Scientists identify coldest and driest place on earth

Known simply as Ridge A, is nearly 4,053m high up on the Antarctic Plateau. It has been identified as the coldest place on earth. Making it as the most promising site for a future observatory from which to explore space. No human has visited the isolated plateau.

It has an average winter temperature of minus 70ºC (94º Fahrenheit) and that the water content of the entire atmosphere there is sometimes less than the thickness of a human hair.

A team of American and Australian scientists identified Ridge A from satellite imagery and climate models during an exhaustive search for the best observatory site in the world. The site is within the Australian Antarctic Territory, nearly 90 miles from an existing international robotic observatory.

As well as the extremely low temperatures, the site has a very low level of water in the air. "It's so calm that there's almost no wind or weather there at all," said study author Dr Will Saunders, of the Anglo-Australian Observatory.

All these elements combine to make the perfect recipe for an astronomical observation post: “The astronomical images taken at Ridge A should be at least three times sharper than at the best sites currently used by astronomers," Mr Saunders said.

“Because the sky there is so much darker and drier, it means that a modestly-sized telescope there would be as powerful as the largest telescopes anywhere else on earth.”

The team believes that a telescope at the site could take nearly as good photos as those from the space-based Hubble Telescope and La Silla in Chile.

At present, the best observatories on the ground are located on high mountain tops in Hawaii and Chile. The finding is published today in the Publications of the Astronomical Society.

Via : , 1 Sept 2009

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