N. Epchtein (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France)
The Antarctic Plateau unique environmental conditions for astronomical observations. Astronomers are seriously considering Antarctic as a possible site for the construction of a new large observatory mainly dedicated to infrared and very high angular resolution observations to investigate extra-solar planets, the formation and evolution of planets, stars and galaxies, and cosmology. Two member states, Italy and France, have recently completed the all-year round operation station CONCORDIA at Dome C, in the heart of Antarctic. The present proposal is aimed to structure, reinforce and network several European laboratories and operators involved or willing to be involved in Antarctic astronomical investigations with the final objective to set up front-edge large instruments and focal equipments in the coming decade. The network consists of 4 activities in addition of the overall management. Number one concerns the site qualification; #2 aims to identify the technical polar constraints on the design of large astronomical instruments emphasizing robotisation; #3 will foster collaborations between the operators of CONCORDIA and their users to add value to CONCORDIA; and #4 will focus on the selection of appropriate scientific key programs, implemented in synergy with ground based and space missions. Requested funds will contribute to the currently on-going site qualification, and will help structuring the still dispersed and scarce teams of European astronomers through organizing specialized workshops putting in close contact operators, users and industrial partners, and annual large international conferences. The networks will deliver a detailed report on the site qualification over a period of 5 years, industrial reports and studies addressing the problematic of building large instruments at Dome C, a book of carefully selected scientific key-programmes, and recommendations on the instrumental timeline of development.
1 January 2006
31 December 2009