Francesc Vilardell: “Living in Antarctica is the closest thing to live in another planet”
The astronomer Francesc Vilardell of Observatori Astronòmic del Montsec (OAdM) of the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC) has lived a unique experience after spending thirteen weeks at the Concordia base in Antarctica working on the telescope IRAIT.

What is the ultimate goal of the mission in Antarctica?

Our institute has extensive experience in ground instrumentation and more particularly in its automation. The aim of the project is to install an astronomical observatory in Antarctica which would function robotically, as we do in the Observatori Atsronòmic del Montsec (OAdM). If we get it to work in such adverse conditions as those of the Concordia base, we would had overcome a major challenge.


Why Antarctica?

Earth is spherical and there are regions of the sky that can only be seen from one hemisphere. For example the Magallanes Clouds, the closest nebula to the Milky Way can be seen only from the Southern Hemisphere. Antarctica (as well as the Arctic) has other advantages for studying the sky. During the winter the sun rises 24 hours and thus avoid the day / night cycles of elsewhere. So, we can study celestial bodies continuously.

How was the experience of living for thirteen weeks so far from everything and in such adverse conditions?

Now that I’m back I’m even more aware of how special it is Antarctica. It is so different that you could say that is the closest thing to live in another planet without leaving Earth. It’s unlike anything else in this world. It also costs a little back to everyday life. Hivernants pass seasons of more than nine months, and they take longer than a year to regain normal life. I’ve been thirteen weeks and has also cost me. There, you are disconnected from everything and when you come back you have the feeling that many things happen at once. It is a unique experience and very worthwhile.

You can learn more about the experience of Francesc Vilardell in Concordia base in Antarctica on his blog L’IEEC a l’Antàrtida.
Attached Documents
Generalitat de CatalunyaUniversitat de BarcelonaUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaUniversitat Politècnica de CatalunyaConsejo Superior de Investigaciones CientíficasCentres de Recerca de Catalunya