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The calmest place on Earth has been discovered, not on a tropical island or a remote mountain valley but on top of a vast icy plateau in Antarctica.
Scientists pinpointed a site, known simply as Ridge A, high up on the Antarctic Plateau, several hundred miles from the South Pole.
The atmosphere at the site is so still that the stars have lost their twinkle because there is no turbulence in the atmosphere to distort the starlight.


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Scientists discover calmest place on earth
Scientists have discovered the calmest place on earth - a 13,000ft ridge in the Antarctic where temperatures drop to -94F (-70C) where no human has ever been.

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Title: Where is the best site on Earth? Domes A, B, C and F, and Ridges A and B
Authors: Will Saunders, Jon S. Lawrence, John W.V. Storey, Michael C.B. Ashley, Seiji Kato, Patrick Minnis, David M. Winker, Guiping Liu, Craig Kulesa
(Version v2)

The Antarctic plateau contains the best sites on earth for many forms of astronomy, but none of the existing bases was selected with astronomy as the primary motivation. In this article, we try to systematically compare the merits of potential observatory sites. We include South Pole, Domes A, C, and F, and also Ridge B (running northeast from Dome A), and what we call "Ridge A" (running southwest from Dome A). Our analysis combines satellite data, published results, and atmospheric models, to compare the boundary layer, weather, aurorae, airglow, precipitable water vapour, thermal sky emission, surface temperature, and the free atmosphere, at each site. We find that all Antarctic sites are likely to be compromised for optical work by airglow and aurorae. Of the sites with existing bases, Dome A is easily the best overall; but we find that Ridge A offers an even better site. We also find that Dome F is a remarkably good site. Dome C is less good as a thermal infrared or terahertz site, but would be able to take advantage of a predicted "OH hole" over Antarctica during spring.

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Scientists identify coldest place on earth
The site, known simply as Ridge A, is nearly 14,000 metres high and is located deep within the Antarctic Plateau.
It has an average winter temperature of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 degrees Celsius) and is so remote that it is thought that no human has ever set foot there.
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.


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Coldest, Driest, Calmest Place on Earth Found
The search for the best observatory site in the world has lead to the discovery of what is thought to be the coldest, driest, calmest place on Earth - a place where no human is thought to have ever set foot.

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Astronomers Find Calmest, Driest, Coldest Place On Earth
The search for the best observatory site in the world has lead to the discovery of what is thought to be the coldest, driest, calmest place on Earth. No human is thought to have ever been there but it is expected to yield images of the heavens three times sharper than any ever taken from the ground.
The joint US-Australian research team combined data from satellites, ground stations and climate models in a study to assess the many factors that affect astronomy - cloud cover, temperature, sky-brightness, water vapour, wind speeds and atmospheric turbulence.
The researchers pinpointed a site, known simply as Ridge A, that is 4,053m high up on the Antarctic Plateau. It is not only particularly remote but extremely cold and dry. The study revealed that Ridge A has an average winter temperature of minus 70C and that the water content of the entire atmosphere there is sometimes less than the thickness of a human hair.
They found that the best place in almost all respects was not the highest point on the Plateau - called Dome A - but 150km away along a flat ridge.

"Ridge A looks to be significantly better than elsewhere on the Antarctic plateau and far superior to the best existing observatories on high mountain tops in Hawaii and Chile" - Dr Will Saunders, Anglo-Australian Observatory.

The finding is published today in the Publications of the Astronomical Society. Located within the Australian Antarctic Territory (81.5 S 73.5 E), the site is 144km from an international robotic observatory and the proposed new Chinese 'Kunlun' base at Dome A (80.37 S 77.53 E).

Source: University of New South Wales

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