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PILOT - Pathfinder for an International Large Optical Telescope

Current status

Executive Summary

PILOT - the Pathfinder for an International Large Optical Telescope - is a proposed 2.5m aperture optical/IR telescope to be sited at Concordia Station, Dome C, Antarctica. PILOT would be placed on a 30m tower to get above the majority of the turbulent boundary layer, and from there would enjoy the lowest infrared backgrounds and best seeing conditions of any telescope on earth. The preliminary science case for PILOT was published in 2005 by Burton et al. The science case has since been extensively revised, and the new (draft) version is available below.

PILOT is an important step towards larger facilities in Antarctica, and a vigorous new future for optical/infrared astronomy in Antarctica.

PILOT was initially proposed in 2004 by a consortium of countries that included Australia, France, Italy, Germany, the UK and the US. This initial proposal stimulated an important series of design studies and workshops that have helped the concept to mature into a well-developed plan.

The PILOT design study

In November 2006 the Australian Department of Education, Science and Training announced funding of A$1m (~€600k) via its NCRIS program for a design study of PILOT. This funding was managed by Astronomy Australia Limited (AAL). The Science Office for PILOT is at the University of New South Wales, and the technical component of this study was conducted by the Anglo-Australian Observatory. PILOT is proposed as a joint Australian-European project, with European coordination under the auspices of ARENA.

The initial, NCRIS-funded PILOT Design Study has now been completed and a Design Review held on 24 - 25 July 2008. At the present, the following documents from that study are available for download.

At present, these documents are available for download:

The PILOT project is currently seeking additional funding to continue into the Preliminary Design Phase.


John Storey, 3rd March 2009

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