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Novel instruments for site characterization J. w. V. Storey, M. C. B. Ashley and M. G. Burton

Summary: Novel instruments for site characterization
J. w. V. Storey, M. C. B. Ashley and M. G. Burton
School of Physics, University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia
In order to fully characterize the astronomical potential of remote sites on the antarctic plateau, we have developed a
suite of instruments covering UV to sub-millimeter wavelengths. In addition, we have successfully demonstrated the
use of an acoustic radar (SODAR) at the South Pole to measure the height of the turbulent atmospheric boundary
layer. Each instrument is designed to operate independently and autonomously, producing reliable, fully calibrated
data without human intervention. Although designed primarily for use in Antarctica, these instruments use novel
technology that is applicable to other astronomical applications as well.
Keywords : Site-testing, astronomy, Antarctica
1.1. The importance of Antarctica for astronomy
The antarctic plateau offers the promise of the best conditions on the surface of the Earth for a wide range of
astronomical observations; see for example Burton et al 1994. Despite popular images of Antarctica as a harsh,
windswept continent, conditions on the plateau are relatively benign. Cloud cover and precipitation are minimal
and wind speeds average a low 3 meters per second. The main challenges are those of the altitude, isolation, and of
course the extreme cold.
There are three properties of the antarctic environment that make it an exceptional site for astronomy. First,
the atmospheric water vapor content at the South Pole in summer averages 0.2 to 0.5 mm of precipitable water


Source: Ashley, Michael C. B. - School of Physics, University of New South Wales


Collections: Physics