First Assessment of Mountains on Northwestern Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, as Potential Astronomical Observing Sites

Steinbring, Eric et al., 2010, Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 122, 1092 | View on ADS (2010PASP..122.1092S) | Access via DOI


Ellesmere Island, at the most northerly tip of Canada, possesses the highest mountain peaks within 10° of the pole. The highest is 2616 m, with many summits over 1000 m, high enough to place them above a stable low-elevation thermal inversion that persists through winter darkness. Our group has studied four mountains along the northwestern coast that have the additional benefit of smooth onshore airflow from the ice-locked Arctic Ocean. We deployed small robotic site-testing stations at three sites, the highest of which is over 1600 m and within 8° of the pole. Basic weather and sky-clarity data for over 3 yr beginning in 2006 are presented here and compared with available nearby sea-level data and one manned midelevation site. Our results point to coastal mountain sites experiencing good weather: low median wind speed, high clear-sky fraction, and the expectation of excellent seeing. Some practical aspects of access to these remote locations and operation and maintenance of equipment there are also discussed.

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