Antarctica offers remarkable conditions for studying Space from Earth, and for infrared astronomy in particular. Its clear sky and continuous winter nights of several months allow us to observe astronomical processes over long uninterrupted periods. Very low temperatures of up to -80°C, are also optimal for infrared telescopes, whose performance is dependent upon cold temperatures.
It is this potential of Antarctica for infrared astronomy that is at the heart of Tony Travouillon’s project. This collaboration between ANU in Australia, the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur in France and Caltech University in the United States aims to install a 1m diameter telescope at Dome C, an ice dome where the Franco-Italian research base Concordia is located. A prototype of this telescope is already under construction and is expected to be installed by 2022.
Antarctica represents a major opportunity for French-Australian cooperation in the field of space science. In addition to its interest in astronomy, the installation of an observation station in Antarctica could prove beneficial for other important areas such as space monitoring or satellite communication.
Tony Travouillon is an associate professor at the Australian National University focusing on the development of instrumentation for astronomy. He obtained his degrees from the University of New South Wales and spent 14 years working at Caltech as a scientist for the Thirty Meter Telescope Project. His specialties include infrared astronomy, adaptive optics, site studies and Antarctic astronomy.