A robotic observatory installed at a high-altitude site in Antarctica will search for planets orbiting other stars and test the site’s potential for more ambitious observatories that could follow. The site may offer the best astronomical sky conditions in the world.
During the uninterrupted darkness of winter near the South Pole, CSTAR will be able to monitor a 20-square-degree patch of sky – about 100 times the area of the Full Moon – for four months straight. It will look for the dimming of a star’s light caused by a planet passing in front of it as seen from Earth.
Astronomers involved in the PLATO project believe Dome A may be the best site in the world for astronomy, and PLATO is designed primarily to measure key characteristics like the amount of turbulence in the air, which can distort astronomical images, and the amount of water vapour, which blocks out light in the infrared and radio parts of the spectrum.