International Team Installs First of Three Telescopes in Antarctica
DOME ARGUS, Antarctica – A team of scientists representing several international institutions, including Texas A&M University, has succeeded in installing the first of three Antarctic Survey Telescopes (AST3-1) at the Chinese Kunlun Station at Dome Argus, the highest point of the Antarctic Plateau.
The telescope is the first of three, half-meter devices to be installed at PLATeau Observatory (PLATO-A), a fully robotic observatory established at “Dome A” in 2008 and intended to reveal new insights into the Universe once possible only from space. In combination, the three telescopes are expected to find planets around other stars about the size of Earth, hundreds of supernovaes useful for cosmological studies and many other variable objects relevant to future discoveries in astrophysics.
Texas A&M is joined in the international project by the Chinese Center for Antarctic Astronomy (CCAA) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW), which built PLATO-A and the control computers responsible for its autonomous operation. Lifan Wang, associate professor of physics and astronomy at Texas A&M, also serves as director of the CCAA.
“This is an astounding achievement,” says Michael Ashley, head of the UNSW team responsible for PLATO-A. “A stand-alone telescope in the pristine environment of Antarctica can conduct scientific research that would otherwise only be possible from space, but at a few percent of the cost.”