This Hill Is the Best Place on Earth to Stargaze
The best place on Earth to stargaze is also the coldest. On a hill of ice in the wild lands of Antarctica sits the best position to stargaze on the planet. They call the hill Dome A, and it’s the place to be if you’re an astronomer.
One of the biggest challenges to astronomers is the Earth’s atmosphere itself. Any light from faraway stars must contend with an atmosphere over 100 kilometers wide, so it’s inevitable for light to become distorted on its journey form space to Earth. Images get blurry or faint, which astronomers refer to as the level of “seeing.”
Powerful telescopes are helping astronomers overcome that challenge, but location is also key. That’s why the ice hill in Antarctica is so important because astronomers can see the stars there better than anywhere else.
“Bad seeing smears your images from a telescope,” says Zhaohui Shang at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. “At a site with good seeing, a telescope can outperform a similar telescope at a site with worse seeing.”
And at Dome A, Shang’s team measured the seeing at that spot and found that it had one of the best, if not the best, seeing in the world.
The perfect combination of cold, dry air, the height of the hill, and the atmosphere right at that point in Dome A makes Antarctica the ultimate location for stargazing.
Now it’s just a matter of getting a ticket to the South Pole.