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Ellesmere Island
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Title: First Assessment of Mountains on Northwestern Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, as Potential Astronomical Observing Sites
Authors: E. Steinbring, R. Carlberg, B. Croll, G. Fahlman, P. Hickson, L. Ivanescu, B. Leckie, T. Pfrommer, M. Schoeck

Ellesmere Island, at the most northerly tip of Canada, possesses the highest mountain peaks within 10 degrees of the pole. The highest is 2616 m, with many summits over 1000 m, high enough to place them above a stable low-elevation thermal inversion that persists through winter darkness. Our group has studied four mountains along the northwestern coast which have the additional benefit of smooth onshore airflow from the ice-locked Arctic Ocean. We deployed small robotic site testing stations at three sites, the highest of which is over 1600 m and within 8 degrees of the pole. Basic weather and sky clarity data for over three years beginning in 2006 are presented here, and compared with available nearby sea-level data and one manned mid-elevation site. Our results point to coastal mountain sites experiencing good weather: low median wind speed, high clear-sky fraction and the expectation of excellent seeing. Some practical aspects of access to these remote locations and operation and maintenance of equipment there are also discussed.

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New research suggests that the skies of the Canadian Arctic may be the best in the world for astronomy.

Researchers from the Universities of British Columbia and Toronto and the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Victoria are about to report initial results indicating that the best place in the world for telescopes might be Ellesmere Island in the Canadian High Arctic.
Led by Dr. Paul Hickson of UBC, the research was conducted at the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL), a remote lab perched on a ridge overlooking Eureka - the most northerly permanent scientific base in the world, a mere 1,100 km from the North Pole. The results indicate that the clarity of the sky, which astronomers call "seeing," might be as much as 40 per cent better than anywhere else on the planet.

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Latitude: 7958'59"N, Longitude: 8556'59"W

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