ASTRO-PHYSICS
3600GTO German Equatorial Mount (3600GTO)
At Dome C in Antarctica

Can you find the 3600GTO under this heavy instrumentation? The wood instrument was made on site with materials available at Dome C to test the 3600GTO. The setup includes: 300mm f / 4 Newton + CCD + LUCAS spectrograph. The weight of the instruments is 120 kg with an additional 75kg of counterweights (made from a wheel of Flexmobil filled with lead).

The very first 3600GTO was installed at Dome C at Concordia Station in Antarctica in the Fall of 2007. It was designed to carry a large telescope that will be used for scientific studies by the Laboratoire Universitaire d'Astrophysique de Nice (LUAN). As you can imagine, the Antarctic is the most severe environment on the planet. Maintainance is extremely difficult due to the extreme low temperatures and dangerous wind conditions that prevent technicians from working outdoors. The mount must be a reliable performer and function flawlessly 24 hours per day for the entire polar night lasting 6 months. On July 5, 2010, we received this e-mail: "New record of temperature in Dome C -84.6 degrees C. Big One is still tracking with 150 kg scope on it". That's equivalent to -120.4 degrees F !!!!!!

Our smaller mounts have proven themselves in these frigid Antarctic conditions since 2003. We have had a number of 900GTO and 1200GTO mounts running continuously at Dome C in Antarctica, and they have shown themselves to be winners. In fact, they are some of the few things that actually work under those conditions, where the temperature is so cold that optics shatter and paint falls off tube assemblies like skin shed from a molting snake. The same design philosophy that has overcome these harsh conditions has made the 3600GTO the finest large mounting available.

Here are some links that you may wish to check out:

Video of an Astro-Physics 1200GTO operating at -73 degrees Celsius (-99 degrees Fahrenheit)!!! This video was recorded by Erick Bondoux and posted on the DailyMotion.com website August 23, 2008 (copyright by Erick Bondoux). We have prepared an English translation of Erick's comments for your convenience.

Video provides a tour of the Astro-Physics mounts based at dome C. This 3:50 minute video was was filmed May 30, 2008 by Erick Bondoux and is posted on the DailyMotion.com website. You will need to be a little patient with this video since it was filmed with only a faint light on the horizon and all installations had to be lit. You can also hear wind noise. (copyright by Erick Bondoux)

Video entitled: DC4 - Concordia 2008, The Winterover in Antarctica in Dome C Antarctica. This 3:25 minute video will provide a glimpse into the French and Italian Concordia team members, their living environment and equipment used during their 2008 research session. Very entertaining (musical overlay) and informative.

Blog/Journal by Erick Bondoux, which includes additional videos and observations of research and life in Antartica.

Photos from 2003 installation at Dome C. On the linked page click on Photo Gallery and then scroll down to Astrophysics place.

Franck Valbousquet of Optique et Vision in France proudly displays the very first 3600GTO, that he affectionately calls the BIG ONE, just before it was shipped off to Dome C in Antarctica. Franck consults to the Laboratoire Universitaire d'Astrophysique de Nice (LUAN) in Nice, France for projects in Antarctica. The RA and Dec axes and motor drive system were produced by Astro-Physics. The polar forks and base were designed and manufactured in France to suit the observing site. Note that the mount was not painted at the request of the research team.

Although the mount was essentially manufactured and assembled in the same manner as the production mounts that followed, Franck and the team at LUAN made special preparations for it to operate in the severe cold of the Antarctic. For instance, the original grease was removed. Anyone considering a similar application must be knowledgeable about requirements for extreme conditions.

Erick Bondoux and the 3600GTO Prototype at Concordia Base during the first year. Image by Eric Aristidi. It sure looks cold during the "summer" in Antarctica! Erick Bondoux is a professionnal electronic technician on the Concordia team at Dome C. He is also a French amateur astrophotographer.

Franck Valbousquet during one of his summers with the team at Dome C. The 1200GTO is one of several Astro-Physics 1200GTO and 900GTO mounts that have been in service since 2003. You can see another mount high on the platform in the background.

Wood is used extensively as a building material due to the extreme cold conditions. Note the 1200GTO and 900GTO mounts on raised platforms in the background. The snow piles all the way up the support structure during the "winter" months.

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This page was last modified: June 13, 2013

Astro-Physics, Inc.
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Phone: 815-282-1513   Fax: 815-282-9847