An Australian autonomous observatory, PLATO at Dome A
Metadata record for data from ASAC Project 3137 See the link below for public details on this project.
Robotic Science from the High Plateau
Australia's astronomers are exceptionally well placed to lead and to partner major international programs in Antarctic astronomy. These bring Australian industry increased access to cutting edge technology, and create business opportunities in the infrastructure and support of Antarctic research. This project aims to capture the lead for Australia in Antarctic astronomy, allowing us to fully capture the benefits of future international investment. Australia's participation in these programs also ensures continued technology exchange, and builds our knowledge base in robotics, harsh-environment engineering and computational fluid dynamics, while creating important new astronomical opportunities. It serves to demonstrate robotic science from the high plateau.
Data from the first year of the project is available for download from the provided URL.
Project objectives: Within the next decade, the first major optical/infrared telescopes will be built on the Antarctic Plateau, taking advantage of the remarkable conditions known to exist at established sites such as Dome C. In January 2008 our autonomous observatory, PLATO, was deployed by a Chinese team to Dome A, the highest point on the Antarctic Plateau and potentially the best observing site on earth. With Dome A now accessible for the first time, we will lead a detailed multi-year study to compare Dome A and Dome C, creating an improved understanding of the Antarctic atmosphere and providing the essential data needed by designers of Antarctic telescopes, interferometers and adaptive optics systems.
This project makes use of robotic technologies in order to gather the data needed for its science. It is a prime example of the way to conduct science from remote locations, such as the Antarctic plateau, where human presence is limited. It can serve as a model for the way other such investigations could be carried out in the future - robotic science from the high plateau.
Public summary of the season progress: Dome A is the highest point on the Antarctic plateau, and lies within the Australian Antarctic Territory. It is likely the coldest and driest location on the surface of the Earth, and possibly the finest site to make sensitive observations of the faint light from the distant Cosmos. A Chinese scientific station is now under construction there, Kunlun Station. An Australian autonomous observatory, PLATO (PLATeau Observatory), built at the University of New South Wales, was installed at Dome A in 2008. It has now completed two seasons of operations, completely unattended following the departure of the Chinese commissioning expedition. A suite of instruments operated by PLATO are now returning data on the atmospheric conditions at Dome A, in particular relating to the sensitivity that future telescopes could have. These are remarkable achievements and demonstrate Australian leadership and ingenuity in the development of the Antarctic plateau for frontier scientific investigations.
Values provided in temporal coverage are approximate only.
Field work: A Chinese servicing mission to Dome A took place in January 2009. The Chinese icebreaker, Xuelong, received new instrumentation and supplies at Fremantle, and proceeded to the Chinese Antarctic coastal station of Zhongshan. A 2 week tractor traverse, carrying 500 tonnes of equipment and supplies, then took place to Dome A. The Chinese team spent two weeks at Dome A, working on construction of the new Kunlun station, as well as re-furbishing the PLATO laboratory. The generators were refuelled, data retrieved from the 2008 season, and the four instruments (CSTAR - a wide-field telescope, Pre-HEAT - a sub-mm sky monitor, SNODAR - an acoustic radar, GATTINI - optical sky brightness monitors) serviced. The team then returned, and PLATO has operated, completely autonomously, for the rest of the year.
Data from the first year of the project are available for download from the provided URL. Copies of two of the publications are available for download only to AAD staff from the provided URL.
+61 2 9385 5618
+61 2 9385 6060
M.Burton at unsw.edu.au
School of Physics
University of New South Wales City:
Province or State:
Will Saunders, Jon S. Lawrence, John W.V. Storey, Michael C.B. Ashley, Seiji Kato, Pat Minnis, David Winker, Guiping Liu, Craig Kulesa (2009), 'Where is the best site on Earth? Domes A, B, C and F, and Ridges A and B', Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacific, 121, 976-992
C. S. Bonner, M.C.B. Ashley, X. Cui, L. Feng, X. Gong, J.S. Lawrence, D.M. Luong-Van, Z. Shang, J.W.V. Storey, L. Wang, H. Yan, J. Yang, X. Zhou and Z. Zhu (2010), 'Thickness of the Atmospheric Boundary Layer Above Dome A, Antarctica, during 2009', Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacific, 122, 1122-1131
Colin S. Bonner, Michael C. B. Ashley, Stuart G. Bradley, Xiangqun Cui, LongLong Feng, Xuefei Gong, Jon S. Lawrence, Daniel M. Luong-Van, Zhaohui Shang, John W. V. Storey, Lifan Wang, Huigen Yang, Ji Yang, Xu Zhou, and Zhenxi Zhu (2010), Snodar: 2009 performance at Dome A, Antarctica, Proc. SPIE, 7733, 77334A-77334A-6