Saturday, December 3, 2011

Technically, it's a good kind of boring!

With things running fairly routinely up at SALT most nights, there really isn't much to blog about these days...  That's exactly the kind of of "boring" we've been waiting for so all I can offer is this rather serene shot of the telescope taking evening twilight flat fields a few days ago.

However, that's not to say that all's quiet as far as the Tech Ops team goes.  Here's Charl sporting his certificate that declares him to be one of the Sutherland Golf Club's Top 5 players for 2011 - Go Charl!!

& last weekend Eben arranged a fishing weekend for the gang at Infanta, at the mouth of the Breede River (thanks to Keith for providing some photos!).

Although some good ones got away (Of Course), it seems these guys aren't just pretty faces afterall!

Meanwhile, those that stayed behind on the hill for standby duties worked on other projects during their spare time.  Here's Tigger, inspecting progress on the latest electric bike endeavour...

Over on the southern end of the plateau the Polish crew of Piotr, Stan & Milena are working tirelessly on the installation & integration of the new robotic telescopes for the Solaris project.

For obvious reasons, these 2 are affectionately known as the PacMan telescopes :)  We look forward to seeing them chomping away at the southern sky in the near future!

& here we have proof of the direct benefits of installing numerous robotic telescopes on the hilltop.  SuperWASP South in particular is positively impacting the quality of life of the local community :)

Arcoss the plateau, at the 1.9-m, we were doing battle with the re-alignment of the fibre for GIRAFFE (the SAAO's fibre-fed échelle spectrograph).  Some of the old hardware was spruced up as best we could & a few new bits were installed to improve the user- & technician-friendliness of this instrument.

Following days of epic frustration, profound tedium & a debilitating case of "GIRAFFE neck", we eventually got the exposure-meter readings up from half a million to 3.5 million counts per second, at which point we declared victory & assumed an air of learned smuggery.

To undo some of the damage sustained by spending days huddled in the dark (making minute adjustments to various fiddly stage assemblies via walkie-talkie feedback), we went off to visit the cracked rock down the eastern side of the hill.

One can't help imagining aliens having popped out shortly after this thing "landed"...

It's quite a good size for a space ship really.

& makes for a wonderful photographic subject!

During the course of our walk we were treated to plenty of kestrel aerobatics - the one below was particularly vocal about us daring to walk along her cliff!  

The pair of black eagles also graced us with a couple of flybys :)

On the subject of raptors...  Francois & family have been taking care of an injured pale chanting goshawk that they've named Orion.

The shade cloth enclosure surrounding the SLODAR telescope (which is used to characterise the vertical profile of atmospheric turbulence) proved an ideal hospital room as the patient could be contained outdoors, but remain safe from predators (& cars!).

He was well fed during his stay with the Strumpfers & might even have developed a taste for ultra-rare Karoo boerewors!

Unfortunately the irreparable damage to his left shoulder will prevent him from flying again, but the guys at Eagle Encounters - the raptor rehab centre at the Spier wine estage in Stellenbosch - are hopeful that he may be placed in a breeding programme.  Given that he's estimated to be at least 7 years old, it'd be a good idea to try to pass on such good genes!

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