Background to the PILOT Science Case



PILOT, the Pathfinder for an International Large Optical Telescope, is proposed as a 2m optical-quality telescope for Dome C.

With the best seeing yet measured (median value 0.27" at V), the lowest sky backgrounds (typically 10-20 times less than Mauna Kea from 3-30 microns), and the highest transparency (ppt H2O values ~250 microns ppt H2O for much of the year, 25% of Mauna Kea's best, and 50% of Atacama's best) of any ground-based astronomical site, Dome C offers science opportunities from the visual to the sub-mm. The science case is based around this, the programs that can be pursued across a wide wavelength range with relatively simple instrumentation, so able to support a diverse range of science and hence a robust and vibrant science community. Further afield is the lure of what a large optical/IR telescope and/or interferometer might deliver (hence the name PILOT), with the prospect of being able to able to search for exo-earths being particularly attractive.

There have been a number of earlier documents published describing the science potential of Antarctic, as well as the site characteristics, and science already undertaken. For example;

1. The "original" science case for Antarctic Optical/IR Astronomy, written by 20 Australian astronomers back in 1994 (PASA, 1994, 11, 127-150). This is now mainly of historical interest, but provides an interesting perspective on how ideas have changed through a decades development.

2. A paper on science goals for the Douglas Mawson Telescope, a pre-cursor proposal to PILOT, which concentrated on the potential for wide-field thermal-IR imaging (PASA, 2001, 18, 158-165).

3. The PILOT science paper, "Science programs for a 2m-class telescope in Antarctica: PILOT, the Pathfinder for an International Large Optical Telescope" by Burton et al., 2005, PASA, 22, 199-235.

An outline of the current status of PILOT can be viewed here.