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Published September 28, 2004 | Published
Book Section - Chapter Open

A robotic instrument for measuring high altitude atmospheric turbulence from Dome C, Antarctica


To properly characterize the atmospheric properties of a site for a future large telescope or interferometer, it is insufficient to measure quantities, such as the full-width at half-maximum of a stellar image, that have been integrated over the entire atmosphere. A knowledge of the turbulence distribution as a function of height is necessary, since this affects the ease and degree to which adaptive optics systems can improve the telescope's resolution. Furthermore, some astronomical measurements, such as narrow-field differential astrometry at microarcsecond precision, depend critically on the amount of turbulence high in the atmosphere (up to 20km). In order to obtain the necessary site-testing data at remote sites such as those on the Antarctic plateau, we have designed a robust and reliable instrument based on an 85 mm refractive telescope, a gimbal-mounted sidereostat mirror, and a Multi-Aperture Scintillation Sensor (MASS). The instrument uses the spatial structure of single-star scintillation to measure vertical turbulence profiles from 0.5 to 20km. The MASS system is designed to operate completely autonomously throughout the Antarctic winter. It also has potential applications at existing observatory sites for quantifying the turbulence characteristics of the atmosphere in real-time.

Additional Information

© 2004 Society of Photo-optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). The UNSW AASTINO project is indebted to the French and Italian Antarctic programs (IPEV, PNRA) for logistics support, and to the Australian Antarctic Division and the Australian Research Council for financial support. The authors thank Colin Bonner, Jon Everett, and Tony Travouillon of the University of New South Wales Antarctic Research Group, and Anna Moore of the Anglo-Australian Observatory for valuable contributions to the Dome C MASS project. The MASS mount was manufactured by Ken Jackson and Pritipal Baweja of the University of New South Wales Mechanical Workshop. Input from Victor Kornilov and Nicolai Shatsky of Moscow University, who developed the MASS software, has proved very valuable to the success of the Dome C instrument.

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