Developing Dome A on the East Antarctic Plateau for Astronomy

Carl Pennypacker
UC Berkeley

A successful expedition led by the Polar Research Institute of China has successfully installed a series of the first small astronomical telescopes on Dome A, the highest point on the East Antarctic Plateau. A growing international collaboration for astronomy, a subset of this traverse, has been designed and led by astronomers from China and Texas A&M, with cooperation of Cal Tech, Berkeley, and Univ. of Arizona team members. Dome A holds the potential to be one of the best sites on the planet for optical, infrared, and sub millimeter astronomy, and a number of pioneering telescopes are in construction, to be placed on the Dome in the near future. Much larger instruments, with substantial capabilities for lower costs than mid-latitude instruments are also being studied, to take advantage of the astronomical conditions there. This traverse has left three small wide-field of view instruments built by Chinese scientists -- C-Star -- for continuous monitoring of a field around -90 Declination, and the Gattini camera, encapsulating the successful system and team from Dome C. Successive traverses for the next years are being planned, with increasing astronomical capabilities and scientific results, and China is developing a winter-over capability. The AST-3 (Antarctic Schmidt Telescopes) system, to be placed on the 2009 traverse, is expected to find approximately one earth mass planet a year, by gravitational micro-lensing. In addition, AST3 will find approximately 100 supernovae a year (< z=0.1). AST3 is built around recently available and working (on a telescope)10K x 10K monolithic CCD's, of interest in their own right.