Good news, everyone! Astronomers have indicated the best place on Earth for studying stars. But if you are an amateur astronomer hoping to take advantage of this sweet astronomical place, you will have to join it, as it lies in the heart of Antarctica, one of the coldest places on the planet.
Dome A – the highest ice dome in the Antarctic Plateau – allows the clearest views of the starry sky at night, according to the novel research published this week in Nature. Ice pairs are the highest parts of the ice sheets, rising above the frozen ground. The Antarctic Dome A, while an ideal place for stargazing, is one of cold places on Earth, characterized by equal temperatures low as –130 degrees Fahrenheit (-90 degrees Celsius). That’s similar night on Mars.
So while the new paper proposes an optimal place to do astronomy, the remote location of dome A, also known as Dome Argus, presents some considerable challenges. Scientists hoping to set up camp at this location, in addition to dealing with the extreme cold, would have to travel 740 miles (1,200 kilometers) inland from the Antarctic continent.
Light pollution poses a problem for both professional astronomers and amateurs, but there is much more clear view of the night sky than avoiding street lights and tall buildings. Atmospheric turbulence, while giving stars their characteristic twinkle twinkle, can disrupt clear views in space. Telescopes at mid-latitudes and high elevations, such as those at Hajai’i and Chile, are ideal in this regard, as these observatories take advantage of the weak turbulence found in these the places.
Astronomers have metrics, called the number they see, that indicate the quality of the night sky view, which they measure in arc seconds. The lower the number, the less turbulence, so a better view of stars, galaxies, nebulae, and anything else astronomers are hoping to see. In Hawai’i and Chile, the number seen is about 0.6 to 0.8 arkseconds.
In Dome C, another ice dome located on the Antarctic Plateau, this number is between 0.23 and 0.36 seconds, highlighting the frozen continent as an ideal place to see the night sky. Here, the boundary layer – the lowest part of the Earth’s atmosphere – is exceptionally thin, resulting in less turbulence.
Dome C is great, but as the new card shows, dome A is probably better. An international team from China, Canada, and Australia made night measurements at this location, which was not done before, and found a median that sees a number of 0.31 arcseconds and a low of 0.13 arcseconds.
The researchers also conducted a comparative analysis of the two Antarctic sites. The measurements from Dome A at a height of 26 feet (8 meters) were much better than the measurements taken at the same height in Dome C. In fact, the measurements from Dome A in this heights were equivalent to measurements made at 66 feet (20 meters) in dome C, which first revealed it as the superior place.
“A telescope located in dome A can carry a similar telescope located at every other astronomical site on the planet,” explained Paul Hickson, 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 atmosphere, make the Dome A a very attractive place for optical and infrared astronomy. The telescope in it has a stronger image. and can easily find items. “
Not surprisingly, the cold had a detrimental effect on the instruments used in the study, as the researchers ’equipment was disadvantaged by frost. Unmanned station equipped with seven-hearing differential imaging motion monitor of Antarctica months, with temperatures approaching103 degrees Fahrenheit (-75 degrees Celsius) sometimes. In the press release, Bin Ma, the study’s first author and scientist from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, said: “In itself, that’s a technological breakthrough.” A solution to the frost problem could improve the display by 10% at 12%, according to the study.
In addition to astronomy, dome A “is a natural laboratory for the studies of turbulence formation and dissipation in the boundary layer,” the authors wrote in their paper. “Future measurements of weather, sight and low-altitude turbulence profile could contribute to a better understanding of the Antarctic atmosphere.”
It is clear that the construction of an observatory on the Antarctic Plateau would be huge Logistics enterprise. Supplies and staff will have to fly, while the structure itself will have to endure extreme cold and possibly even shifting in the ice. Climate change is likely to create additional complications.
Scientists have finally pointed out the best place on Earth to do astronomy, but will they actually do it? We are excited to find out.