Friday, September 5, 2014

SALT Status update for Sept 2014

Recent Science Results

de Martino et al. measure the properties of the peculiar low mass
X-ray binary XSS J12270-4859

Onofrio and Wegner use RSS spectroscopy of white dwarfs to set
the first upper bound of astrophysical origin on the coupling
between the Higgs field and the Kreschmann curvature invariant.

Miszalski, Mikolajewska, and Udalski report on the discovery of a
new Small Magellanic Cloud symbiotic star, OGLE-SMC-LPV-00861:

Karachentsev et al. used RSS to measure Ha velocity of the nearby
gas-poor dwarf transition galaxy KK258 = ESO468-020

Gvaramadze et al. used SALT RSS observations for spectral studies
of first discovery of a Wolf-Rayet (WR) star in the Large
Magellanic Cloud via detection of a circular shell with the
Spitzer Space Telescope
Oszkiewicz et al. used SALT spectroscopic to test methods for
photometric selection of V-type asteroids:

SALT HRS Telegram on V1369 Cen

Simultaneous observations with SALT HRS and HST STIS spectroscopy
were carried out as part of a campaign to observe the classical
nova V1369 Cen.  Preliminary results were presented in the
following Astronomer's Telegram:

An example of the reduced blue HRS spectrum produced via the new
experimental HRS pipeline (see below for more details) are
available here:

New SALT Website

We are pleased to announce that the SALT web site has been given
an overhaul and that it is now officially available for everyone
to see. Some highlights include a new design, addition of
interactive elements including recent observations, and an
updated site for astronomers.  Please check out the new websites

- New web site:
- New web site for Astronomers:

The new website was set up through the hard work of Briehan
Lombaard, Paul Kotze, and Christian Hettlage at SAAO/SALT along
with contributions from many others.  The graphic design work was
done by Joni-Leigh Doran. Besides web design, she also does fine
art and illustrations. You can check out her work on Facebook at

RSS Maintenance

RSS will be taken down Tuesday, Sept 9 for a major optical
cleaning procedure with the goal to significantly improve the
performances of the instrument.  With the instrument off the
telescope, throughput measurements of the major optical
assemblies will be performed as well.  The total downtime is
currently expected to be between 4 and 6 weeks.

HRS Quick Look Software

A command line script for extracting a single order to allow
estimates of the quality of data has been running at the
telescope and we have made it available to the general community
to help with assessing the quality of their observations.  It can
be downloaded from here:

Please see the README for more details on usage. The only
requirements are some additional python libraries that can be
installed via pip or other standard installation packages.

A prototype of a science reduction pipeline will be available
soon.  The code will be uploaded to the following repository soon
if you would like a preview or to help contribute:

BVIT back on Sky

Following upgrades of the BVIT computer by the Berkeley group led
by Barry Welsh and ably supported by SALT Tech Ops and Marissa
Kotze, the instrument is back on sky. Some on-sky tests confirmed
to was all working nominally. Several observing programs
utilizing it are planned over the coming months and possibly into
semester 2014-2.


There has been good progress on the RSS near IR arm development,
particularly with the detector optimization work. The science
grade Hawaii 2RG array is expected to be installed in the
cryostat in the coming months following tests and control
parameter tweaking on the bare MUX device, currently
installed. The pre-dewar cooling design work is near completion
and RFPs are about to be released. The instrument is on track for
delivery later in 2015, in time for installation following the
tracker upgrade completion at the end of 2015.


After a significant delay in the first phase of the edge sensor
project, necessitated by the need for more thorough testing than
originally anticipated, plus some design minor modifications, the
first set of sensors are about to be installed on the central 7
segments (the so-called sub array). This will be followed by a
commissioning period on the telescope, expected to be completed
in a couple of months, depending on how co-operative the weather
is during that time. Apart from several nights of engineering
time required during this period, the SAMS commissioning is
expected to have little impact on normal nighttime science
activities. The vast majority of the remaining 480 sensors (plus
spares) will be delivered over the next year or so.

SALT Science Conference 2015

A heads-up for the next SALT Science meeting: this will be held
in the week of 1-5 June 2015 at the STIAS conference venue in
Stellenbosch, some 40 km from Cape Town. This will follow the
SALT Board meeting held the previous week in Cape Town. More
details on this will be released over the coming months.

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