Friday, April 15, 2011

The Darker the Better

Astronomers are ever more reaching into the frontier star scapes and finding new galaxies and planets. Now they will have one more very productive place to launch their study- Ellesmere Island.

"The Arctic mountaintops appear to be as good, if not better, than the Hawaiian and Chilean sites now home to large world class telescopes. And the view might be comparable to the Hubble Space Telescope," says one scientist.

The Ellesmere telescope will provide "wonderfully" long and dark Arctic winters looking for potentially habitable planets. The telescope will be able to stare at stars around the clock for days, if not weeks, because the sun won't come up to hinder the view. The long Arctic winter with the sun setting in October and not returning until March is ideal for planet hunting.

The project is different than other planet-hunting operations, which concentrate on larger stars. "The Ellesmere telescope will survey stars as small as a 10th the size of our sun, which are believed to harbour plenty of small planets."

"There is the possibility of detecting rocky planets on which liquid water could exist."

The notion of heading for the Arctic was prompted by the realization in 2004 that Antarctica offered excellent potential for stargazing. However, after some field tests on the Arctic site scientists say that the 2,000 meter mountains are well above weather inversions and atmosphere turbulence.

The long, dark, and tedious Arctic winter may soon produce some exciting discoveries for all who are enthralled with deep space.

Mother Trip has a description of the top ten telescopes of all time including the one invented by Galileo, 'The Father of Modern Science.' "With his 1609 telescope, he examined the moon, discovered four of Jupiter’s moons, watched a supernova, discovered sunspots and verified the phases of Venus. He was also convicted of heresy for advocating a heliocentric view of the universe."