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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

New geomagnetic observatory in Antarctica ensures accuracy of map data

Getting from A to B in Aotearoa with the help of smartphone maps is possible thanks to a Geomagnetic Observatory in Antarctica.

Geomagnetic Huts In Antarctica

The observatory is part of a global network monitoring activities in the Earth’s magnetic field.
photo: Supply / Antarctica New Zealand / Matthew Jordan

The Scott Base Geomagnetic Observatory supplies data for smartphone orientation as well as air and ship navigation, space weather monitoring, aurora forecasting, and modeling of Earth’s geological and geophysical activity.

Tanja Petersen, leader of the GNS Science Geomagnetism Project, said the observatory was part of a global network monitoring movements in Earth’s magnetic field.

“Earth’s magnetic field is slowly changing over time, so the difference between where our compass points, and where north is on our map, changes over time,” Peterson said.

“We need to correct and calculate that change so that you can walk in the right direction when you use your smartphone map.”

But the new Scott Base – due for completion by 2030 – will interfere with the observatory’s data collection, said Scott Base Redevelopment Project Director John Egger.

“The new Scott base will be made of steel – a kryptonite [causing weakness or failure] For geomagnetic measurements that need to be collected in quiet magnetic settings.

“A new geomagnetic observatory was needed to maintain the integrity of these nationally and internationally important datasets and to ensure accurate measurements were continued.”

The new observatory was built last summer at a “magnetically quiet” location 3 km from Scott Base in Arrivals Heights.

The original and new observatories were now working together, allowing for a year’s worth of data overlap until the original – founded in 1957 by Sir Edmund Hillary and his team – was decommissioned this summer.

The green observatory huts will match the color of the new Scott Base, as voted on by the New Zealand public earlier this year.

Scott Bass Ross Island

Scott Base on Ross Island.
photo: Supply / Antarctica New Zealand

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