This is the best place on earth for stargazing, according to scientists
The good news for stargazers is that scientists have found the absolute best place on earth for romantic stargazing! And the bad: It’s right next to the South Pole. The stars there sparkle less because there is hardly any “atmospheric turbulence” – a phenomenon that confuses scientists all over the world.
The hotspot (or in this case, the cold spot) is called Dome A and is located on a plateau near central Antarctica, about 4 kilometers above sea level. In a new study published on July 29 in the journal Nature, researchers found that the conditions in Dome A are perfect for viewing the night sky with minimal interference from the Earth’s atmosphere.
In particular, the stars above Dome A sparkle less than elsewhere in the world, the researchers found. This is due to a phenomenon known as “atmospheric turbulence”. When the wind blows over uneven terrain, such as mountains or valleys, it creates turbulent eddies in the atmosphere that can distort the appearance of light reaching Earth from distant stars.
“When the starlight hits Earth, it’s everywhere, and you get these blurry images,” said co-author Michael Ashley, an astrophysicist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.
In their new study, Ashley and his colleagues confirmed that atmospheric turbulence at Dome A is not a problem: Since the plateau is completely flat for hundreds of meters in all directions, the slow domestic winds create very little turbulence in the air. The team set up a small telescope on a platform at a height of 8 meters and was able to completely bypass the turbulence when observing the stars in midwinter.
As brutal as these Antarctic winters are, they offer the stargazers in Dome A another advantage. According to the researchers, polar nights can last 24 hours or more during the Antarctic winter, creating much longer windows for stargazing than anywhere else on Earth. In conclusion, the researchers wrote that Dome A was the perfect place to set up a new telescope for future star observations.
Read the full report from the scientists here.
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