Updated 2:00 PM EDT, Wed, May 20, 2020

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China’s New KDUST Telescope in Antarctica to begin Operations in 2020

Eye on the universe

(Photo : CAS) The China Small Telescope Array at Dome A.

China is expected to complete the upgrade of its existing automated astronomical observation platform in Antarctica into a manned astronomical observatory by 2020.

The observatory -- the Kunlun Dark Universe Survey Telescope (KDUST) -- is being built on Dome A, the existing site of China's Antarctic Kunlun Station. Dome A is the highest location in Antarctica and stands 4,093 meters above sea level.

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KDUST is a 2.5 meter infrared optical telescope designed to detect and observe Earth-like planets in the Milky Way using infrared light. It will be the third telescope system installed at Kunlun, which is one of the coldest places on Earth.

The other two telescope systems are the Chinese Small Telescope Array (CSTAR), an automated array of four Schmidt telescope with an aperture of 14.5 cm, each equipped with 1K x 1K CCD, and the Antarctica Schmidt Telescopes (AST3), a joint project between Texas A&M University and the Beijing Astronomical Observatory. AST3 consists of three 50 cm aperture wide-field telescopes.

In addition to these three systems, the largest observatory at Kunlun is expected to come online in 2020. This will be the Dome A Terahertz Explorer-5 (DATE5), a 5 meter telescope whose capability to detect light with longer wavelengths will allow astronomers to detect and observe nascent stars.

China has sent its astronomers to Dome A every year since 2007 to make preparations to build KDUST. The 33rd Chinese expedition to Antarctica left China Nov. 2 aboard the the research icebreaker Xuelong (Snow Dragon).

Among the crew are four Chinese astronomers who will spend the next six months working on some 100 projects. This team, however, will only have 20 days to work at Kunlun.

The team includes an astronomer from the National Astronomical Observatories and three from the Nanjing Institute of Astronomical Optics and Technology.

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