A team of scientists representing six international institutions, including Texas A&M University, has succeeded in reaching the summit of Antarctica — also a monumental achievement for ground-based astronomy — to establish a new astronomical observatory at Dome Argus on the highest point of the Antarctic Plateau.
Two weeks after arriving Jan. 11 at “Dome A” for only the second time in history, an expedition team led by the Polar Research Institute of China (PRIC) has completed installation work on a revolutionary fully robotic observatory, dubbed PLATeau Observatory or PLATO, that Texas A&M astrophysicist Dr. Lifan Wang predicts will result in new insights into the universe once possible only from space.
“Dome A is believed to be the best site for ground-based astronomy,” explains Wang, one of the leaders of the scientific planning phase of the expedition, who holds the Mitchell-Heep-Munnerlyn Endowed Career Enhancement Professorship in Physics at Texas A&M and is head of the Chinese Center for Antarctic Astronomy. “Unlike the stormy Antarctic coast, the plateau is a very quiet place with very low wind speed. It is the coldest and driest place on Earth. These are critical conditions of a good site at which to build an observatory.”