For Yuya Makino, this year is not just any other year — he has been living his dream of working at the South Pole under one of the most beautiful night skies on the planet.

A member of an international scientific research team, Makino has been working since November in Antarctica, where the cold winter nights are lit up with the colors of the aurora and the stars of the Milky Way.

While Makino was laughed at when he told his university friends that he wanted to go to the South Pole, the 31-year-old held true to his word and is on a one-year mission at an observatory searching for neutrinos — nearly massless subatomic particles that zip through the cosmos.