This freezing cold isolated block of ice is the best place on Earth for a telescope

Dome A on the Antarctic Plateau could offer the clearest view on Earth of the starsUBC/Zhaohui Shang

  • Astronomers have found the perfect place to place a telescope on Earth for the clearest view of the night sky in East Antarctica.
  • Around 1,200 kilometres inland, on an icy plateau, a study pegs that a telescope on Dome Argus would outperform any other telescope.
  • Not only would it be after to see further than any existing telescope but also more clearly.
In the far reaches of Antarctica, scientists have found the plateau that offers the clearest view of the stars above Earth at night. The only issue is that it’s one of the coldest and most remote locations on the planet.

In a comparison between three domes — Dome A, Dome B, and Dome C — astronomers from China, Australia, and Canada found that a telescope on Dome A would be able to look farther than any other existing telescope on Earth.

Located near the centre of East Antarctica, around 1,200 kilometres inland, Dome A is also known as Dome Argus.
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What sets it apart from the best telescopes on Earth?
“A telescope located at Dome A could out-perform a similar telescope located at any other astronomical site on the planet,” said astronomer Paul Hickson, co-author of the study published in Nature.

Currently, the best telescopes on Earth are Chile’s Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA), Hawaii’s WM Keck Observatory, and China’s Five Hundred Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST).

They observe outer space in the range of 0.6 to 0.8 arcseconds, which is a way to measure how clearly a telescope can cover the distance. A telescope at Dome A, on the other hand, will have a range of 0.13 to 0.31 arcseconds.
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According to Hickson, four factors make Dome A the perfect spot for a telescope — the high altitude, low temperature, elongated periods of darkness, and a stable atmosphere. “A telescope there would have sharper images and could detect fainter objects,” he said.

Aside from being out in the middle nowhere, there is one more catch to this seemingly perfect spot — frost. According to Bin Ma, co-author of the study, overcoming this particular obstacle could improve the telescope seeing ability by 10% to 12%.

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