News & AnalysisAstronomy

World-Class Observatory Rising on 'Roof of the World'

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Science  07 Sep 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6099, pp. 1156-1157
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6099.1156

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Asian astronomers have long yearned for a premier mountaintop observatory. After a 2-decade-long search, their hopes are about to be realized. Astronomers have identified a summit on the Ngari Plateau in southwestern Tibet Autonomous Region, near the border with Kashmir, as the likely site for an international observatory. At 5100 meters above sea level, Shiquanhe Observatory would be the highest permanent astronomical perch on Earth's surface. Preliminary weather and atmospheric data suggest that Ngari would rival high-altitude facilities at Mauna Kea, the Atacama Desert in Chile, and in the Canary Islands. But Shiquanhe is not quite ready for prime time.

  • * With reporting by Zhang Dongdong.