The PLATO Antarctic site testing observatory
Additional Document Info
Over a decade of site testing in Antarctica has shown that both South Pole and Dome C are xceptional sites for astronomy, with certain atmospheric conditions superior to those at existing mid-latitude sites. However, the highest point on the Antarctic plateau, Dome A, is expected to experience colder atmospheric temperatures, lower wind speeds, and a turbulent boundary layer that is confined closer to the ground. The Polar Research Institute of China, who were the first to visit the Dome A site in January 2005, plan to establish a permanently manned station there within the next decade. As part of this process they conducted a second expedition to Dome A, arriving via overland traverse in January 2008. This traverse involved the delivery and installation of the PLATeau Observatory (PLATO). PLATO is an automated self-powered astrophysical site testing observatory, developed by the University of New South Wales. A number of international institutions have contributed site testing instruments measuring turbulence, optical sky background, and sub-millimetre transparency. In addition, a set of science instruments are providing wide-field high time resolution optical photometry and terahertz imaging of the Galaxy. We present here an overview of the PLATO system design and instrumentation suite.