The AASTO, the world's southernmost astronomical observatory
(latitude -89d 59m 39s), was decommissioned in December 2005. Information on the AASTO project is retained below for historical purposes.
Completed instruments, installed between 1997 and 2000:
Instruments for future grant applications:
A submillimeter phase-stability instrument based on measuring the
phase relationship of satellite beacons.
The AGO project
The AASTO itself is derived from the successful US AGO, or Automated
Geophysical Observatory. The sixth and final AGO was deployed in
January 1997, at the same time that the AASTO came on-line. More
details of the AGO program can be found at Augsburg College and
the University of
Health and status data
Housekeeping data are sent out from the AASTO every 90 minutes via
polar orbiting ARGOS satellites. These data are collected by Augsburg College as
part of the AGO program. You can see the latest report from the AASTO
(updated daily) by clicking here (note that the AASTO is listed as ``AGO-A2''; further note: the AASTO
is not transmitting during 2000 since the ARGOS control unit has been
returned to Sydney for repair). The data displayed include ``health''
information such as burner temperatures and voltages, instrument
current drains, and meteorological data. At the present time there is
a calibration problem with the data acquisition system, so not all of
the data displayed is accurate.
Will the AASTO be making any astronomical discoveries?
No. The instruments on-board the AASTO are purely designed for
site-testing. Three of them (NISM, MISM, and Summit) are looking at
emission from the Earth's atmosphere. One (the Sodar) is measuring
atmospheric turbulence. Two (AFOS and ADIMM) are using bright stars
as probes of the atmosphere's transmission and stability.
How much is the AASTO project costing?
The AASTO is about a AUD$1 million project on the Australian side, with
roughly equal contributions from UNSW, ANU, and the Australian
Research Council. We have also received AUD$25K from the Australian
Antarctic Foundation which was used to purchase the CCD system for the
Logistical support from the US National Science Foundation through our
collaborators in the Center for Astrophysical Research in Antartica
is conservatively estimated at another AUD$1 million.
What are our plans for the future?
We already know that the South Pole is a superb site for near- and
mid-infrared astronomy. It would make a great deal of sense to build a
small (2-metre aperture) telescope at the South Pole to exploit these
When the AASTO results are in, we will know the best site on the plateau
to build a telescope, and the wavelength regions that are most promising.
A medium-to-large size multinational observatory could then be established,
on a timescale of perhaps 15 years.
The JACARA Tee-Shirt
The official Joint Australian Centre for Astronomical Research in
Antarctica (JACARA) Tee-Shirt is now available in two designs, and in
all sizes, for $20. Contact Michael Ashley for ordering
So, you've bought the tee-shirt, now see the movie! The Deep Black is a professionally-produced 52-minute documentary
made by the Audio-Visual Unit here at UNSW. It is currently being
shown on Optus Vision Horizon channel, and is available for purchase
from UNSW. Contact Michael Ashley for details.
Minutes of the AASTO Working Group Only the early discussions are on-line.
Other Antarctic instrumentation web sites
- 23 May 1994; Boulder, Colorado, USA
- 1 April 1995; Mt Stromlo Observatory; Canberra, Australia
- 23 March 1996; Mt Stromlo Observatory; Canberra, Australia
- 24 May 1996; University of New South Wales; Sydney, Australia
- 26 July 1996; University of New South Wales; Sydney, Australia
Last updated 22-Sep-1999