Antarctica! In 2009 Australian scientists called this continent the best place to observe the night sky. And the plateau Dome A even surpasses Mauna Kea (Hawaii). True, most astronomers still choose the second location. Why the best conditions are observed in the most frosty place on the planet?
Delightfully clear sky
Many of us will never “be lucky” to be on this cold and inhospitable continent. However, there are several noteworthy observatories and stations that make a huge contribution to science. Why?
The scientific magic of Antarctica consists in special conditions that will kill a person (temperature), but contribute to a high-quality celestial view. We are talking about the location, called the Antarctic ice sheet, containing more than 60% of the planet’s fresh water and extending over an area of 14 million km 2.
Stunning time-lapse of the night sky of Antarctica
The South Pole is one of the most frosty, harsh and arid places on our planet. The aurora can be viewed along with the core of the Milky Way only on the territory of Antarctica. However, in the period of the polar night will have to hold out in conditions of unbearable cold at -70 ° C. Due to the constant drought and powerful winds, this is one of the most difficult locations for slow motion. For the cameras to work without failures, they had to develop and modify new equipment.
Before you is the most frosty and dry place in our world. A significant role is played by the height - 2800 m above sea level. The main factor is freezing of water vapor during the Arctic winter, which allows for high-precision infrared, millimeter and submillimeter observations.
That is, you can see how stars are born or evolve celestial bodies. Let's not forget about the possibility of studying inhomogeneities in the afterglow of the Big Bang (relic radiation) from the earth's surface.
Where the surveillance is being conducted
- Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica ( CARA)
This place can be called the main project on astronomical observations on the continent. Located at Amundsen-Scott. Among the equipment you will find the 10-meter SPT telescope.
- IceCube (Ice Cube)
Also located at Amundsen-Scott station. It is a neutrino observatory, deepened in the Antarctic ice. In fact, its “filaments” reach a depth of at 2450 m, and study the movement of high-energy muons. Here they also investigate the sources of gamma rays, and conduct experiments on string theory (to prove / disprove).
- Station East
The greatest interest is caused by lake of the same name, whose study is extremely important for astrobiology. This place is in complete isolation and immunity for millions of years. Researchers conduct drilling and mining operations for bacteria. Experiments are also important, because the conditions resemble the situation on Callisto and Europe (satellites of Jupiter).
These are dry, snowless valleys resembling a Martian landscape. Mainly geologists and NASA engineers, testing landing spacecraft (imitation of landing on Mars) work here.
Everything is much cooler here, because the observatory is represented by a network of fully automated telescopes. Devices take pictures with an interval of 10 seconds. It is located at an ideal for viewing point - Dome A. Communication is supported by satellite.
In addition, in permafrost conditions, there are active searches for meteorites, some of which came from Mars and the Moon. Among the finds we can recall the Martian meteorite ALH 84001, discovered in 1984. They found petrified bacteria, which for many were convincing evidence of the existence of life on the Red Planet.