Summary: AFOS: Probing the UV-visible potential of the Antarctic
J. T. Dempseya, J. W. V. Storeya, M. C. B. Ashleya, M. G. Burtona, P. G. Calissea, M. A.
aSchool of Physics, University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW Australia 2052;
b Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Australian National University, ACT;
The Antarctic Fiber-Optic Spectrometer (AFOS) is a 30cm Newtonian optical telescope that injects light through
six 30m long optical fibers onto a 240-850nm spectrograph with a 1024 × 256 pixel CCD camera. The telescope
is mounted on a dual telescope altitude-azimuth mount and has been designed to measure the transperency of
the atmosphere above the South Pole for astronomy in the UV and visible wavelength regions. The instrument
has observed a series of bright O and B stars during the austral winters of 2002 and 2003 to probe the UV cutoff
wavelength, the auroral intensity and water vapour content in the atmosphere above the plateau.
AFOS is the first completely automated optical telescope on the Antarctic Plateau. This paper reports on
the results of the past two austral winters of remote observing with the telescope as well as the technical and
software modifications required to improve the quality and automation of the observations. The atmospheric
absorption bands in the 660-900nm regions of the spectra have been fitted with MODTRAN atmospheric models
and used to calculate the precipitable water vapour above the South Pole. These data are then compared to
those collected concurrently by radiosonde and by a 350µm submillimeter tipper at South Pole.
Keywords: optical astronomy, fibre optics, Antarctica