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This stunning photo of the Milky Way was captured from what may be the coldest and most isolated research facility on Earth: the French-Italian Concordia Base station, located at 3,200 meters (nearly 10,500 feet) altitude on the Antarctic plateau, 1,670 km (1,037 miles) from the geographic south pole.
Taken by Dr. Alexander Kumar, a doctor, researcher and photographer who’s been living at the Base since January, the image shows the full beauty of the sky above the southern continent — a sky that doesn’t see the Sun from May to August.
During the winter months no transportation can be made to or from Concordia Base — no deliveries or evacuations, not for any reason. The team there is truly alone, very much like future space explorers will one day be. This isolation is one reason that Concordia is used by ESA for research for missions to Mars.
Of course, taking photos outside is no easy task. Temperatures outside the Base in winter can drop down to -70ºC (-100ºF)!
“The dark may cause fear, but if you take the time to adapt and look within it, you never know what you may find – at the bottom of the ocean, in the night sky, or under your bed in the middle of the night,” writes Kumar on the Concordia blog. “If you don’t overcome your fear of the ‘unknown’ and ‘monsters’, you will never see marvellous secrets hidden in the dark.
“I hope this photo inspires you too for the days, weeks and months ahead. In terms of the space exploration we are only beginning. We have to continue pushing out into the great beyond.”
Image credits: ESA/IPEV/PNRA – A. Kumar