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At the summit of the Antarctic plateau, Dome A offers an intriguing location for future large scale optical astronomical observatories. The Gattini Dome A project was created to measure the optical sky brightness and large area cloud cover of the winter-time sky above this high altitude Antarctic site. The wide field camera and multi-filter system was installed on the PLATO instrument module as part of the Chinese-led traverse to Dome A in January 2008. This automated wide field camera consists of an Apogee U4000 interline CCD coupled to a Nikon fisheye lens enclosed in a heated container with glass window. The system contains a filter mechanism providing a suite of standard astronomical photometric filters (Bessell B, V, R) and a long-pass red filter for the detection and monitoring of airglow emission. The system operated continuously throughout the 2009, and 2011 winter seasons and part-way through the 2010 season, recording long exposure images sequentially for each filter. We have in hand one complete winter-time dataset (2009) returned via a manned traverse. We present here the first measurements of sky brightness in the photometric V band, cloud cover statistics measured so far and an estimate of the extinction.
HRCAM (High Resolution CAMera) is a Canon 50D 15-megapixel digital SLR camera equipped with a Sigma 4.5 mm f/2.8 fish-eye lens. It was installed at Dome A on the Antarctic plateau in January 2010 and photographs the sky every 15 minutes. Primarily functioning as a site-testing instrument, data obtained from HRCAM provide valuable statistics on cloud cover, sky transparency and the distribution and frequency of auroral activity. We present a first look at data from HRCAM during 2010, including an overview of how we intend to reduce the images. We also demonstrate the potential of stellar photometry by using linear combinations of the in-built Canon RGB filters to convert instrumental magnitudes into the photometric BVR bands.
SCAR, the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, is, like the IAU, a committee of ICSU, the International Council for Science. For over 30 years, SCAR has provided scientific advice to the Antarctic Treaty System and made numerous recommendations on a variety of matters. In 2010, Astronomy and Astrophysics from Antarctica was recognized as one of SCAR's five Scientific Research Programs. Broadly stated, the objectives of Astronomy & Astrophysics from Antarctica are to coordinate astronomical activities in Antarctica in a way that ensures the best possible outcomes from international investment in Antarctic astronomy, and maximizes the opportunities for productive interaction with other disciplines. There are four Working Groups, dealing with site testing, Arctic astronomy, science goals, and major new facilities. Membership of the Working Groups is open to any professional working in astronomy or a related field.
In 2008 January the 24th Chinese expedition team successfully deployed the Chinese Small Telescope ARray (CSTAR) to Dome A, the highest point on the Antarctic plateau. CSTAR consists of four 14.5cm optical telescopes, each with a different filter (g, r, i and open) and has a 4.5°×4.5° field of view (FOV). Based on the CSTAR data, initial statistics of astronomical observational site quality and light curves of variable objects were obtained. To reach higher photometric quality, we are continuing to work to overcome the effects of uneven cirrus cloud cirrus, optical “ghosts” and intra-pixel sensitivity. The snow surface stability is also tested for further astronomical observational instrument and for glaciology studies.
Despite the absence of artificial light pollution at Antarctic plateau sites such as Dome A, other factors such as airglow, aurorae and extended periods of twilight have the potential to adversely affect optical observations. We present a statistical analysis of the airglow and aurorae at Dome A using spectroscopic data from Nigel, an optical/near-IR spectrometer operating in the 300–850 nm range. The median auroral contribution to the B, V and R photometric bands is found to be 22.9, 23.4 and 23.0 mag arcsec−2 respectively. We are also able to quantify the amount of annual dark time available as a function of wavelength; on average twilight ends when the Sun reaches a zenith distance of 102.6°.
From theoretical analysis and site testing work for 4 years on Dome A, Antarctica, we can reasonably predict that it is a very good astronomical site, as good as or even better than Dome C and suitable for observations ranging from optical to infrared & sub-mm wavelengths. After the Chinese Small Telescope ARray (CSTAR), which was composed of four small fixed telescopes with diameter of 145mm and the three Antarctic Survey Telescopes (AST3) with 500mm entrance diameter, the Kunlun Dark Universe Survey Telescope (KDUST) with diameter of 2.5m is proposed. KDUST will adopt an innovative optical system which can deliver very good image quality over a 2 square degree flat field of view. Some other features are: a fixed focus suitable for different instruments, active optics for miscollimation correction, a lens-prisms that can be used as an atmospheric dispersion corrector or as a very low-dispersion spectrometer when moved in / out of the main optical path without changing the performance of the system, and a compact structure to make easier transportation to Dome A. KDUST will be mounted on a tower with height 15m in order to make a full use of the superb free atmospheric seeing.
Division IX provides a forum for astronomers engaged in the planning, development, construction, and calibration of optical and infrared telescopes and instrumentation, as well as observational procedures including data processing. A few years ago, discussions were started about changes in the structure of Division IX, with the aim of bringing it more in line with today's world of large coordinated projects and multi-national observatories. The course of this process, and further steps to be taken in the period from 2009 to 2012, were at the focus of the deliberations at the business meeting of Division IX at the IAU General Assembly in Rio de Janeiro.
The first set of Chinese Antarctic telescopes at Dome A is called CSTAR. It consists of four 14.5 cm wide-field telescopes and was installed at Dome A during the traverse of 2007/2008. CSTAR successfully operated for 135 days in 2008 and for more than 200 days in 2009. This paper briefly introduces recent developments in Chinese Antarctic astronomy and their international collaborative activities. It also describes future plans for Dome A, as the building of Kunlun Station began in January of this year.
Division IX provides a forum for astronomers engaged in the planning, development, construction, and calibration of optical and infrared telescopes and instrumentation, as well as observational procedures including data processing.
Two major astronomical experiments are underway at the US Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The first is the South Pole Telescope, a 10m sub-millimetre telescope designed to measure primary and secondary anisotropies in the CMBR, with the aim of placing constraints on the equation of state for dark energy. The second is the IceCube neutrino observatory, which will be a cubic kilometre array designed to image sources of high energy neutrinos.
This report is a general introduction to Chinese major astronomical projects. It includes the ongoing project ‘Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope’ (LAMOST), and three major projects which have finished their feasibility study and development of key technologies: Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical (radio) Telescope (FAST); Space Solar Telescope (SST); Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT). Among them, FAST and HXMT have been approved by government in 2006, and SST is pending for the next five years plan. Besides these major projects, a site survey in the west of China, a plan for developing Antarctic Dome A for astronomy, and a preliminary study of Chinese future giant optical/infrared telescopes are also briefly introduced.
This report is a general introduction on Chinese large telescope projects. It includes the ongoing project Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST), and three projects which have reviewed by Chinese government recently: Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical (radio) Telescope (FAST); Space Solar Telescope (SST); Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT). These three projects have finished their feasibility studies and development of key technologies. They are very likely to be approved by the Chinese government in 2006. Besides these large telescope projects, the site survey in Western China for large telescopes in optical, infrared, sub-millimeter and millimeter astronomy, the preliminary study on Chinese future giant optical/infrared telescopes, and a future extremely large wide field telescope are also briefly introduced.