Antarctic Air!

This morning we saw a sundog, a rainbow which makes a circle all the way around the sun! The air here in Antarctica is super clear, partly because we are a long way from human industries, and partly because it is so dry.

That’s why some of the world’s largest and most powerful telescopes are at the South Pole.

This clear dry air makes everything look closer than it is. Looking at a mountain, it’s hard to tell how far away it is without anything for scale. Sometimes it looks like we could walk somewhere in a few minutes, when really it’s 3 or 5 miles away! Penguins give a sense of scale – looking at a mountain that feels almost close enough to touch, but seeing that the penguins at the base are barely more than specks. The Gentoo, Adelie, and Chinstrap penguins we’ve been seeing here are mostly about knee high, so when they’re just specks it’s a bit of a double take realizing the mountain is much further than it looks, and also therefore much bigger.

Categories: Musings of an Oceanographer | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Antarctic Air!

  1. Peter Cleary

    Beautiful picture! The South Pole is so dry it is perfect for a microwave radio telescope. But the big optical telescopes are in dry but less remote places like the Atacama Desert in northern Chile (which already has the VLT – very large telescope, and where they are starting to build the 39 metre E-ELT – European Extremely Large Telescope), and Mauna Kea in Hawaii (which has the Keck telescopes)

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