Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2002/03

   

   
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Saturday, November 23, 2002

The 2002/03 Antarctic Astronomy campaign is about to begin!

This year the Antarctic astronomy program of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) will be operating at two Antarctic plateau sites, the South Pole and Dome C. We are continuing our program to quantify the suitability of the Antarctic plateau for a wide range of astronomical observations, and developing the appropriate harsh-environoment technologies needed to do so.

The big news this Austral summer is that a new portable laboratory is being taken to Antarctica, the AASTINO (the baby AASTO). This will be taken to Dome C, by ship (the Astrolabe from Hobart to Dumont Durville) and then overland traverse to Dome C. The AASTINO will provide the first major winter-over experimental capability at Dome C, through the development of a new power system to run the laboratory and associated experiments. Just getting the AASTINO to Dome C will be a big task, but we also plan to assemble it on site, and then connect up several instruments and begin the task of quantifying the conditions at this site. The key experiment is the SODAR, a sonic radar, which will allow us to measure the micro-turbulence in the atmospheric boundary layer, the key quantity which affects the astronomical seeing. We believe the boundary layer will be exceedinly narrow at Dome C, but no-one has ever managed to measure this in winter for a high plateau site. Tony Travouillon is working on this for his PhD.

John Storey, Tony Travouillon and Jon Lawrence are all heading to Dome C, courtesey of the French and Italian Antarctic programs. We are working closely with these countries in order to assess the astronomical potential (literally!) of this new site. These three will spend most of January at Dome C.

We are also continuing our work at the South Pole with the USA, refurbishing and maintaining instrumentation. Paolo Calisse will actually winter over at Pole, working for the VIPER project, but also keeping a close eye on the AASTO. He will be joined in December by myself (Michael Burton) and in January by Jon Everett.

Right now its all hands on deck in Sydney packing the AASTINO away ready for transportation to Hobart on Monday!

So endeth the first posting!

Michael Burton

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