The Amundsen Observatory

We all know what lies at the North Pole. Just mentioning it probably brings up images of a red and white barber pole with a triangular banner bearing the words ‘North Pole’. And of course in the near vicinity lives Santa and his elf settlement at this distant outpost.

Perhaps in 50 plus years, global warming will thin the ice up there enough so water finally pokes through and the whole paradigm up there might need changing.

But there is a more solid pole. Even if you melted the snow and ice of the South Pole, you’d have ground to to firmly plant your feet on. Finally Roald Amundsen’s expedition arrived to the South Pole almost 100 years ago, on December 14, 1911.

All that was reported there was snow and ice. Amundsen left a tent and a letter there in case he never made it back to civilization.

So there isn’t a red and white barber pole saying South Pole on a triangular banner in Antarctica. In those harsh elements I bet the tent and letter are long gone. Perhaps modern man should leave a permanent plaque to this victory in exploration.

Still, a simple plaque is hardly going to increase interest for the South Pole. Perhaps we could make a station there, maybe Amundsen Station.

But I have a better idea. How about a science station, nay an observatory to peer at the heavens. You see, the South Pole has an advantage over every part of the world except the North Pole. And as discussed previously, the North Pole might be underwater in 50 years. So the South Pole is the place.

Below, in the foreground, is a picture of a Dobsonian mounted telescope (thank you KW Telescope). The mount is what allows the telescope to point anywhere. The Dobsonian mount is free to rotate at its bottom. Just above the keypad thing is the other rotator. This rotator allows the telescope to move from horizontal to pointing straight up and every position in between. With these two pivots, the telescope can point anywhere at all in the sky.

All the other telescopes in the background use the more complex German Equatorial Mount. It’s more complex and involves counterweights. Such mounts are way more bulky and usually have smaller actual telescopes. So why use equatorial mounts?

A simple motor that makes the telescope turn 360 degrees in one day can be set up on such a telescope mount. You need this to counter the Earth’s rotation which moves the stars. It takes two motors to set something similar up on a Dobsonian. And the motors have to be adjustable and complexly programmed to follow a star.

This happens everywhere – except the South Pole. At the South Pole a Dobsonian mounted telescope can be powered by one motor that turns the telescope 360 degrees in one day. Perhaps a more massive telescope could be set up at the South Pole because of the simplicity of the Dobsonian mount’s design.

Of course the Amundsen Observatory at the South Pole would be useless half of the year. But during the half of the year it did work, it could run 24 hours.

So when pondering a tribute to Amundsen, at least think of a Dobsonian mounted telescope.

Update March 29, 2014: Apparently the south pole is lousy with telescopes. It’s not just the simple mount but it’s good viewing as well. I don’t know how long these observatories have been down there but I expect for a few years so I was already out of date when I posted this.

About Larry Russwurm

Just another ranter on the Internet
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