Performance of the autonomous PLATO Antarctic Observatory over two full years

Luong-van, Daniel M. et al., 2010, Ground-based and Airborne Telescopes III, 7733, 77331T | View on ADS (2010SPIE.7733E..1TL) | Access via DOI


For continuous observation at locations that are inhospitable for humans, the desirability of autonomous observatories is self evident. PLATO, the 'PLATeau Observatory' was designed to host an easily configurable instrument suite in the extremely cold conditions on the Antarctic plateau, and can provide up to 1 kW of power for the instruments. Powered by jet fuel and the Sun, PLATO and its instruments have been taking nearly uninterrupted astronomical science and sitetesting data at Dome A, the coldest, highest and driest location1 on the Antarctic Plateau, since their deployment by the 24th Chinese expedition team in January 2008. At the time of writing, PLATO has delivered a total uptime of 730 days. Following a servicing mission by the 25th Chinese expedition team in 2008-9, PLATO has achieved 100% up-time (520 days) and has been in continuous contact with the rest of the world via its Iridium satellite modems. This paper discusses the performance of the observatory itself, assesses the sources of energy and dissects how the energy is divided between the core observatory functions of instrument power, heating, control and communication.

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