The South Pole Telescope

The aurora australis above the south pole telescope at the amundsen-scott south pole station.
The Aurora Australis above the South Pole Telescope at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
Keith Vanderlinde / NSF

For six months of the year the South Pole is the perfect place for stargazing: darkness around the clock, no light pollution from irritating human settlements, and high altitude and freezing air combined mean a thin, crisp atmosphere with little distorting water vapour.

That’s why the South Pole Telescope was built there in 2006, near the American research base at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The 10-metre reflecting telescope observes the heavens in various frequencies of infrared radiation, paying particular attention to the cosmic microwave background, the dim all-pervasive afterglow of the big bang.

In this picture, the telescope can be seen during the long Antarctic night as the aurora australis, or southern lights, stream overhead.

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