Press Release

Fluke Multimeters Help Keep Aussie Telescopes on the Lookout Through Icy Antarctic Winters

By SpaceRef Editor
April 14, 2009
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The brief Antarctic summer gives astronomers little time to maintain the equipment at their telescope test site in the remote Antarctic interior. They demand tools they can rely on: Fluke 189 and 179 digital multimeters (DMMs).

Since 1996, astronomers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have sought the perfect location for the next generation of deep-space telescopes. They may have found it in perhaps the most difficult environment on earth, 1000 km (621 miles) from the Antarctic coast and 3260 meters (10,695 feet) above sea level. During the sunless winter, temperatures in the interior can reach minus 80 Celsius (minus 112 Fahrenheit) or lower.

For the purposes of astronomical “seeing,” however, the location is ideal. Australian astronomers have successfully demonstrated that their site has viewing conditions nearly as good as the orbiting Hubble Telescope.

Because the astronomers can only reach the site in summer, their automated telescope equipment must operate unattended the rest of the year, reliably producing accurate measurements. The equipment is a custom mixture of analog and digital electronics developed to withstand the extreme and variable winter temperatures. Fluke 189 and 179 digital multimeters (DMMs) form a key part of the installation and maintenance tool kit.

In trips to Antarctica each summer, the researchers use their DMMs to test and set up the astronomical instruments and supporting electronic and electrical systems and do voltage, resistance and temperature measurements. The Fluke DMMs are used successfully in outdoor ambient temperatures generally between minus 30 °C to minus 40 °C (minus 20 °F to minus 40 °F); indoors, about 10 °C (50 °F). Then they leave several Fluke DMMs on site to monitor operations in their absence.

“From experience, we’ve found cheap multimeters are susceptible to radio frequency interference, when used near switchmode power supplies, for example. And their accuracy suffers as their batteries decline, as well as having other display accuracy problems,” said UNSW astronomer Michael Ashley. “We need instruments that work, from which we can guarantee results. We’ve never had a problem with Fluke instruments.” Read the full story on Fluke instruments in Antarctica here on the Fluke web site.

Fluke Corporation

For more information on Fluke tools and applications, or to find the location of your nearest distributor, contact Fluke Corporation, P.O. Box 9090, Everett, WA USA 98206, call (800) 44-FLUKE (800-443-5853), fax (425) 446-5116, e-mail or visit the Fluke web site at

About Fluke

Fluke Corporation is the leader in compact, professional electronic test tools. Fluke customers are technicians, engineers, electricians, metrologists and building diagnostic professionals who install, troubleshoot, and manage industrial electrical and electronic equipment and calibration processes for quality control as well as conducting building restoration and remediation services. Fluke is a registered trademark of Fluke Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

SpaceRef staff editor.