Far from the dazzle of the dazzling lights of civilization, an unmatched view of the night sky makes you feel as if you are standing on the edge of eternity. But there is also a place on earth where places are spread only a little further than anywhere else.
Researchers have measured the vividness of the stars at a major research center in Antarctica, finding that it exceeds the current top positions for astronomy. The result may not be surprising, but for most of us, it is a bit disappointing.
Dome A is the highest ice dome on the polar plateau of Antarctica. At an altitude of 4 kilometers (over 13,000 feet) above sea level, and about 1,200 kilometers (750 mi) from the sea in the middle of the coldest continent, it is bound to receive chili.
In fact, temperatures can be as low as -90 Celsius (-130 Fahrenheit).
If that doesn’t turn you down, however, the prize may just be worth your effort.
This frozen peak offers an astronomical view like no other, with a view relatively spotless from light pollution stains, interference from multiple passing satellites, or the occasional passing cloud.
Paul Hickson, an astronomer at the University of British Columbia (UBC), says, “A telescope at Dome A can perform a similar telescope at any other astronomical site on the planet.”
“The combination of high altitude, low temperature, prolonged continuous darkness and an exceptionally stable environment make Dome A a very attractive location for optical and infrared astronomy. A telescope located there has sharp images and faint. Can detect objects. “
If you really want to see into the depths of space and time, you have to avoid the closest part of the atmosphere called the boundary layer. The gases that make up this thin blanket are not just filled with dust and moisture – the warmth of the ground causes it to flicker, which is why the stars look flickering.
One way to reduce this trouble is through the astronomical viewing figure, which is a description of the apparent diameter of a light source in units called arc seconds.
This number represents the difference of distinguishing one point of light as one source or several, hence less turbulence and clears vision, smaller object (and hence smaller arc).
Right now, the best ground-based telescopes available to astronomers are at altitudes where the boundary layer is relatively thin.
Chile’s lofty Atacama Desert is currently considered one of the top spots for telescopes, home to the Atacama Large Millimeter Array for radio imaging, and soon to host a giant giant Magellan telescope set to beat Hubble for.
In this corner of the globe, the position of the atmosphere can provide astronomical that can be reduced to about 0.66 arc seconds by looking at regular figures. On some clear nights, this number may be around half for a few hours here and there.
Hickson and his colleagues measured astronomical measurements at Dome A’s Kunlun station, a Chinese research outpost already considered an attractive site for astronomers.
Another chili inland Antarctic site called Dome C already had approximate values of 0.23 to 0.36 arc seconds. But no one had any good solution from Dom A yet.
Setting their measuring device at 8 meters above the ground, the team recorded the number as low as 0.13 arc seconds, which puts it outside the atmosphere into the ballpark of the observatories. In fact, the number represents a boundary layer only 14 meters thick.
“After a decade of indirect evidence and theoretical reasoning, we finally have direct observational evidence of exceptionally good conditions in Dome A,” says astronomer Michael Ashley of the University of New South Wales, Australia.
Before you pack your trusty old telescope for your nights and a night of stars, you should know the conditions on Dome A, just don’t risk frostbite. Your equipment will require state of the art.
The study’s lead author, UBC astronomer Bin Ma, says, “Our telescope saw fully air for seven months at an unmanned station in Antarctica, with an air temperature of -75 Celsius.
Even with advanced technology that could be hotter than anywhere, the team had to deal with the havoc of snow. There is still an increase of about 12 percent in overcoming the barrier of extreme temperatures.
While reading this, there will never be a clear skyward view of Dome A, we can all benefit from the universal insights of large astronomy projects to be set up in the future.
This research was published in Nature.