Ridge A - best place for astronomy research on Earth
|Coordinates:||81.4999 S 73.5001 E|
|No:||156 (list of all attractions)|
|Address:||Antarctic and Sub-antarctic region, Antarctica, Ridge A|
If somebody would like to get the most exciting results of astronomical research without leaving the Earth, Ridge A is the exact place to install his astronomical equipment. But it seems that no people so far have been in this place.
Search for the best sites of observatories
One of the main disturbing factors for astronomical research is the atmosphere of Earth - it removes some parts of the radiation coming from space and for most part contains particles, vapour. Disturbances in visibility are caused by the temperature difference and air movements.
One efficient way to overcome these hardships is building space observatories. But as these devices are extremely expensive and hard to sustain and adjust for unexpected needs, astronomers put much effort to find the best location for astronomical observations on Earth.
When they find such locations, whole "villages" of high-tech astronomical observatories are built in such places. Groups of such observatories have been built in Atacama desert (Chile), on La Palma island (Spain, Canary Island), on Mauna Kea mountain (United States, Hawaii) and some more places.
A group of American and Australian researchers have calculated in 2009 that the best suited places for astronomical research (from purely technical and not financial point of view) are located in several spots in the central part of Antarctica.
Researchers analysed several factors important for different kinds of astronomical equipment, including thickness of the boundary layer of atmosphere, cloud cover, thermal regime, amount of vapour and others. Data were obtained by screening the satellite data and using atmospheric models.
Several locations in Antarctica are a lot more perfect for astronomy than the ones used today. Thus, the famous Dome A is well suited thanks to very calm weather, extremely low temperatures, comparatively thin atmospheric boundary layer and several more characteristics.
The very best place to look in the sky
Researchers though noticed that another location approximately 144 km south-east from Dome A is even better. It got a nickname Ridge A as this is low ridge of ice shield.
Ridge A is located almost as high as Dome A - if Dome A is 4,083 (4,092.5?) m above the sea level, Ridge A is 4,053 m high. Calculations show that Ridge A might be even colder than the eventual coldest place on Earth - Dome A.
Astronomical images taken here would be three times sharper than in the best current observatories and can be compared with the quality of images taken in space.
This remote place in the endless, flat Antarctic desert is the best place on Earth to look in the star-dotted winter sky and this sight might be fantastic, incomparable with our daily experiences. But one should remember that temperature in such nights usually is minus 70 - 80°C and there is a possibility that it may fall below minus 100°C. Not the best conditions for romantic stroll.
See Ridge A on the map of Antarctica!
- Will Saunders, Jon S. Lawrence, John W.V. Storey, Michael C.B. Ashley, Seiji Kato, Patrick Minnis, David M.Winker, Guiping Liu, Craig Kulesa Where is the best site on Earth? Domes A, B, C and F, and Ridges A and B. Accessed in 27th September 2010.