Ascension Island has a long history when it comes to tracking extraterrestrial goings on.
Scottish astronomer, David Gill, visited Ascension in 1877 to view Mars through a range of his instruments during the Opposition of Mars (an alignment of the sun, the earth, and Mars) which occurred in that year.
The Island was used from the mid sixties to 1990 as a base for space monitoring and tracking by NASA which operated a tracking station on the eastern side of Ascension at the Devil’s Ashpit during the Apollo program. See my separate review NASA and the Devil’s Ashpit Tracking Station.
The European Space Agency (ESA) established its station on the North East coast of the island (well away from potential interference from BBC transmissions) for tracking its commercial Ariane rockets after take off from Kourou in French Guiana. It is one of a series of stations tracking take-offs, each of which tracks the rocket for around five minutes. The station it operated by Cable & Wireless Ltd based on an agreement with the ESA. Pre ESA setting up here, European missions were monitored by the NASA facility.
For the past few years now, the Total Carbon Column Observing Network (TCCON) has had a presence on the ESA site. TCCON is a US body which monitors the atmosphere’s composition and condition, or as its website most eloquently states, it:
“is a network of ground-based Fourier Transform Spectrometers that record direct solar spectra in the near-infrared. From these spectra, accurate and precise column-averaged abundances of atmospheric constituents including CO2, CH4, N2O, HF, CO, H2O, and HDO, are retrieved.”
Isn’t it amazing what you can learn by reading my blog ? !
While the station is at the far side of the Island from Georgetown and there is not a whole lot to see in terms of the station itself, it is worth going out here for the drive (along a road especially built for the station) and the rather rugged coastline by the station – there are a few small blowholes. Anyway, what else have you got to do of an afternoon on Ascension Island while you wait for the bar to open?
Address: North East Bay – via Two Boats