This is the best place on earth for stargazing – if you can handle it


A differential image motion monitor, which scientists used to observe a possible disturbance in the Antarctic skies.

A differential image motion monitor, which scientists used to observe a possible disturbance in the Antarctic skies.
The image: Zhouhui Shang

good news everyone! Astronomers have pointed out the best place on Earth to study stars. But if you are expecting an amateur astronomer to take advantage of this astronomical sweet spot, then you will be located in the heart of Antarctica. One of the coldest places on the planet.

The tallest ice dome in the Antarctic Plateau allows for the clearest view of the starry sky at night by A- The research Published in Nature this week. The ice domes are the top parts of the ice sheets, which rise above the frozen area. Dome A of Antarctica while an ideal place for stargazing Coldest place on earth, Characterized as temperature Less As –130 ° F (-90 ° C). It is similar to Night on mars.

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So while the new paper proposes an optimal location for performing astronomy, the remote location of Dom A, also known as Dom Argus, presents some significant challenges. To cope with the extreme cold, scientists hoping to camp at this location must travel 740 miles (1,200 kilometers) to the interior of the Antarctic continent.

Light pollution has become a problem for both professional and amateur astronomers, but there is more of a clear view of the night sky than avoid street lights and skyscrapers. Atmospheric turbulence can obstruct clear views in space, giving stars their own distinct twinkle-twinkle. Telescopes located at mid-latitudes and at high altitudes, such as Hawaii and Chile, are ideal in this regard, as these observatories take advantage of the weak turbulence found at these locations.

Astronomers have a metric called the number to see The quality of the night sky view, which they measure in arseconds. The lower the number, the lower the turbulence, and thus a better view of stars, galaxies, nebulae, and whatever astronomers are expecting to see. In Hawaii and Chile, the number of sightings is about 0.6 to 0.8 arseconds.

In Dom C, another ice dome located on the Antarctic Plateau, the number ranges between 0.23 to 0.36 arseconds, exposing the frozen continent as an ideal place to view the night sky. Here, the lowest limit of the Earth’s atmosphere – exceptionally thin, results in less turbulence.

Dom C is great, but the new paper suggests that Dom A is probably better. An international team from China, Canada and Australia measured the night at this location, which had not been done before, seeing an average number 0.31 Chapakal And a low of 0.13 Chapakal.

The researchers also conducted a comparative analysis of the two Antarctic sites. Measure from Dome A at an altitude of 26 ft (8 m) was much better than measurements taken at Dome C at the same height. In fact, measurements from Dome A at this height were comparable to measurements made at 66 feet (20 m). On Dome C, the former appears as a superior place.

“A telescope located in Dome A can demonstrate a similar telescope located on another astronomical site on the planet” Explained Paul Hickson is an astronomer at the University of British Columbia and co-author of the study in a UBC press release. “The combination of high altitude, low temperature, long periods of continuous darkness and an exceptionally stable environment makes the Dome a very attractive location for optical and infrared astronomy. A telescope located there will have sharp images and can detect unconscious objects. “

Not surprisingly, freezing had a detrimental effect on the equipment used in the study, as researchers’ equipment was affected by frost. A raw station equipped with a differential image motion monitor monitor tracks the Antarctic skies for seven Months, with temperature103 ° F (-75 ° C at time). In a press release, Bin Ma, a scientist at Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Sciences and first author of the study, said: “In and of itself this is a technological breakthrough.” Fixing the frost problem can improve viewing by up to 10% Up to 12%According to the study.

In addition to astronomy, Dom A “is a natural laboratory for the study of turbulence formation and dissipation within the boundary line,” the authors write in their paper. “Future measurements of weather, viewing, and low-altitude turbulence profiles may contribute to a better understanding of the Antarctic environment.”

Apparently, building an observatory on the Antarctic Plateau would be a huge Logical undertaking. Supplies and personnel have to be moved in, while the structure itself has to endure cold And possibly a change in snow as well. There will be a possibility of climate change Additional complications.

Scientists have finally pointed out the best place on Earth to do astronomy, but will they really do it? We are excited to find out.

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