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Proceedings Paper

Inuksuit: robotic astronomical site-testing stations in the Canadian High Arctic
Author(s): Eric Steinbring; Brian Leckie; Paul Welle; Tim Hardy; Bruce Cole; Dell Bayne; Bryce Croll; David E. Walker; Raymond G. Carlberg; Gregory G. Fahlman; Brad Wallace; Paul Hickson
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Paper Abstract

Coastal mountains at Canada's northern tip possess many of the desirable properties that make the Antarctic glacial plateau attractive for astronomy: they are cold, high, dry, and in continuous darkness for several months in winter. Satellite images suggest that they should also benefit from clear skies for a fraction of time comparable to the best mid-latitude sites, and conventional site-selection criteria point to good seeing. In order to confirm these conditions, we are testing three mountain sites on northwestern Ellesmere Island, in Nunavut. On each we have installed a compact, autonomous site-testing station consisting of a meteorological station, a simple optical/near-infrared camera for sensing cloud cover, and - at one site - a more advanced all-sky viewing camera. The systems were deployed by helicopter and run on batteries recharged by wind (a compact methanol fuel cell is under study as a supplementary power source). Effective two-way communications via the Iridium satellite network allows a limited number of highly compressed images to be transferred. The full-winter dataset is stored at the site on flash-drives, thus requiring a return visit to retrieve, but day-to-day station performance can be assessed using telemetry and a computer model. Based on site-testing results, the plan is to select one site for the addition of a seeing monitor and a small but scientifically productive telescope.

Paper Details

Date Published: 10 July 2008
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 7012, Ground-based and Airborne Telescopes II, 70121V (10 July 2008); doi: 10.1117/12.789531
Show Author Affiliations
Eric Steinbring, Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, National Research Council Canada (Canada)
Brian Leckie, Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, National Research Council Canada (Canada)
Paul Welle, Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, National Research Council Canada (Canada)
Tim Hardy, Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, National Research Council Canada (Canada)
Bruce Cole, Environment Canada (Canada)
Dell Bayne, Environment Canada (Canada)
Bryce Croll, Univ. of Toronto (Canada)
David E. Walker, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (Chile)
Raymond G. Carlberg, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (Chile)
Gregory G. Fahlman, Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, National Research Council Canada (Canada)
Brad Wallace, Defence Research and Development Canada (Canada)
Paul Hickson, Univ. of British Columbia (Canada)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7012:
Ground-based and Airborne Telescopes II
Larry M. Stepp; Roberto Gilmozzi, Editor(s)

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