Ridge A – best place for astronomy research on Earth

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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, vapor. 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.

Antarctic astronomy

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.

Ridge A is included in the following list:

10 locations with extreme meteorological phenomena
10 locations with extreme meteorological conditions

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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Ridge A - best place for astronomy research on Earth -81.499932, 73.500093 Ridge A – best place for astronomy research on Earth

Coordinates: 81.4999 S 73.5001 E
Categories: Meteorological phenomena, Geographical extremes
Values: Meteorology
Rank: 7
Address: Antarctic and Sub-antarctic region, Antarctica, Ridge A

Wonders of Antarctica

Onyx River - the largest in Antarctica
Onyx River – the largest in Antarctica / P.Wright, US Geological Survey, public domain

Antarctica is unusual continent, little known to general people and comparatively little investigated. Here are missing numerous kinds of landmarks common in all other continents of the world – but this is compensated by several kinds of landmarks unique to Antarctica.

Meteorological phenomena

Storm at Mawson Hut, Antarctica
Storm at Mawson Hut / Frank Hurley, 1911-1914, State Library of New South Wales.

Unusual weather conditions can happen in any place of the world. But there are locations where unusual meteorological phenomena are observed frequently – even every day.

There are not too many landmarks in this category – but several of them are highly unusual and unique.

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