Friday, March 13, 2015

SALT Status Updates for March 2015

Janusz Kaluzny

We are saddened by the untimely passing of Janusz Kaluzny on 6 March
2015.  Janusz, of the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center in
Poland, was involved in SALT from its very first days, and throughout
the project devoted his time and wisdom to ensuring that SALT would
live up to the high expectations of it.  His contributions, both
scientific and technical, will be missed.

SALT Operations

After running the Astronomy Operations for 10 years, David Buckley has
taken a sabbatical and will return to SAAO and SALT related projects
as SALT Scientist at the end of this year.

Chris Coetzee has been named the SALT Operations Manager and any
issues or feedback regarding management of the operations and process
as a whole should be addressed to him at  Petri
Vaisanen has taken over as the Head of SALT Astronomy Operations since
mid-January.  Any questions relating to SALT science and programs
should be addressed to him at or  Normal operations and on-going programs
continue to be handled by the assigned individual Liaison SAs as

DDT proposals and questions should be sent to DDT
proposals are assessed by the SAAO director Ted Williams and Petri
Vaisanen. More details at

SALT Papers since November

In 2014, 33 papers were published that included SALT data.  Already,
2015 is off to a great start and here are some of the refereed papers
that have been published this year (and please do let us know of SALT
papers we may have omitted):

* Mitchell et al. published the first results from RINGS -- a
Fabry-Perot survey of a nearby galaxies.

* Kalari and Vink present optical spectra of pre-main-sequence
candidates in the Low Metallicity Galactic Star-forming Region Sh

* Milisavljevic report on the  Broad-lined Type Ic SN 2012ap and its lack of gamma ray detection.

* Mamajek et al. present the closest known flyby of a star, WISE
J0720, to the Solar System (see below for PR).

* Ivanov et al. present characteristics of the solar neighbour WISE
J0720 (see below for Press Release).

* Stritzinger et al. include RSS spectra in their comprehensive study
of the bright and energetic Type Iax SN 2012Z.

* Kniazev, Gvaramadze, and Berdnikov discover a new galactic luminous
blue variable star (see below for Press Release)

* Manick, Miszalski, and McBride publish first results of a radial
velocity survey of post-common-envelope Wolf-Rayet central stars of
planetary nebulae.

For a full listing of all the papers published in 2014, please see:

SALT Science Conference 2015

Registration for 'Science with SALT' conference to be held at the
Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Study (STIAS) from 1-5 June is now
open.  Please visit the conference website for more information:

SALT in the News

Recently SAAO issued two SALT related Press Releases.  One about the
closest known stellar fly-by of a late type star / brown dwarf binary
intruder through the Oort Cloud 70.000 years ago and the other about
finding a rare Luminous Blue Variable star.

Long-time scale studies of High Redshift Quasars

Justyna Modzelewska from CAMK along with her collaborators have been
using SALT to monitor the variability of high redshift quasars with
the goal of eventually using these objects to help study Dark Energy.
They have published some of their early results and you can read all
the details in the blog post here:

SALT DDT followup of MASTER transients

As part of a SALT Directors Discretionary Time program, snapshot RSS
spectroscopic observations were undertaken of three MASTER SAAO
transients in order to optically identify them. They were subsequently
identified (and the results published in Astronomers Telegrams) to be
a Dwarf Nova declining from outburst (Atel #7165), a flaring FSRQ
blazer, at a redshift of 0.90 (Atel #7167), and an eclipsing Polar
with a 2.1 h orbital period (Atel #7169). The latter was determined
from follow-up photometry on the SAAO 1.9-m and 1.0-m telescopes using
the high speed SHOC cameras. This was conducted during a campaign of
CV photometry undertaken by UCT graduate students Hannes Breytenbach
and Mokhine Motsoaledi, together with John Thorstensen and students
from Dartmouth College, who have been visiting SAAO and UCT for the

Phase-1 proposals for 2015-1

We received 76 proposals for the upcoming Semester 2015-1 starting May
1.  The process is now with the various Time Allocation committees.
For all proposals, the time available was oversubscribed by a factor
of 1.3. The successful PIs will be informed by the Ast Ops by 1 April
and phase-2 material will be expected to be submitted by 17 April.

RSS throughput

We are very happy to announce a significant improvement of the RSS
optics throughput after the RSS optics fix in September/October. The
efficiency increase is approximately a factor of 1.4 and even better
in the blue.  More details are available here:

RSS Fabry-Perot mode 

After the re-installation of RSS in November we have unfortunately
struggled to get the FP mode stable and calibrated.  New cabling was
required which arrived only in January.  Calibrating all the required
wavelength regions has been slow due to various technical issues, but
we are making progress are are confident that both LR and MR are back
on-sky during this month. The good news is that LR mode is on-line
after a long period off-line in 2013-2014.

We do sincerely apologize for significant loss of valuable time for
accepted FP programs during 2014-2.

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