Testing potential new sites for optical telescopes in Australia
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Copyright © 2013 Astronomical Society of Australia
In coming years, Australia may find the need to build new optical telescopes to continue local programmes, contribute to global survey projects, and form a local multi-wavelength connection for the new radio telescopes being built. In this study, we refine possible locations for a new optical telescope by studying remotely sensed meteorological infrared data to ascertain expected cloud coverage rates across Australia, and combine these data with a digital elevation model using a geographic information system. We find that the best sites within Australia for building optical telescopes are likely to be on the highest mountains in the Hamersley Range in northwest Western Australia, while the MacDonnell Ranges in the Northern Territory may also be appropriate. We believe that similar seeing values to Siding Spring should be obtainable and with significantly more observing time at the identified sites. We expect to find twice as many clear nights as at current telescope sites. These sites are thus prime locations for future on-site testing.
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