Special Session 2

Astronomy in Antarctica


Future Visions for Antarctic Astronomy


18th July 2003

IAU XXV GA | General Info | Conference Program | Poster Papers | Submitting Contributions | Future Visions for Antarctic Astronomy Meeting

General Information

Download a full 'tar zipped' file of the papers for the Special Session 2 proceedings in either;

Topics in Scientific Program

  • Photon Astronomy

  • Particle Astronomy

  • The South Pole

  • Dome C

  • Other sites


Scientific Rationale



Antarctica provides unique conditions for a wide range of astronomical observations. The cold, dry air above the high Antarctic plateau provides the best ground-based conditions for many observations at thermal infrared and sub-millimetre wavelengths. The circumpolar atmospheric circulation provides superb conditions for long duration balloon flights. The vast quantities of pure ice, on a stable platform, provide unsurpassed conditions for neutrino telescopes. The high geomagnetic latitude provides unique conditions for cosmic ray detection. Over the past decade Antarctica has seen a wide range of experiments designed to exploit these conditions for a variety of astronomical observations. Extensive site testing on the plateau has established the great potential for infrared and sub-millimetre astronomy. At the South Pole there have been infrared (SPIREX), sub-millimetre (e.g. AST/RO) and several CMBR (e.g. DASI) telescopes operating. Particle physics experiments, particularly cosmic ray air shower arrays (e.g. SPASE) and neutrino telescopes (AMANDA), have been developed. Coastal stations, such as McMurdo, have hosted long-duration balloon flights, such as the BOOMERANG CMBR experiment. The high plateau site of Dome C has opened for summer operation, and the first astrophysical site-testing experiments have been deployed there. International involvement in these experiments is high. International collaboration in Antarctica has been productive and effective. SCAR sponsors a sub-committee, STAR, to foster developments in atmospheric and astrophysical research.


Local Interest

Australian astronomers, through the Joint Australian Centre for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica (JACARA), have been playing a leading role in developing astronomy in Antarctica. Groups at the UNSW and the ANU have deployed experiments at the South Pole, in collaboration with the US Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica (CARA). They have led the site testing program at the Pole, and contributed significantly to the infrared program. The UNSW group is also working with the French and Italian national Antarctic programs to develop astronomical facilities at Dome C. They have proposed the 2m Douglas Mawson Telescope for the site. Australia also maintains a neutron and muon telescope at its coastal station of Mawson.



The past decade has seen a varied range of experiments which have determined the potential of Antarctica for astronomical investigations. The next decade will see several major projects which will exploit the unique conditions for specific experiments. The AMANDA neutrino telescope aims to expand to a cubic kilometre of collecting area, ICECUBE. This immense project is driving considerable infrastructure development at the South Pole. An 8m sub-millimetre (200-450µm) telescope (the SPT) is planned for the South Pole, focussed on the study of dark energy through the measurement of the S-Z effect to distant galaxy clusters. 2m class thermal infrared (3-30µm) telescopes have been proposed for both the South Pole (AIRO) and Dome C (the DMT), focussed on star formation studies. The program for this meeting will be to review the experiments of the last decade and discuss the plans for the next. Speakers from the major facilities will be invited to report on their achievements. Highlights from the science conducted in the infrared, sub-mm, CMBR and particle astrophysics will be presented. A particular focus will be the opportunity presented by the opening of the French/Italian Concordia station at Dome C. Construction of this station is nearing completion, several summer experiments have been conducted, and winter-over operation will shortly be commencing. Sited on one of the summits of the Antarctic plateau, where the katabatic wind responsible for micro-turbulence is absent, the 3,200m Dome C offers the prospects of unsurpassed conditions for ground-based observations at both infrared and sub-millimetre wavelengths. The IAU GA in 2003 provides a timely opportunity to publicise the new facility to the international astronomical community, and to help bring together scientists together in order to discuss how best to utilise it.

Organising Committee


Michael Burton (Australia, Chair), Hans Rickman (IAU), Arlo Landolt (IAU), Attilio Ferrari, Eric Fossat, Per Olof Hulth, Jim Jackson, Penny Sackett

UNSW | School of Physics | Department of Astrophysics and Optics | Astronomy in Antarctica

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Contact Details
Last updated: 3/11/2003 E-mail: sps2@phys.unsw.edu.au
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