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Canada Space Science

Is the Canadian Arctic the Future of Astronomy? 106

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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  • Re:Firstly... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:07AM (#38608126) Homepage Journal

    Its possible to put a telescope at the south spin pole because of the base there, and that is a long way from the south magnetic pole, which attracts the aurora. The northern spin pole is in ice over water and the northern magnetic pole is IIRC in Canada, so maybe this means a telescope in Canada would see more of the aurora.

  • Re:Firstly... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <> on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:37AM (#38608228) Homepage

    To be perfectly honest? The difference between the antarctic and arctic travel. So it is easier. In the summer, you can get around by short carrier craft jumps and ship hopping. In the winter, you can drive trucks from point to point. It gets cold there, I've had friends stationed in Resolute, AKA the asshole of Canada. As for communication? Hah no. Emergencies are handled by sat phones. Major outpost cities are done by uplinks via satellite too. There's too much of an issue with the frost/freeze cycle in the spring to drop down landlines.

    And well, if it becomes big enough, and important enough. The government may, eventually, possibly decide to drop in a rail link. But don't hold your breath, otherwise they'll simply sub in plane drops like we do for other remote cities. But that's it. If you live in the middle of nowhere Canada, you're on your own. I've been there.

  • Re:alaska anyone? (Score:4, Informative)

    by mister_playboy ( 1474163 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:11AM (#38608342)

    Do you have a globe? Alaska isn't close enough to the pole for the desired purpose.

  • Re:Firstly... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:22AM (#38608384)

    I dont' have the exact location, but the approximate site [] is on western Ellesmere Island, near 80degN, 86deg 25'W, just west of Eureka. I've been to Eureka, which is mainly a weather station on the north side of Slidre Fiord, right on the coastline (if you move east along the shore in Google Maps you'll see it). It has a nice airstrip up the hill that Hercules and other large military aircraft can land at. In the fall (usually September) the base gets resupplied by an icebreaker, so theoretically it is possible to steam all the way up there with a big instrument and offload it, and then move it by road. The PEARL station [] is a 15km drive to the west from there. It's quite pleasant at Eureka in the summertime (up to 15C). In the winter, well, I wouldn't want to be there, but 24 hours of darkness and bitter cold is probably good for astronomy, and it is much more accessible than the Antarctic pole. Although it wouldn't get continual coverage all the way to the horizon, at 80 degrees north you could still track a target 24 hours a day over most of the northern sky in winter.

    People are right that building on permafrost is a challenge, but one that is probably a lot easier than building on ice. Likewise, yes, communication would have to be by satellite, but that's true in Antarctica too. On the whole this is indeed a much more accessible location.

  • Aurora location (Score:5, Informative)

    by dtmos ( 447842 ) * on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:51AM (#38608508)

    Aurora occur in rings centered on the magnetic poles [], not at the magnetic poles themselves. As activity intensifies, the radius of these rings increases, in parallel with lines of geomagnetic latitude [], but even in periods of very low solar activity their radius never goes to near zero -- meaning, there are few aurora near the magnetic poles themselves.

APL hackers do it in the quad.