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Sky Quality Group

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The IAC has long been aware of the importance of promoting initiatives for the characterization and protection of the Canarian Observatories (Roque de los Muchachos -ORM- on La Palma and Teide -OT- on Tenerife). For this reason, the This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it was created and then a technical office for sky protection (OTPC) to ensure that the Law protecting the astronomical qualities of the Canarian sky are not degraded by developments.

Since 1990, Site Characterization studies have been carried out, funded by the IAC and co-funded by several programs over the years (e.g. the E-ELT telescope design study -EC FP6 program-, Optical Infrared Co-ordination Network for Astronomy  -OPTICON-, ESA and others). The Sky Team is meant to be a small nucleus that, thanks to the institutional support from the different IAC departments (e.g. research & technology), can cope with a wide and important range of duties. Presently the Team is composed of C. Muñoz-Tuñón (PI), A. M. Varela & J. A. Castro-Almazán

The Sky Team’s main objective is the continuous characterization and the preservation of astronomical conditions of the Canarian Observatories. Therefore, it is our objective to always provide updated information to take the greatest possible advantage of the Sky’s outstanding properties for astronomical observations.

The specific tasks covered are very wide and the Team is very active on several fronts, some of these are listed below:

  • To continuously monitor the atmospheric parameters related to astronomical observations.
  • To design, develop or implement new instruments and techniques for site characterization.
  • To publish and disseminate the results in different specialized forums.
  • To coordinate the institutional efforts to characterize and protect the Sky.
  • To act as the interlocutor in related formal agreements with agencies and institutions, like the AEMet or International Scientific Committee (CCI).
  • To participate in international initiatives in the field.
  • To extend the knowledge to the general public, with the aim of making them aware of the importance of the knowledge about and protection of the sky.
  • To participate in, or lead, international site testing campaigns, or site selections, for future infrastructures.
  • To actively participate in advisory committees in the field.

The IAC SKY Team is also the Institutional link between the different departments to coordinate whatever efforts are directed towards the characterization and protection of the Canarian Sky for Astronomy. The technical office for sky protection (OTPC), created in 1992, also within the mentioned coordination scheme, provides support and supervises the implementation of laws protecting the night sky's darkness.

More specific issues which are worth mentioning are the following. The IAC Sky Team has participated and led the research activity and implementation of new techniques and tools for site testing of giant telescopes, the most recent one, the European Extremely Large Telescopes (E-ELT). It has also supported the work for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) site studies as well as the ongoing European Solar Telescope (EST) studies. More recently it is advising and providing updated information which is to be used by the Cherenkov Telescopes Array (CTA) team when making their site selection.

We frequently participate in specific meetings, organizing some of them and contributing with talks and review talks that are always published in compendiums. Besides, numerous publications in specialized journals are available, some of which have become a reference work in the site-testing field. The list of the more than 100 published works, either reports or refereed papers, are available, The Sky Team has also developed and implemented instruments and tools for site characterization; some examples are Differential Image Motion Monitors (DIMM), turbulent profiling devices, like SCIntillation Detection And Ranging (SCIDAR; in collaboration with other research groups) or Multi-Aperture Scintillation Sensor (MASS), or an integrated water vapor monitor. Much of the data gathered after being calibrated has become available publicly.

(Sky Team, May 2013)