High on the Antarctic Plateau, in one of the coldest places on Earth, a group of telescopes are peering through stellar dust clouds into the heart of our galaxy.
The cold helps counteract interference from the telescopes and surrounding equipment, which can hinder our ability to see relatively ‘cool’ objects in space, such as asteroids, young stars, and interstellar gas.
Without the help of icebreaking ships, all-terrain vehicles and tough machinery, most Antarctic science could not happen. The French ship L’Astrolabe is a crucial facility for scientists exploring the Earth’s climate, oceans, atmosphere and ecology.
Every year, the ship and its crew, managed by the French Navy for the Institut polaire français Paul-Émile Victor (IPEV) from Hobart, support approximately 50 French and international scientific projects based out of the French stations Dumont d’Urville and Concordia. L’Astrolabe also transports food, supplies, logistics officers and scientists to and from the Australian Antarctic Division’s base on Macquarie Island.
Climate change will impose a complex web of threats and interactions on the plants and animals living in the ice-free areas of Antarctica.
Increased temperatures may promote growth and reproduction, but may also contribute to drought and associated effects. These scenarios are explored in a new book, Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator, co-edited by Australian Antarctic Division biologist, Dr. Dana Bergstrom.
Researchers at Geoscience Australia have unravelled the development of a unique seafloor community thriving in complete darkness below the giant ice sheets of Antarctica.The community beneath the Amery Ice Shelf in Antarctica is 100 kilometres from open water and hidden from view by ice half a kilometre thick. This ecosystem has developed very slowly over the past 9,000 years, since the end of the last glaciation.
Today it is home to animals such as sponges and bryozoans fed by plankton carried in on the current. Dr Alix Post studied shell fossils within core samples where she unexpectedly found evidence of these isolated ecosystems.