Astronomy at the South Pole

Standing in front of the geographic South Pole.

Other pictures of the astronomy operation at the South Pole:

I was involved with the use of a mid-infrared (3000-5000 nm) camera on a 0.6m telescope at the South Pole. In principle, the exceedingly low temperatures at the South Pole should give the lowest thermal background available on earth. Since astronomical observations at mid-infrared wavelengths are almost always background limited, the South Pole site should produce the most sensitive measurements possible from earth.

The camera (Abu) installed on the SPIREX telescope was built by NOAO and uses an ALADDIN 1024x1024 InSb array. The instrument is mounted on the side of the telescope looking at a tertiary mirror. The vacuum window is near the telescope and should be at roughly ambient temperature. A cryogenic dichroic send the infrared beam into Abu; the optical light passes through to a fast guiding system.

The system has several interesting characteristics:

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