Summary: Science Goals for an Antarctic Large Infrared Telescope
MG. Burton, J.WV. Storey and M.C.B. Ashley
Joint Australian Centre for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica,
School of Physics, University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia
Over the past few years, site-testing at the South Pole has revealed conditions that are uniquely favorable for
infrared astronomy. In particular, the exceptionally low sky brightness throughout the near- and mid-infrared leads
to the possibility of a modest-sized telescope achieving comparable sensitivity to that of existing 8--10 metre class
telescopes. An 8 m Antarctic telescope, if constructed, would yield performance that would be unrivaled until the
advent of the NGST. In this paper we review the scientific potential of infrared telescopes in Antarctica, and discuss
their complementarity with existing 8--10 m class telescopes.
Keywords: Antarctica, Site Testing, Astronomy, Infrared, Star Formation, Interstellar Medium, Disks
The Antarctic plateau provides unique conditions on the Earth for the conduct of observational astronomy. The
air is thin, dry and cold and the weather stable; attributes all offering significant sensitivity gains over temperate
latitude sites. These conditions are quite different to those experienced at Antarctic coastal locations, which are
frequently subject to violent storms.
The plateau is over 3,000m in elevation, rising up to 4,300m at Dome A. An average year-round temperature
of _500 C, falling to _900 C at times, vastly reduces the thermal background in the near-JR. A reduced particulate
content of the atmosphere lowers the emissivity of the atmosphere in the mid-IR, reducing backgrounds still further.