The high plateau that covers half of the continent of Antarctica contains the best astronomical observing sites on Earth. The infrared sky background is low, the precipitable water vapour is low, the sub-millimetre sky opacity is low, the winds are low, the atmosphere is exceedingly clear and stable, it never rains, there is no dust, it is geological stable, and the seeing at some sites, notably Dome C, is superb. The turbulence profile in the atmosphere is beneficial for adaptive optics, with fewer actuators and fewer deformable mirrors being required, and with significant correction being possible at visible wavelengths. For projects that require continuous monitoring, e.g., planet detection through micro-lensing, a single robotic telescope in Antarctica can replace a network of 4-6 telescopes placed around the world at mid-latitude sites. For many projects requiring large apertures, a given size telescope in Antarctica will outperform a telescope of 2-3 times the aperture at a mid-latitude site. We review what is known about the site conditions, and outline some of the issues involved with designing robotic telescopes to work in Antarctica.
- Earth: atmosphere
- Instrumentation: adaptive optics
- Instrumentation: high angular resolution
- Site testing