Southpole Telescope

Several universities, including the University of Chicago, University of California-Berkeley, and the University of Colorado-Boulder, joined together and were funded by the National Science Foundation to build the South Pole telescope, located at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. It went live in February 2007. It is a microwave telescope that picks up from information from 70 to 300 GHz. Scientists hope that it will reveal more about space and distant galaxies than any other telescope to date.

The South Pole is obviously a very isolated, very cold, very horrid place to live and work. But the South Pole, despite the isolation and chill factor, was the actual ideal location for the microwave telescope. This is because of the isolation, because of the altitude, and because of how thin the atmosphere is. That is additionally important for this type of telescope because water vapor can absorb the millimeter wavelengths, and also water vapor emits a certain amount of radiation, which can confuse astronomical radiation. Also, because of the Earth’s tilt and rotation, the sets in mid-March and is followed by six months of darkness, Which means six months of uninterrupted darkness.  Considering that scientists want to study and explore at least 100 degrees of night sky, this is a huge advantage for them.

This project is being attempted at another telescope, too. Both telescopes are working to research and search for clusters of galaxies using a process involving  the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect, which is a distortion of the cosmic microwave background radiation.

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