Antarctica -- The Unknown Continent

Antarctica — The Unknown Continent

The last true frontier on the Earth, Antarctica lives up to that characterization. Yet despite weather extremes, 42 countries brave this desolate continent to place research stations across its barren landscape.

After spending several days watching videos on YouTube, you quickly became aware that almost all of the videos address the topic of climate change leaving the viewer knowing the impact that Antarctica has on the entire globe.

Of the videos watched, most highlighted climate change and experiments to identify the historical records found in ice cores. Signs of different elements in the ice cores date back nearly one million years. These experiments contribute to understanding weather patterns as well as the chemical makeup of the atmosphere during a specific timeline.

Climate change is still being studied, but there is no exact science to validate the claims. That is not to say that Antarctica does pose a threat if the ice and snowpack were to melt. Antarctica contains 70% of the freshwater of the world and would be catastrophic worldwide.

Ocean levels would rise about 60 meters (200 feet), drowning many coastal cities around the world. but as quoted in a National Geographic that appeared September 2013 —

If all the ice on land has melted and drained into the sea, raising it 216 feet and creating new shorelines for our continents and inland seas.

There are more than five million cubic miles of ice on Earth, and some scientists say it would take more than 5,000 years to melt it all. If we continue adding “carbon” to the atmosphere, we’ll very likely create an ice-free planet, with an average temperature of perhaps 80 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the current 58.

Antarctica Without Ice: British Survey Reveals – (image from

The above image is what Antarctica looks like without the ice and snow. The illustration also reveals that the continent would, in itself, be flooded only revealing mountain ranges and high plateaus.

This represents the “what if ” scenario many scientists predict and climate change activists insist the public be conned into believing.

Is this what Greta Thunberg referred to in her address to the United Nations Summit in 2019?

Everyone has an opinion on the climate change which poses two questions. How many centuries would it take for such a global event to actually happen? The next would be obvious. Can it be reversed before the next “Great Flood?”

To be realistic, current and future technological advances could conceivably conquer any predicted discernible disasters facing global humanity. Could/would the world come together to anticipate and collaborate on solutions?

Antarctica is 14,200,000 square kilometers (5,500,000 square miles), it is the fifth-largest continent and nearly twice the size of Australia.

According to Oceanwide Expedition

Regarded as the ‘international continent’, Antarctica is a place of worldwide cooperation, peace, and scientific discovery. There are currently 70 permanent research stations scattered across the continent of Antarctica, which represent 29 countries from every continent on Earth. Together, these countries, or ‘signatories’ of the Antarctic Treaty, must ensure the preservation and wellbeing of the natural land, and to cooperate with their fellow explorers. Each signatory of the treaty maintains either year-round or seasonal stations throughout Antarctica. Some countries even maintain both, in order to maximize the amount of seasonal research that can be conducted.

The history behind the establishment of these stations hasn’t always been glamorous. Not only is it difficult to travel to Antarctica in the first place, but there’s an immense amount of work that goes into building and maintaining these stations, some of which hold up to 1,200 people at peak summer hours. Still, the human spirit persists and has resulted in the construction of some of the most amazing and interesting places on Earth.

The prevailing westerly cyclonic winds surround Antarctica. Research in Antarctica takes place in the summer with weather conditions varying between inland regions, slopes of Antarctic plateau and coasts.  Inland summer (November-February) averages are between -25 and -45 °C (-13…-49 °F) with a mean temperature of -60 ° F in the winter months.

There are 1144 personnel that occupy research centers during the winter months as compared to 4225 in the summer months.

A final conference on Antarctica convened in Washington on October 15, 1959. Agreement on the final draft was reached within six weeks of negotiations, and the Antarctic Treaty was signed on December 1, 1959. With final ratification by each of the 12 governments (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the treaty was enacted on June 23, 1961. (The full Treaty of Antarctica can be found here.)

A full list of research stations in Antarctica can be found at “the full wiki.”

Active Research Stations – Antarctica

Any Antarctic research station established must adhere to the Antarctic Treaty  China signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1983 and became a consultative member two years later. They sent its first Antarctic expedition in 1984 and the following year set up its first permanent station. China now maintains four Antarctic stations-Changcheng, Zhongshan, Taishan and Kunlun - and over time has sent 33 expeditions.

China to build world-class telescopes for an Antarctic observatory

‘Beijing aims to install two powerful telescopes atop the Dome A, also known as Dome Argus, the highest ice formation in Antarctica. The two telescopes are Kunlun Dark Universe Survey Telescope and Dome A Terahertz Explorer.’

China will build two telescopes at Dome A, the highest point on the Antarctic plateau, in an effort to upgrade the country’s observation and research capabilities.

‘The plan to build the 2.5-meter Kunlun Dark Universe Survey Telescope (KDUST) and the 5-meter Dome A Terahertz Explorer (DATE5) is crucial for the establishment of China’s own observatory in Antarctica, which can help to solve scientific problems including the origins of life and the universe,’ Cui Xiangqun, an academic with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a NPC deputy, told Science and Technology Daily on March 7. Cui added that the establishment of the observatory will help China to search for Earth-like planets outside the solar system.

According to Cui, KDUST will use near-infrared light to probe dark matter, improving on the shortcomings of the Hubble telescope. DATE5 will detect light with a longer wavelength, allowing astronomers to see into dark clouds of dust and molecules.

The occupation of Dome A will be a significant step forward for astronomical research in China, as the spot will offer a larger visual field than what has previously been available, capturing images in high resolution.’ (Link)

China is not the only country vying to explore Deep Space from Dome A (Dome Argus).

The United States, for one, has also ventured to Dome A and established an observation station to collect, discover and measure light emitted from the birth of our universe.

From the Argonne Nation Laboratory

 (Image by Bradford A. Benson.) 

Located at the National Science Foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, the South Pole Telescope is funded and maintained by the National Science Foundation in its role as manager of the U.S. Antarctic Program, the national program of research on the southernmost continent.

‘The ability to operate a 10-meter telescope, literally at the end of the Earth, is a testament to the scientific capabilities of the researchers that NSF supports and the sophisticated logistical support that NSF and its partners are able to provide in one of the harshest environments on Earth,’ said Vladimir Papitashvili, Antarctic astrophysics and geospace sciences program director in NSF’s Office of Polar Programs. ​‘This new camera will extend the abilities of an already impressive instrument.’

The telescope is operated by a collaboration of more than 80 scientists and engineers from a group of universities and U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories, including three institutions in the Chicago area. These research organizations—the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory—have worked together to build a new, ultra-sensitive camera for the telescope, containing 16,000 specially manufactured detectors.

‘Built with cutting-edge detector technology, this new camera will significantly advance the search for the signature of early cosmic inflation in the cosmic microwave background and allow us to make inroads into other fundamental mysteries of the universe, including the masses of neutrinos and the nature of dark energy,’ said Kathy Turner of DOE’s Office of Science.

Since the beginning of space race in the 1950s through the present day, debris from failed or obsolete satellites has grown to millions of parts, pieces, and other junk material. This has become a safety issue for all countries launching new space platforms and satellites that the world has become dependent on.

This image illustrates the amount of debris encircling the globe today. Most nations who have already placed or plan to place new space-faring materials are studying how to clear debris from interfering with their respective programs.

One notable study comes from March 17, 2011,

Earth-based Lasers Could Zap Space Junk Clear From Satellites Earth-based Lasers Could Zap Space Junk Clear From Satellites

Lasers on the ground could be used to nudge debris in orbit, which could help move dangerous space junk away from satellites and spacecraft, scientists working with NASA suggest.

Space debris might not sound like much of a threat until one realizes that in low-Earth orbit, ‘these objects are typically going at about 7.5 kilometers per second, or almost 17,000 miles per hour,’ said physicist James Mason, a NASA contract scientist at the Universities Space Research Association. ‘To put this in perspective, a 1-ounce piece of debris traveling at this velocity has about the same kinetic energy as a 2-ton car traveling at 60 miles per hour.’

The problem that debris poses gets worse when collisions spawn even more debris, eventually cluttering space with high-speed shrapnel, a scenario nicknamed ‘Kessler syndrome ‘ after NASA scientist Donald Kessler, who predicted it in 1978.

How lasers move space trash

Light can exert a push on the matter, a fact that scientists have used to develop solar sails that can fly through space on sunlight. The researchers suggest that a medium-power commercially available laser with a 5-to-10-kilowatt beam constantly focused on a piece of debris could work, located someplace such as the Plateau Observatory in Antarctica.

As an example, they considered a real mid-size piece of debris — ASTRO-F, a discarded lens cap 31 inches (80 centimeters) wide and 11 pounds (5 kilograms) in mass from the Japanese Akari telescope in a near-circular orbit about 434 miles (700 kilometers) in altitude. A laser at PLATO shining on this piece of junk for about two hours over the course of two days could move it away from a dangerous orbit.

‘This is truly a unique approach to the problem,’ Mason told ‘Most previous work has focused on removing debris, which is a more complex and costly proposition. What we have suggested is simply to prevent collisions on a case-by-case basis and allow the debris to continue to decay in their orbits naturally due to atmospheric drag.’

‘It will require more research to confirm, but we suspect that if this is done for enough debris objects, then it might be able to stabilize the population and slow the Kessler syndrome,’ he added.

Laser tests needed 

The 5-kilowatt laser would cost about $800,000, and a single device could probably engage about 10 objects a day. However, the scientists do note that the actual cost of an operating system, including telescope, would likely be tens of millions of dollars.
It may be possible to perform a nearly free demonstration of this idea using existing capabilities, such as those of the Starfire Optical Range at Kirtland Air Force Base. The researchers do stress that any system should be done as an international collaboration because of the obvious space warfare implications.  (Link)

~ New technology impacting lasers and how to cool them in operation are still being studied and we will keep following the status as it becomes available.

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