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China to build South Pole observatory
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The Chinese Center for Antarctic Astronomy has announced that two astronomers will head for the South Pole as members of China's 24th Antarctic expedition team at the end of October. They plan to climb Dome-A at the end of December and prepare to build an automatic astronomical observatory.


Dome-A is the highest location in Antarctica at about 4,093 meters above sea level. It is one of the best places on earth for setting up an observatory because it stores climate information and atmospheric conditions for the entire globe. From there one can observe climate and environmental changes and special natural phenomena that cannot be seen from any other places. China's Antarctic expedition team successfully climbed Dome-A for the first time in 2005, marking a major breakthrough in China's Polar exploration.


What differs this expedition from the previous ones is that the team includes two astronomers. They are Zhou Xu, researcher from the National Astronomical Observatories, and Zhu Zhenxi, deputy researcher from the Purple Mountain Observatory. This will be the first time Chinese astronomers climb the Antarctic Dome-A. Their responsibilities are to install and debug the astronomical instruments and set up the automatic astronomical observatory.


If everything goes well, China will establish the automatic astronomical observatory at Dome-A next year. An expert from the Chinese Center for Antarctic Astronomy explained that the main purpose of the observatory is to conduct astronomical calculations and determine the parameters of the astronomical site selection. The observatory will be equipped with engines, host computers, satellite communication, and an automatic observatory tower. 


(China.org.cn by Zhang Ming'ai, October 15, 2007)

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