What a Really Big Antarctic Telescope could Achieve

Storey, J. et al., 2006, Visions for Infrared Astronomy, Instrumentation, Mesure, Métrologie, 61 | View on ADS (2006via..conf...61S)


Despite its diminutive size, the 60 cm SPIREX telescope at the South Pole produced a wealth of important publications from just two seasons of operation. What could a 2 m, 8 m, or even 25 m telescope achieve? With infrared sky backgrounds up to two orders of magnitude below those of the best temperate sites, plus cleaner, wider and more stable atmospheric windows, the Antarctic plateau provides a remarkable opportunity for the deployment of the next generation of ground-based telescopes. In addition to the obvious sensitivity gains, the atmospheric turbulence profile above Dome C has now been measured by two groups using independent techniques. The results are in excellent agreement and promise unrivalled spatial resolution across wide fields of view, and unbeatable levels of speckle suppression over small fields. Will the first direct detection of an earth-like exoplanet be achieved by an Antarctic telescope? If so, how big does this telescope need to be?

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