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Leak leaves Antarctic observatory blinded

A robotic observatory atop a plateau in eastern Antarctica has shut down after an exhaust leak caused its generator module to overheat. A Chinese expedition installed the PLATeau Observatory (PLATO) in January at Dome A, the highest point in eastern Antarctica at 4,100 metres altitude (see _Nature_ 451, 752; 2008). The observatory had operated continuously for 204 days before the leak. It is hoped that solar power will revive some of PLATO's instruments by the end of August, as spring nears.

PLATO has four 14.5-centimetre telescopes and weather instruments to test conditions at the site, which is one of the coldest and driest places on Earth. The Polar Research Institute of China has plans to return to the site next year to add three 50-centimetre telescopes.

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Leak leaves Antarctic observatory blinded. Nature 454, 929 (2008).

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