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Proceedings Paper

High-altitude aerostats as astronomical platforms
Author(s): Pierre Y. Bely; Robert Ashford; Charles D. Cox
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Paper Abstract

The tropopause, typically at 16 to 18 km altitude at the lower latitudes, dips to 8 km in the polar regions. This makes the cold, dry, and nonturbulent lower stratosphere accessible to tethered aerostats. Tethered aerostats can fly as high as 12 km and are extremely reliable, lasting for many years. In contrast to free-flying balloons, they can stay on station for weeks at a time, and payloads can be safely recovered for maintenance and adjustment and relaunched in a matter of hours. We propose to use such a platform, located first in the Arctic (near Fairbanks, Alaska), and then later in the Antarctic, to operate a new technology 4-meter telescope with diffraction-limited performance in the near-IR. Thanks to the low ambient temperature (200 degrees K), thermal emission from the optics is of the same order as that of the zodiacal light in the 2 to 3 micron band. Since this wavelength interval is the darkest part of the zodiacal light spectrum from optical wavelengths to 100 microns, the combination of high resolution images and a very dark sky make it the spectral region of choice for observing the redshifted light from galaxies and clusters of galaxies at moderate to high redshifts.

Paper Details

Date Published: 2 June 1995
PDF: 16 pages
Proc. SPIE 2478, Space Telescopes and Instruments, (2 June 1995); doi: 10.1117/12.210916
Show Author Affiliations
Pierre Y. Bely, Space Telescope Science Institute (United States)
Robert Ashford, TCOM L.P. (United States)
Charles D. Cox, Litton Itek Optical Systems (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 2478:
Space Telescopes and Instruments
Pierre Y. Bely; James B. Breckinridge, Editor(s)

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