Intensity and polarization of the atmospheric emission at millimetric wavelengths at Dome Concordia

E. S. Battistelli, G. Amico, A. Baù, L. Bergé, É Bréelle, R. Charlassier, S. Collin, A. Cruciani, P. de Bernardis, C. Dufour, L. Dumoulin, M. Gervasi, M. Giard, C. Giordano, Y. Giraud-Héraud, L. Guglielmi, J. C. Hamilton, J. Landé, B. Maffei, M. MaielloS. Marnieros, S. Masi, A. Passerini, F. Piacentini, M. Piat, L. Piccirillo, G. Pisano, G. Polenta, C. Rosset, M. Salatino, A. Schillaci, R. Sordini, S. Spinelli, A. Tartari, M. Zannoni

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    Atmospheric emission is a dominant source of disturbance in ground-based astronomy at millimetric wavelengths. The Antarctic plateau is recognized as an ideal site for millimetric and submillimetric observations, and the French/Italian base of Dome Concordia (Dome C) is among the best sites on Earth for these observations. In this paper, we present measurements at Dome C of the atmospheric emission in intensity and polarization at a 2-mm wavelength. This is one of the best observational frequencies for cosmic microwave background (CMB) observations when considering cosmic signal intensity, atmospheric transmission, detector sensitivity and foreground removal. Using the B-mode radiation interferometer (BRAIN)-pathfinder experiment, we have performed measurements of the atmospheric emission at 150 GHz. Careful characterization of the airmass synchronous emission has been performed, acquiring more than 380 elevation scans (i.e. 'skydip') during the third BRAIN-pathfinder summer campaign in 2009 December/2010 January. The extremely high transparency of the Antarctic atmosphere over Dome C is proven by the very low measured optical depth, I>= 0.050 ± 0.003 ± 0.011, where the first error is statistical and the second is the systematic error. Mid-term stability, over the summer campaign, of the atmosphere emission has also been studied. Adapting the radiative transfer atmosphere emission model am to the particular conditions found at Dome C, we also infer the level of the precipitable water vapor (PWV) content of the atmosphere, which is notoriously the main source of disturbance in millimetric astronomy (? mm). Upper limits on the airmass correlated polarized signal are also placed for the first time. The degree of circular polarization of atmospheric emission is found to be lower than 0.2 per cent [95 per cent confidence level (CL)], while the degree of linear polarization is found to be lower than 0.1 per cent (95 per cent CL). These limits include signal-correlated instrumental spurious polarization.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1293-1299
    Number of pages7
    JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


    • Atmospheric effects
    • Cosmic background radiation
    • Instrumentation: polarimeters
    • Site testing


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