PILOT: a wide-field telescope for the Antarctic plateau

Saunders, Will et al., 2008, Ground-based and Airborne Telescopes II, 7012, 70124F | View on ADS (2008SPIE.7012E..4FS) | Access via DOI


PILOT (the Pathfinder for an International Large Optical Telescope) is a proposed Australian/European optical/infrared telescope for Dome C on the Antarctic Plateau, with target first light in 2012. The telescope is 2.4m diameter, with overall focal ratio f/10, and a 1 degree field-of-view. It is mounted on a 30m tower to get above most of the turbulent surface layer, and has a tip-tilt secondary for fast guiding. In median seeing conditions, it delivers 0.3" FWHM wide-field image quality, from 0.7-2.5 microns. In the best quartile of conditions, it delivers diffraction-limited imaging down to 1 micron, or even less with lucky imaging. The major challenges have been (a) preventing frost-laden external air reaching the optics, (b) overcoming residual surface layer turbulence, (c) keeping mirror, telescope and dome seeing to acceptable levels in the presence of large temperature variations with height and time, (d) designing optics that do justice to the site conditions. The most novel feature of the design is active thermal and humidity control of the enclosure, to closely match the temperature of external air while preventing its ingress.

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