Simulations of the expected performances of AMICA (Antarctic Multiband Infrared Camera) mounted on ITM (Infrared
Telescope Maffei, formerly IRAIT) at Dome C, Antarctica, are here presented. The computation has been carried out
through the analysis of images obtained by a focal plane simulator, here described, taking into account the telescope and
the imaging system characteristics (optics, read-out electronics and detectors) and the site properties. The evaluation of
the expected S/N ratio in various near- and mid-infrared pass-bands are fundamental to properly define the observational
plans and the scheduling of the robotic observatory.
The Teramo Normale Telescope (TNT) is a 0.72 m telescope operating at the INAF-Teramo since the 1994. At the end
of 2011, the whole system has been completely upgraded in order to improve the overall performance of the instrument
and to allow safe and full remote observations, without the need of local operators. The main results of this work is
setting up a reliable and modern system in a short while, and at the same time paving the way to further steps towards the
development of a fully robotic observatory. Starting by a general overview of the system we describe the most important
upgraded components and the possible next developments.
An autonomous observatory is being installed at Dome C in Antarctica. It will be constituted by the International
Robotic Antarctic Infrared Telescope (IRAIT) and the Antarctic Multiband Infrared CAmera (AMICA). Because of the
extreme environment, the whole system has been developed to operate robotically, paying particular attention to the
environmental conditions and the subsystems activity monitoring. A detailed description of the IRAIT/AMICA data
acquisition process and management will be shown, focusing on automated procedures and solutions against safety risks.
AMICA is a double-armed camera designed to perform NIR/ MIR (2-28 μm) Astronomy from Antarctica. It will be
installed at Dome C in 2010-2011. An overview of the instrument is given, with attention to the following features: 1)
Winterization: AMICA has been tested under Antarctic conditions to be operated in severe environments; 2) Automation:
AMICA does not require human intervention; 3) Fast acquisition: AMICA can get images with exposure times less than
3 msec; 4) Survey-mode observations: the low background in Antarctica allows AMICA to have FOVs of 2.29 arcmin
(NIR) and 2.89 arcmin (MIR), without saturation even with wide-band filters.
Thanks to exceptional coldness, low sky brightness and low content of water vapour of the above atmosphere Dome C,
one of the three highest peaks of the large Antarctic plateau, is likely to be the best site on Earth for thermal infrared
observations (2.3-300 μm) as well as for the far infrared range (30 μm-1mm). IRAIT (International Robotic Antarctic
Infrared Telescope) will be the first European Infrared telescope operating at Dome C. It will be delivered to Antarctica
at the end of 2006, will reach Dome C at the end of 2007 and the first winter-over operation will start in spring 2008.
IRAIT will offer a unique opportunity for astronomers to test and verify the astronomical quality of the site and it will be
a useful test-instrument for a new generation of Antarctic telescopes and focal plane instrumentations. We give here a
general overview of the project and of the logistics and transportation options adopted to facilitate the installation of
IRAIT at Dome C. We summarize the results of the electrical, electronics and networking tests and of the sky
polarization measurements carried out at Dome C during the 2005-2006 summer-campaign. We also present the 25 cm
optical telescope (small-IRAIT project) that will installed at Dome C during the Antarctic summer 2006-2007 and that
will start observations during the 2007 Antarctic winter when a member of the IRAIT collaboration will join the Italian-French Dome C winter-over team.
Dome C, located on the Antarctic Plateau, is expected to be one of the best sites for ground-based astronomical observations at infrared wavelengths. Its high elevation, equivalent to 3800 m of a temperate site, and the very low temperatures (down to -90°C), reduce dramatically the background thermal emission from both the instrument and the sky; the very dry and cold environment makes the atmospheric windows more transparent, wide and stable than in any ground-based temperate site. The Antarctic Multiband Infrared Camera (AMICA), mounted at the focal plane of the IRAIT telescope, is designed to perform astronomical observations at near- and mid-infrared wavelengths from Dome C.
In order to fully exploit the above-mentioned excellent site conditions, a set of optimized infrared filters covering the 2 - 25 microns region has been defined as a result of a careful analysis.
In the first step, the bands of interest were identified on the basis of the scientific requirements and the opportunities offered by the site. The fundamental scientific parameters, as the central wavelength, the bandwidth, the isophotal magnitude were then computed for each filter, in such a way to optimize the camera performances.
The Antarctic Plateau offers unique opportunities for ground-based Infrared Astronomy. AMICA (Antarctic Multiband Infrared CAmera) is an instrument designed to perform astronomical imaging from Dome-C in the near- (1 - 5 μm) and mid- (5 - 27 μm) infrared wavelength regions. The camera consists of two channels, equipped with a Raytheon InSb 256 array detector and a DRS MF-128 Si:As IBC array detector, cryocooled at 35 and 7 K respectively. Cryogenic devices will move a filter wheel and a sliding mirror, used to feed alternatively the two detectors. Fast control and readout, synchronized with the chopping secondary mirror of the telescope, will be required because of the large background expected at these wavelengths, especially beyond 10 μm. An environmental control system is needed to ensure the correct start-up, shut-down and housekeeping of the camera. The main technical challenge is represented by the extreme environmental conditions of Dome C (T about -90 °C, p around 640 mbar) and the need for a complete automatization of the overall system. AMICA will be mounted at the Nasmyth focus of the 80 cm IRAIT telescope and will perform survey-mode automatic observations of selected regions of the Southern sky. The first goal will be a direct estimate of the observational quality of this new highly promising site for Infrared Astronomy. In addition, IRAIT, equipped with AMICA, is expected to provide a significant improvement in the knowledge of fundamental astrophysical processes, such as the late stages of stellar evolution (especially AGB and post-AGB stars) and the star formation.
The Antarctica Plateau has recently turned out to be the best place on the Earth to perform astronomical infrared observations in the 2-20 um atmospheric windows and beyond, thanks to the extremely low sky background emission, the excellent atmospheric transparency and stability, the virtual absence of winds and the possibility of passively cooling the telescope and its focal plane instruments down to very low temperatures. Dome C, a site jointly exploited by Italian and French scientific teams in the framework of the Concordia project, lays on the Antarctica Plateau at an altitude of 3200m and presents exceptionally cold and dry climatic conditions.
In this paper we shall describe the scientific motivations and the technical details of the infrared telescope IRAIT that we plan to put at Dome C starting from in 2005-2006. The IRAIT telescope is an alt-azimuth f/20 reflector, with a 0.8m parabolic primary mirror and a wobbling secondary mirror suitable for the specific techniques of IR observations. It will be equipped with a Near/Mid IR-camera built in Italy .
We present the main characteristics and astronomical results of SWIRCAM, a NIR imager-spectrometer mainly devoted to the search for extragalactic Supernovae, in the frame of the SWIRT project, a joint scientific collaboration among the Astronomical Observatories of Rome, Teramo and Pulkovo. The camera is currently at the focal plane of the AZT-24 1.1 m telescope at the Observing Station of Campo Imperatore, operated by the Astronomical Observatory of Rome. SWIRCAM saw its first light during December 1998 and it is currently employed for both the SWIRT operative phase and other institutional projects.