Monday, January 31, 2011

More than just raft races

To all those wondering how there can possibly be time for fun stuff like raft races when there's a big telescope to get going - fear not!  The team's slaving away, as always, & much progress is being made...

Shortly before Xmas, Phil was up at SALT & got to try out his fantastic new 10-24 mm lens while Jonathan was up on the cherry-picker to remove the central segment for re-coating.

This was historic stuff as it's the first time that Segment 1, the critical mirror upon which the procedure for aligning the primary hinges, was re-aluminised. 

With that, Hitesh can at last sleep peacefully again, knowing that the nasty little circle hand-drawn on the centre of the segment 3.5 years ago is Gone!

In the time since, much more rain has produced a greener Sutherland than most of us have ever seen before.

& if that wasn't exciting enough, there was the man-hunt for the French couple at large in the Sutherland area after an altercation that left one policeman dead & another injured :(  So much for peaceful, boring old Sutherland!

That story ended badly for the fugitives a few days later.  For the record, we'd like to confirm that the controversially named "gun turret" on RSS (which houses the grating rotation mechanism) played no part in the shoot-out - it really was in the spectrometer room the whole time...

In fact - were we not still waiting on SALTICAM (which too is progressing well down in Cape Town), RSS might soon have been allowed back up on the tracker after its excellent behaviour during exhaustive repetitive testing of the various mechanisms.

The other critical instrument that needs to go into the payload before RSS can go back on top is the Atmospheric Dispersion Compensator (ADC).  It will be inserted into the non-rotating structure (just above the SAC) using a custom-built installation jig that seems destined to spend at least part of its time closely associated with potjiekos events.

All the while, primary mirror segments continue to be cleaned & re-aluminised in the IQ Team's old haunt.

One of the ongoing night-time challenges is to sort out stray light issues due to the auto-collimator, as well as other spurious light sources like LEDs on the payload & within the telescope enclosure.  A large baffle that surrounds the SAC has been installed & aligned, the auto-collimator had its baffle (affectionately known as "the mother of all tubes") replaced & all the LEDs will ultimately need to be hunted down & blacked out.

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