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ONE PHOTO – ONE STORY

20.04.2015

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“Some of my friends thought this picture was taken on a distant planet – but that’s not true. It was actually taken on Earth and, to be precise, in the Dévoluy mountain range in southern France. At 2550 metres of height on the Plateau de Bure, there is a research station with seven such antennas used to explore the galaxies. The station belongs to the Institut de Radioastronomie Millimétrique (IRAM), which has its headquarters in Grenoble. The size of the antennas is impressive – each one measures 15 metres in diameter. The placement of the antennas enables the so-called interferometry measurement method, a process whereby various telescopes receive a signal at the same time, consequently increasing the resolution dramatically.

Accessing the plateau is a challenge even for experienced mountain climbers – especially when there’s snow and ice. There are no sealed roads and no chairlift. Though I knew the route well from going there numerous times in summer, it took me quite a few hours to climb it in January. With the cold and extreme wind at the time, changing lenses was out of the question; but I was able to capture a couple of lovely pictures before it got too cold. Despite the adversity it was a great experience: I felt like I was in a very special place, a smaller version of the Antarctic.”

Michel Perrottet

Michel Perrottet worked as an engineer before focussing fully on research. A Doctor of Physics, he works for the CNRS, the French National Centre for Scientific Research. In his free time he is drawn to the mountains – to hike, to climb and to take photographs.
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