AAS 199th meeting, Washington, DC, January 2002
Session 102. Instrumentation for the Optical and Infrared
Display, Wednesday, January 9, 2002, 9:20am-6:30pm, Exhibit Hall

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[102.12] The Antarctic Infrared Observatory AIRO

J.M. Jackson (IAR, Boston University), I. Gatley (Rochester Institute of Technology), T.M. Bania, E. Tollestrup (IAR, Boston University), T. Dunham (Lowell Observatory)

We aim to exploit the unique conditions in Antarctica by establishing a new permanent national facility, the Antarctic Infrared Observatory. AIRO will operate a 1.8-meter telescope optimized for wide-field imaging, queue observing, and standardized data processing in the largely unexplored 2.2 - 5.3 micron waveband. Dome C or the South Pole are both potential sites. The prototype user-facility instrument Abu/SPIREX demonstrated that very sensitive imaging in the thermal infrared can be routinely performed in the Antarctic. Our experience with Abu/SPIREX tells us that infrared astronomy in the Antarctic should be further developed. We therefore plan to establish AIRO and construct a larger, more sensitive, automated 2.2 - 5.6 micron thermal infrared telescope as its first instrument. AIRO will be a true national observatory open to the community via a TAC run by NOAO. The deployment plan calls for 2 years of manufacture, 2 years of testing and system integration at Lowell Observatory's Anderson Mesa site, and finally deployment to Antarctica in the fifth year. Future upgrades will include instruments for wide-field imaging in the mid-infrared, spectroscopy, and polarimetry.

The Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica's research and education programs are supported in part by the National Science Foundation under a cooperative agreement, grant number NSF OPP 89-20223.

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