Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .




SPACE SCOPES
Astronomers Find Coldest, Driest, Calmest Place On Earth
by Staff Writers
Sydney NSW (SPX) Sep 01, 2009


File image: Antarctic Plateau.

The search for the best observatory site in the world has lead to the discovery of what is thought to be the coldest, driest, calmest place on Earth. No human is thought to have ever been there but it is expected to yield images of the heavens three times sharper than any ever taken from the ground.

The joint US-Australian research team combined data from satellites, ground stations and climate models in a study to assess the many factors that affect astronomy - cloud cover, temperature, sky-brightness, water vapour, wind speeds and atmospheric turbulence.

The researchers pinpointed a site, known simply as Ridge A, that is 4,053m high up on the Antarctic Plateau. It is not only particularly remote but extremely cold and dry. The study revealed that Ridge A has an average winter temperature of minus 70 degrees C and that the water content of the entire atmosphere there is sometimes less than the thickness of a human hair.

It is also extremely calm, which means that there is very little of the atmospheric turbulence elsewhere that makes stars appear to twinkle: "It's so calm that there's almost no wind or weather there at all," says Dr Will Saunders, of the Anglo-Australian Observatory and visiting professor to UNSW, who led the study.

"The astronomical images taken at Ridge A should be at least three times sharper than at the best sites currently used by astronomers," says Dr Saunders. "Because the sky there is so much darker and drier, it means that a modestly-sized telescope there would be as powerful as the largest telescopes anywhere else on earth."

They found that the best place in almost all respects was not the highest point on the Plateau - called Dome A - but 150km away along a flat ridge.

"Ridge A looks to be significantly better than elsewhere on the Antarctic plateau and far superior to the best existing observatories on high mountain tops in Hawaii and Chile," says Dr Saunders.

The finding is published in the Publications of the Astronomical Society. Located within the Australian Antarctic Territory (81.5? S 73.5? E), the site is 144km from an international robotic observatory and the proposed new Chinese 'Kunlun' base at Dome A (80.37? S 77.53? E).

Interest in Antarctica as a site for astronomical and space observatories has accelerated since 2004 when UNSW astronomers published a paper in the journal Nature confirming that a ground-based telescope at Dome C, another Antarctic plateau site, could take images nearly as good as those from the space-based Hubble telescope.

Last year, the Anglo-Australian Observatory completed the first detailed study into the formidable practical problems of building and running the proposed optical/infra-red PILOT telescope project in Antarctica. The 2.5-metre telescope will cost over AUD$10million and is planned for construction at the French/Italian Concordia Station at Dome C by 2012.

"Australia contains no world-class astronomical sites, and Australian astronomers face a choice between being minor players in telescopes in Chile or joining Chinese or European efforts to build the first major Antarctic observatory," says Dr Saunders.

.


Related Links
University of New South Wales
Space Telescope News and Technology at Skynightly.com






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





SPACE SCOPES
China, US Discuss Cooperation On World's Largest Telescope
Beijing, China (XNA) Aug 31, 2009
Astronomers from China and the United States are considering cooperating on the world's largest telescope, through which scientists will have a deeper insight into the very early stages of the universe. The Thirty-Meter-Telescope (TMT) was conceived and headed by University of California and California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and is expected to be completed in 2019. ... read more


SPACE SCOPES
Chandrayan I Mission Failure Setback For India

Indian scientists hail aborted lunar mission a success

India suffers blow to space ambitions

India loses contact with first moon craft: space agency

SPACE SCOPES
Amase-ing Life On The Ice

Opportunity Continues Meteorite Examination - Sol 1981-1987

Mars Orbiter Puts Itself In Safe Mode Again

NSF Awards Space@VT Grant To Improve Space Weather Understanding

SPACE SCOPES
Students Soar To New Heights At NASA Ames

Circus founder takes comic touch into space

The 40-Year-Old Dream

Launchspace Solar System Exploration Architecture: Reader Responses

SPACE SCOPES
China To Begin Construction Of Orbital Space Station In 2020

Russia launches China communications satellite: report

China Conducts Stringent Tests Of Would-Be Spacemen

Chinese Astronauts Must Be Super Human

SPACE SCOPES
SpaceX Delivers Hardware To Cape Canaveral

Two ESA Astronauts Meet On ISS

Do Tread On Me

ESA's Swedish Astronaut To Return To The ISS

SPACE SCOPES
China-Launched Indonesian Satellite Fails To Enter Orbit

TURKSAT 4A Satellite To Be Launched To Space In 2011

Amazonas 2 Is Delivered To The Spaceport

South Korea's First Rocket Launch A Success: Former Official

SPACE SCOPES
Scientists wonder about planet's location

A Look Into The Hellish Cradles Of Suns And Solar Systems

New Planet Orbits Backwards

Huge New Planet Tells Of Game Of Planetary Billiards

SPACE SCOPES
Palapa D In Normal State After Failure To Enter Orbit

Space Sciences Lab Celebrates 50 Years And 75 satellites

Japan's Sharp in China LCD tie-up

NRL Completes First Development Milestone On NPOESS MIS Program




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement