SOUTH POLE - U of M scientist Robert Schwarz has spent the most winters, more than anyone else, in total darkness at the South Pole.

What he is looking for is how the universe formed.

"We are looking at the afterglow of the Big Bang," Schwarz said. "Cosmic background microwave radiation. We observe a signal that is 13.8 billion years on its way to us and we also look 13.8 billion years in to the past. We are looking at a universe that is 380,000 years old; a baby universe."

So why the South Pole? This is where the air is cold and dry. Dry air allows for a clearer view of the sky.

"Because its so cold in wintertime sometimes, below 100 degrees Fahrenheit ambient temperature, it's absolutely dry," Schwarz said. "Therefore, the South Pole is the best place on Earth for microwave astronomy."

To keep measurements at the telescope accurate and to avoid any interference, Schwarz has to commute a half-mile to get to his work.

"In summertime when it's warm enough, we sometimes use a ski-doo, but in wintertime all that really works is walking," he said. "So you are out there for 10 to 15 minutes and it's the best commute because there is no traffic."

Remember, temperatures outside can drop to 100 degrees below. So we can bet it's a brisk walk to and from the research station. Schwarz has a couple of weeks left at the South Pole and then will have a few months off the ice.

To learn more about Schwarz's research or to see even more pictures from his 14 years at the South Pole, check out his website: Iceman's South Pole Page.