Scientists have named the Argus Dome in East Antarctica as the best location for the telescope. The problem is that this is one of the coldest and most remote places on Earth: the temperature there drops to minus 90 degrees Celsius, and to get to it, you need to walk about 1200 kilometers inland.
The combination of high altitude, low temperature, long periods of continuous darkness, and an exceptionally stable atmosphere made the dome ideal for optical and infrared telescopes. Thanks to this, astronomers can view objects with very small angular dimensions that are almost invisible to observers on Earth. This conclusion was reached by a group of scientists from China, Australia, and Canada. Details of their research are published in the journal Nature.
“The Argus Dome telescope has the potential to outperform any other location on the planet and match the image quality of larger installations in mid-latitudes”, said University of British Columbia astronomer Paul Hickson, co-author of the study. He notes that a telescope located on this dome would have produced clearer images and could detect smaller objects than any equipment in existence today.
Bin Ma, lead author of the article, noted that there is a thinner atmospheric boundary layer above the Dome of Argus, which helps to reduce the effects of atmospheric turbulence. In addition, there is no light pollution of the sky above it. In cities, artificial lighting is often brighter than the light of the stars. Installing a telescope in Antarctica could solve this problem.
The study took place at the Chinese station “Kunlun”, which is located near the dome. Scientists installed telescopes and cameras on it last year and received about 45 thousand images in a few months. They then estimated the level of interference that occurs when observing from the Earth and at different heights (up to eight meters) and compared the images with those obtained with other telescopes.
Today, the best telescopes are Chile’s Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA), Hawaiian WM Keck Observatory, and China’s 500-meter spherical telescope with aperture (FAST). They observe space in the range from 0.6 to 0.8 arc seconds, and the equipment located on the Argus Dome will have a range of 0.13 to 0.31 arc seconds. That is, it will be possible to get five to seven times sharper pictures. Bing Ma believes that this figure can be improved by 10-12% if we cope with severe frosts.
Scientists hope their research will convince the Chinese government to approve the project and build a telescope at the KDUST observatory to study the darkest and dimmest objects in the universe.