Observing the stars in peace is difficult nowadays because of the so-called “Light pollution“, caused – as always – by us humans. However, for great astronomical observations there is another important factor to consider: the atmosphere.
This is the same reason that many astronomical observatories are built at large and medium altitudes, in low humidity sites (such as Chile or Hawaii). According to a new study published in the prestigious journal Nature, however, the best place for observations of the celestial vault seems to be Antarctica.
The document measured the “seeing” of Dome A, the maximum elevation of the Antarctic Plateau, which extends for several hundred kilometers around the South Pole. By “seeing” we mean the whole set of phenomena which contribute to the deterioration of the quality of the telescopic images. At 8 meters above the top of Dome A, the researchers report having seen five times better of observers established in mid-latitude sites.
This is thanks to the “Planetary Boundary Layer”, the part of the atmosphere where most of the turbulence occurs. A telescope would surely be capable of get the clearest pictures on Earthother things being equal, if it were built in this place. There is a big problem: temperatures constantly drop below -80 ° C.
This is not an insurmountable problem. In this place, in fact, it is possible to find the Neutrino IceCube Detector and the South Pole Telescope. Maybe in the future Antarctica could become even more crowded.