5 December, 2000
Introduction to AST/RO
Like many other telescopes, the light that AST/RO looks at is gathered with a dish and then sent through a series of mirrors to a detector. For an optical telescope, the detector would be a camera or your eye. AST/RO has four receivers, each designed to detect slightly different wavelengths of light, ranging from 0.3mm to 1.5mm. These wavelengths of light are produced by carbon and carbon monoxide isotopes changing energy states, and is easily absorbed by water in the atmosphere. Most research telescopes are located at the top of mountains, where there is significantly less atmosphere between the telescope and space. Since the south pole is one of the highest and driest places on earth, the water in the atmosphere that would interfere with the detection of these wavelengths of light is significantly less than at other places on the earth. Being at the south pole allows AST/RO to detect light on a regular basis that other observatories in warmer and more humid climates can rarely see.
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