Summary: Submitted to the Antarctic Journal of the United States review issue (1998)
This paper describes the Australian astronomy program on the Antarctic plateau, which has been
conducted in close collaboration with the USA and particularly CARA. This collaboration has
culminated in the commissioning this year of a thermal infrared camera, SPIREX/Abu. Since
1994 a site testing program has been underway at the Pole. An automated observatory has been
constructed in order to test the suitability of the high plateau for astronomy. Plans for future
development within the International Antarctic Observatory are outlined.
Australia's Astronomy Program on the Antarctic Plateau
M.G. Burton, M.C.B. Ashley & J.W.V. Storey
Joint Australian Centre for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica and
School of Physics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.
1 Why Astronomy in Antarctica?
The Antarctic plateau o ers the promise of the best site conditions on the surface of the Earth for
a wide range of astronomical observations. This is a result of the unique combination of cold, dry
and tenuous air that is only found there. The Plateau reaches an elevation of over 4,000m, has
average winter-time temperatures of ;60 C and has a precipitable water vapour column which can
fall below 100 m. Winds are generally light, with the katabatic wind, originating on the highest