Date  Latitude  Longitude
 September 16, 2019  69.68 N  18.99 E
 September 23, 2019  72.31 N  26.93 E
 September 30, 2019  85.12 N  138.05 E
 October 4, 2019**  85.08 N  134.43 E
 October 7, 2019  85.10 N  133.82 E
 October 14, 2019  84.85 N  135.03 E
 October 21, 2019  84.97 N  132.73 E
 October 28, 2019  85.47 N  127.07 E
 November 4, 2019  85.88 N  121.70 E
 November 11, 2019  85.82 N  116.00 E
 November 18, 2019  86.05 N  122.43 E
 November 25, 2019  85.85 N  121.35 E
 December 2, 2019  85.97 N  112.95 E
 December 9, 2019  86.25 N  121.40 E
 December 16, 2019  86.62 N  118.12 E

 **Day when MOSAiC reached the ice floe that the Polarstern will become frozen in and drift with for the next year.

Log MOSAiC Data 

What happens in the Arctic as the seasons change? Find out firsthand with real-time Arctic data, provided for you here each week. 

Download a MOSAiC Data Logbook to keep track of Arctic conditions over the course of the expedition

Arctic Data* - NOTE: Length of day numbers have been updated based on more accurate models!
 Date  Length of day (hrs)  Air temperature (deg C) at location of Polarstern  Arctic Sea Ice Extent (million km2)
 September 16, 2019  13.25  High: 10   Low: 4.4  3.9
 September 23, 2019  12.35  High: 6     Low: -1  4.1
 September 30, 2019  9.1  -4.7  4.4
 October 4, 2019**  6.27  -13.0  4.5
 October 7, 2019  3.05  -8.2  4.6
 October 14, 2019  0  -14.7  4.8
 October 21, 2019  0  -12.8  5.4
 October 28, 2019  0  -18.3  6.8
 November 4, 2019  0  -18.9  8.0
 November 11, 2019  0  -25.5  8.7
 November 18, 2019  0  -10.7  9.3
 November 25, 2019  0  -18.4  10.0
 December 2, 2019  0  -26.6  10.4
 December 9, 2019  0  -23.1  11.2
 December 16, 2019  0  -19.2  11.8

*Note: We expect data to fall within the following ranges: Length of day, 0-24 hours; Temperature, -40 to 14 degrees C; Sea ice extent, 3-15 million km2

**Day when MOSAiC reached the ice floe that the Polarstern will become frozen in and drift with for the next year.

MOSAiC school icon MOSAiC Ambassadors' Corner

Lectures, videos, podcasts and workshops: during the upcoming year, follow the MOSAiC School outreach activities with the MOSAiC Ambassadors' Corner. 

This month, discover two amazing videos from our Ambassadors: 

Stay tuned for monthly updates!

NGSS iconMOSAiC Monday and the NGSS

What do those funny symbols below some engagements mean?

Good news for educators in the U.S. teaching with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) or similar! We will now be tagging MOSAiC Monday engagements with the NGSS Disciplinary Core Idea subject(s), Science and Engineering Practice(s), and Crosscutting Concept(s) that they most closely connect to. Look for these symbols listed below each engagement: 

Disciplinary Core Idea Subjects
Science and Engineering Practices (adopted from the San Diego County Office of Education Science Resource Center)
Crosscutting Concepts (adopted from the San Diego County Office of Education Science Resource Center)

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Next Week
  • Monthly expedition update!
  • Check in with the Polarstern