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Canada Space Science

Is the Canadian Arctic the Future of Astronomy? 106

Posted by samzenpus
from the planets-and-poutine dept.
sciencehabit writes "Frigid temperatures, dry air, and endless nights should, in theory, make the polar regions top spots for ground-based optical astronomy. So far, Antarctica has been getting all the action, with a handful of optical telescopes peering into the sky from the icy continent. But a new study indicates that the Canadian high Arctic is also a good spot for ground-based optical astronomy. In fact, the great white north offers some practical advantages over the Antarctic."
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Is the Canadian Arctic the Future of Astronomy?

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  • fiber (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spectrokid (660550) on Friday January 06, 2012 @06:47AM (#38608060) Homepage
    Telescopes generate huges amount of data. Fiber to the south pole must not be cheap.
  • Re:Firstly... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kahless62003 (1372913) on Friday January 06, 2012 @06:51AM (#38608068)
    Secondly... the annoying light pollution you get from the aurora borealis.
  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Friday January 06, 2012 @06:54AM (#38608084) Homepage Journal

    Or use a site at the equator. Its useless arguing between north and south poles. Each can only see half the sky.

  • by Mister Liberty (769145) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:08AM (#38608134)

    southern sky?

    --
    bjd

  • by GauteL (29207) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:08AM (#38608136)

    "Or use a site at the equator. Its useless arguing between north and south poles. Each can only see half the sky."

    This depends on what you're after. Having only half of a near limitless supply of information may not be a problem to you, as long as you can make the reasonable assumption that the two halves are statistically representative of the other.

    A bigger problem may be that just as they both have one very long winter night, they also one very long summer day (clearly neither are endless).

  • No way! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Troyusrex (2446430) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:28AM (#38608414)
    This is a silly suggestion. The future of astronomy is not in Canada but in space...
  • by necro81 (917438) on Friday January 06, 2012 @09:49AM (#38608840) Journal
    Yes, but you can only see the night sky for about half of each day. When you take away twilight, you are down to perhaps 6-8 hours of observation time per night. With that kind of cycling, you get a lot of diurnal temperature variation, both in your equipment and in the air you are looking through. And while an equatorial site can see more of the sky over the course of a year, it can't see all of it equally well. To see the celestial poles, you would need to point your scope more or less at the horizon, which means looking through a whole lot of atmosphere. There aren't all that many high and dry places near the equator, and while interior Antarctica is a relatively stable air mass, the tropics are raging atmospheric torrents by comparison.

    In contrast, telescopes at the south pole can have days or weeks of continuous observation with very stable temperatures. And while it is true that the south pole has whole months where no observation is possible, the long stretch of continuous observation makes up for it. If it wasn't worthwhile, astronomers and the NSF wouldn't have gone through all the headaches and difficulty to do it.

    It doesn't need to be an either/or situation. There are lots of good places to put scopes, and lots of good reasons for each site. There's a large untapped potential of semi-equitorial sites in the Southern Sahara, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, and the Arabian Peninsula. But in some ways Antarctica is logistically and politically easier.

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