Shadows on ice: Proba-1 images Concordia south polar base

December 13, 2012, European Space Agency
Proba-1 images Concordia base.

(Phys.org)—ESA's Earth-observing microsatellite Proba-1 has glimpsed one of the loneliest places on Earth – Concordia research base in the heart of Antarctica.

This image was acquired by the , the smallest imager on ESA's smallest satellite. This black and white digital camera incorporates a miniaturised telescope to fit in Proba-1, whose overall volume is less than a cubic metre.

Long shadows cast by the low Sun pick out details of the base's layout in this 5 m-resolution image.

The Concordia station, built and operated by France's IPEV polar institute and Italy's PNRA Antarctic programme, is one of the few permanently crewed habitats in Antarctica. Located 3233 m above sea level in the high interior, its nearest neighbour is Russia's base, some 560 km away.

Shadows on ice: Proba-1 images Concordia south polar base
Concordia station.

Its extreme location makes it interesting to ESA, which sponsors medical research on how isolation affects overwintering crews during months of cold darkness. 

Life in Concordia is similar to living on another planet. No help can arrive during the winter months and venturing outside is dangerous – temperatures can drop to –80ºC.

The base's distinctive double-cylinder habitats, home to skeleton crews during winter, are picked out by the area of greatest shadow. Directly northeast are the summer camp buildings, with the base runway visible to the north.

To the east of the main habitats are an astronomy platform – Concordia boasts some of the clearest skies in the world – and survey areas where subsurface drilling extracts ice cores.

A faint dot further east is the entrance to an underground seismology shelter measuring ground tremors.

A US-built radio tower and the smoothed-out path leading to it are visible towards the southeast corner of the image.

This image was acquired on 24 November.

Explore further: Medical research on ice

Related Stories

Medical research on ice

June 12, 2008

New medical equipment recently delivered to the Antarctic station Concordia will help understand how our bodies physically adapt to this extreme environment - knowledge which could help prepare for a future human mission ...

Voyage to the most isolated base on Earth

January 30, 2012

Alexander Kumar, the next ESA-sponsored crewmember to stay in Concordia, has arrived safely at the research base in Antarctica. The voyage to one of the remotest places on Earth takes even longer than the voyage to the International ...

Concordia calling

January 25, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Altitude 3200 m, air pressure 645 hPa, minimum temperature -85°C, completely flat landscape, almost total isolation and virtually inaccessible from February to November. Welcome to the science paradise, ...

Mission to Mars via Antarctica

December 21, 2005

A few weeks before leaving for the Antarctic Concordia Station, the Italian-French crew that will spend over one year in one of the harshest, isolated environments on Earth, attended two days of preparatory training at ESA's ...

Season's greetings from the other extreme

December 23, 2011

It is summer in Antarctica and the new crew for the Concordia research station will soon arrive. And since the place is second only to space for harsh conditions, they have been trained courtesy of ESA.

Recommended for you

Solar-powered rover approaching 5,000th Martian dawn

February 16, 2018

The sun will rise on NASA's solar-powered Mars rover Opportunity for the 5,000th time on Saturday, sending rays of energy to a golf-cart-size robotic field geologist that continues to provide revelations about the Red Planet.

Hubble sees Neptune's mysterious shrinking storm

February 15, 2018

Three billion miles away on the farthest known major planet in our solar system, an ominous, dark storm - once big enough to stretch across the Atlantic Ocean from Boston to Portugal - is shrinking out of existence as seen ...

Kepler scientists discover almost 100 new exoplanets

February 15, 2018

Based on data from NASA's K2 mission, an international team of scientists has confirmed nearly 100 new exoplanets. This brings the total number of new exoplanets found with the K2 mission up to almost 300.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.