Wonder

Ridge A – the best place for astronomy research on Earth

WorldBlue  In short

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.

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GPS coordinates
81.4999 S 73.5001 E
Location, address
Meteorological phenomena, Geographical extremes

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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 the most part, contains particles, vapor. Disturbances in visibility are caused by the temperature difference and air movements.

One efficient way to overcome these hardships is by 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 the Atacama desert (Chile), on La Palma island (Spain, Canary Island), on Mauna Kea mountain (United States, Hawaii), and some more places.

Antarctic astronomy

A group of American and Australian researchers has calculated in 2009 that the best-suited places for astronomical research (from a purely technical and not financial point of view) are located in several spots in the central part of Antarctica.

Researchers analyzed several factors important for different kinds of astronomical equipment, including the thickness of the boundary layer of the atmosphere, cloud cover, thermal regime, amount of vapor, 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 the nickname Ridge A as this is a 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 view might be fantastic, incomparable with our daily experiences. But one should remember that temperature on 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 a romantic stroll.

References

  1. 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 on September 27, 2010.

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