Astronomy from Antarctica: connections with climate science

Wednesday 22 March, 2017
Climate Change Research Centre Seminar Room, Level 4 Mathews Building, Kensington Campus, Sydney

Astronomers are vitally interested in the earth's atmosphere, since it affects their observations of the universe. Precious astrophysical photons are absorbed and have their directions altered; boring atmospheric photons contaminate our data. We would much rather observe from space, but that is roughly 1000 times more expensive.

The high plateau in Antarctica turns out to be the best place on the earth's surface for astronomy since it is relatively high, and exceedingly dry and cold. This enables astronomy that would otherwise require a balloon-borne experiment or spacecraft.

This talk, profusely illustrated with photos from Antarctica, will describe the ways in which the atmosphere affects astronomers, and will discuss some interesting astronomy experiments, including a terahertz telescope that has been operated remotely for four years at a deep-field site 900km from the South Pole. The astronomical data are also useful for ground-truthing of earth observation satellites.