Monday, August 20, 2012

SALT Status Update for August 2012

Recent Science Results

SALT science results are starting to show up on the arXiv, and here
are some of the most recent:

In, Dan Milisavljevic et al. monitor
the time evolution of SN 2011ei, one of the least luminous SNe IIb or
Ib observed to date.

In, M. Sharina et al. report the
discovery of a new carbon star near the center of the low-metallicity
globular cluster NGC 6426.

In, Brian van Soelen et al. use SALT
data to help model the properties of PSR B1259-63, a gamay-ray binary
system consiting of a 48 ms pulsar obiting a Be star.


SALTICAM is currently suffering from an array of maladies that almost
completely preclude it from doing any useful science.  It is still
useful as an acquisition camera, but even that is significantly
degraded.  Its filter magazine system is still unreliable and prone to
jamming.  Work is ongoing to design a long-term fix, but in the
meantime a single filter is pre-selected for a given night with no
further filter changes attempted unless absolutely necessary.  The
SALTICAM shutter is similarly unreliable and may fail completely at
any time.  The SALTICAM software is being updated to provide an
acquisition mode where the shutter is left open while exposures are
repeatedly taken.  This may result in streaking of bright sources
across the field during readouts, but this can be largely mitigated by
binning by 4x4 or more.  Being able to leave the shutter open during
acquisition and slit viewing will significantly extend the lifespan of
this and future shutters.  Lastly, some oil or other contaminant has
worked its way into the cryo-cooler system which prevents SALTICAM
from reaching its nominal operating temperature.  The temperature it
does manage to reach seems to vary with time and is often warm enough
that the thermal noise seriously impacts our ability to acquire faint

A decision has been made to move forward with plans to completely
re-plumb the SALTICAM cooling system and replace the coolant.
However, there may be significant lead time required to source the
necessary parts and materials.  In the meantime work is ongoing to
port some of SALTICAM's acquisition capabilities to the RSS camera
control software.  The most important bit is the ability to select
guide stars to position the RSS guide probe.  Work is also ongoing to
prepare our spare acquisition camera, called BCAM, so that it's ready
to go should SALTICAM fail completely.  SALTICAM will have to be
removed to perform the re-plumbing so BCAM will be needed to fill in
then as well.  It is hoped that fixes to the shutter and filter
mechanisms can be effected at the same time as the re-plumbing.

Semester 2012-2 Summary

A summary of the results of the recent proposal deadline have been
posted on the SALT Astronomy blog:

102 proposals were submitted with an average oversubscription rate of
1.9, but a full break down of the proposals are given on the blog

Science WIKI

To provide a common area for the SALT community to share information
about SALT data and SALT science, we have set up the SALT science

The science wiki is accessible with your WebManager login.  Please
feel free to contribute information to the Wiki and share your
experience with SALT.

SALT Sandbox

To support and provide a place for the addition of new tools and
scripts related to the processing of SALT data, we have started the
SALTSandbox repository on github:

In particular, this repository provides a place to share code that
others might find useful, but might not have a place yet in the PySALT
package.  So if you have developed some code that might be useful to
others, please fork the code and contribute to it!

PySALT Update

A new version of the PySALT software has been released.  There are no
major changes in this version, but it does include some critical bug
fixes required for the performance of different packages. New versions
of the software can be downloaded from

PIPT Update

New versions have been released for the Salticam and RSS Simulator as
well as for the PIPT.

The new Simulator versions let you select the filter (U, B, V, R or I)
to use for normalizing a generated spectrum. In case of a
user-supplied spectrum you may choose whether to supply actual flux
values or to normalize the spectrum with one of the above filters. In
addition, you may save and load simulation setups.

When using the new version of the PIPT, you may attach saved
simulation setups to a phase 1 proposal. This not only facilitates
checking your proposal, but also allows you to reuse the setup in a
subsequent phase 2 proposal. The new PIPT version also lets you add
information about the status of previous proposals and to flag a
proposal as a priority 4 one.

While you may still submit proposals with the existing PIPT, you are
strongly encouraged to update your software and make use of the new

Links to the new versions can be found at:

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