Best place on Earth to see stars is at remote site in Antarctica, study shows
30 July 2020
Have you ever wondered why stars twinkle? It’s because turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere makes light emitted from the star wobble as it completes its lightyears-long journey to the lenses in our eyes and telescopes.
But now scientists from international research institutions including UNSW Sydney have found the best place on Earth where – with the help of technology – we can view distant stars as they really appear, without the distorting twinkle.
And it happens to be situated due south of Australia’s Davis Station in Antarctica, on a plateau 4000 metres above sea-level called Dome A.
In research published today in the journal Nature, scientists showed that the conditions at the plateau lend themselves perfectly to viewing stars from Earth with greatly reduced interference from atmospheric turbulence.
According to UNSW Science’s Professor Michael Ashley, who was part of Chinese-led research team of scientists that designed, built and set up a small telescope system at Dome A, the findings represent a fantastic opportunity to obtain better observations of the universe from ground-based telescopes.
“After a decade of indirect evidence and theoretical reasoning, we finally have direct observational proof of the extraordinarily good conditions at Dome A,” says Prof Ashley, an astronomer with UNSW’s School of Physics.
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