10 July 2008 Inuksuit: robotic astronomical site-testing stations in the Canadian High Arctic
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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.
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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, "Inuksuit: robotic astronomical site-testing stations in the Canadian High Arctic", Proc. SPIE 7012, Ground-based and Airborne Telescopes II, 70121V (10 July 2008); doi: 10.1117/12.789531; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.789531
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