Oral Presentation Astronomical Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting including HWWS 2013

Terahertz observations of star forming regions from Antarctica (#52)

Michael C.B. Ashley 1 , Craig A. Kulesa 2 , Michael G. Burton 1 , John W.V. Storey 1
  1. University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  2. University of Arizona, Tucson, USA

In January 2012 we installed a 0.6m terahertz telescope (HEAT) on the PLATO-R observatory at Ridge A in Antarctica (Ashley 2013).

HEAT is surveying the Galactic Plane in the atomic carbon lines at 492GHz and 809GHz and carbon monoxide at 806GHz. The spatial resolution of the survey is a few arcminutes, and the spectral resolution is 1 km/s. This is the deepest and highest resolution survey conducted at these frequencies.

Velocity cubes from the 2012 season are now available on-line and are of a quality that is otherwise only obtainable from space. Numerous molecular clouds are resolved and can be overlayed with CO maps at lower frequencies taken with the Mopra telescope.

Ridge A, 150km from Dome A, the highest point on the Antarctic plateau, has shown itself to be a superlative terahertz site. For example, during March 2013, a relatively "wet" part of the year, the average precipitable water vapour was only 0.14mm. At 1.5THz the atmospheric opacity at Ridge A was below 1.5 for 85 days from January to October 2012, compared with 5 days for the same period on the Chajnantor plain. Even more importantly the opacity is highly stable, with our 2012 data suggesting that the sky noise is less that half that of the South Pole on average (Kulesa et al 2012). This is better than expected from a linear scaling of the total water vapour content at the two sites.

The HEAT telescope was upgraded with an improved detector during a servicing mission in early 2013, with plans to reach the ionised carbon line at 1.9THz in 2014.

  1. Ashley, M. C. B, 2013, "Care and feeding of an Antarctic telescope", in press, Physics Today, May 2013.
  2. Kulesa, C. A., et al, 2012, "Opportunities for terahertz facilities on the high plateau", IAU Symp 288, 256.