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Title: Six winters of photometry from Dome C, Antarctica: challenges, improvements, and results from the ASTEP experiment
Author: N. Crouzet, D. Mékarnia, T. Guillot, L. Abe, A. Agabi, J.-P. Rivet, I. Gonçalves, F.-X. Schmider, J.-B. Daban, Y. Fanteï-Caujolle, C. Gouvret, D.D.R. Bayliss, G. Zhou, E. Aristidi, T. Fruth, A. Erikson, H. Rauer, J. Szulágyi, E. Bondoux, Z. Challita, C. Pouzenc, F. Fressin, F. Valbousquet, M. Barbieri, A. Blazit, S. Bonhomme, F. Bouchy, J. Gerakis, G. Bouchez

ASTEP (Antarctica Search for Transiting ExoPlanets) is a pilot project that aims at searching and characterizing transiting exoplanets from Dome C in Antarctica and to qualify this site for photometry in the visible. Two instruments were installed at Dome C and ran for six winters in total. The analysis of the collected data is nearly complete. We present the operation of the instruments, and the technical challenges, limitations, and possible solutions in light of the data quality. The instruments performed continuous observations during the winters. Human interventions are required mainly for regular inspection and ice dust removal. A defrosting system is efficient at preventing and removing ice on the mirrors. The PSF FWHM is 4.5 arcsec on average which is 2.5 times larger than the specification, and is highly variable; the causes are the poor ground-level seeing, the turbulent plumes generated by the heating system, and to a lower extent the imperfect optical alignment and focusing, and some astigmatism. We propose solutions for each of these aspects that would largely increase the PSF stability. The astrometric and guiding precisions are satisfactory and would deserve only minor improvements. Major issues are encountered with the camera shutter which did not close properly after two winters; we minimized this issue by heating the shutter and by developing specific image calibration algorithms. Finally, we summarize the site testing and science results obtained with ASTEP. Overall, the ASTEP experiment will serve as a basis to design and operate future optical and near-infrared telescopes in Antarctica.

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Concordia research station
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Concordia research station in the heart of Antarctica witnessed its last sunset for over three months last Sunday. From here on they will work and live under artificial lighting as they survive and conduct research at the remotest base on Earth. 
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Proba-1 images Concordia south polar base

ESAs Earth-observing microsatellite Proba-1 has glimpsed one of the loneliest places on Earth Concordia research base in the heart of Antarctica.
This image was acquired by the High-Resolution Camera, the smallest imager on ESAs smallest satellite. This black and white digital camera incorporates a miniaturised telescope to fit in Proba-1, whose overall volume is less than a cubic metre.

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Summer has arrived

The first plane to reach Antarctic research base Concordia in nine months landed yesterday, bringing fresh food and replacements for the crew that spent winter in one of the most isolated places on Earth. Summer has definitely arrived.
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Surviving the worst winter in the world

Much of Antarctica has endured more than three months of complete darkness - but today, the Sun rose again for the first time over the horizon at French-Italian Concordia Station, an extreme and isolated outpost located in Antarctica. Antarctic-based doctor Alexander Kumar, originally from Derbyshire, UK, and now based at the station, describes living through "the worst winter in the world".
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Chronicles from Concordia
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Alex and Sebastien's birthday: Fusion cooking

Saturday we celebrated Alex and Sebastien's birthday as well as Queen Elizabeth's 60th jubilee.
I tried to cook a menu that mixed the birthday boy's heritage. It was not an obvious combination as Alex is English and Indian while Seb is from France.

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Concordia sunset
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 Chronicles from Concordia: our last sunset

It has been a week since we saw our last sunset. I took some time out to enjoy and preserve this special time.
From now on things are going to be different. It will be more of a challenge trying to maintain a normal body clock.

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Concordia station
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Voyage to the most isolated base on Earth
 
Alexander Kumar, the next ESA-sponsored crewmember to stay in Concordia, has arrived safely at the research base in Antarctica. The voyage to one of the remotest places on Earth takes even longer than the voyage to the International Space Station.
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Vision pour lastronomie et l'astrophysique européenne en Antarctique

Le consortium vient de publier sa « Vision pour l'astronomie et l'astrophysique européenne en Antarctique dans la prochaine décennie », une feuille de route de 100 pages proposée aux agences nationales et internationales et à la Commission Européenne en vue d'installer un observatoire astronomique en Antarctique sur le site de la station francoitalienne Concordia au Dôme C.
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PILOT telescope
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Title: The Science Case for PILOT II: the Distant Universe
Authors: J.S. Lawrence, M.C.B. Ashley, A. Bunker, R. Bouwens, D. Burgarella, M.G. Burton, N. Gehrels, K. Glazebrook, K. Pimbblet, R. Quimby, W. Saunders, J.W.V. Storey, J.C. Wheeler

PILOT (the Pathfinder for an International Large Optical Telescope) is a proposed 2.5 m optical/infrared telescope to be located at Dome C on the Antarctic plateau. The atmospheric conditions at Dome C deliver a high sensitivity, high photometric precision, wide-field, high spatial resolution, and high-cadence imaging capability to the PILOT telescope. These capabilities enable a unique scientific potential for PILOT, which is addressed in this series of papers. The current paper presents a series of projects dealing with the distant (redshift >) Universe, that have been identified as key science drivers for the PILOT facility. The potential for PILOT to detect the first populations of stars to form in the early Universe, via infrared projects searching for pair-instability supernovae and gamma-ray burst afterglows, is investigated. Two projects are proposed to examine the assembly and evolution of structure in the Universe: an infrared survey searching for the first evolved galaxies at high redshift, and an optical survey aimed at characterising moderate-redshift galaxy clusters. Finally, a large-area weak-lensing survey and a program to obtain supernovae infrared light-curves are proposed to examine the nature and evolution of dark energy and dark matter.

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