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NOAO Newsletter - CTIO Operations - March 2000 - Number 61


CTIO Instrumentation Update

Alistair Walker (awalker@noao.edu)

The CTIO La Serena-based Engineering and Technical Services (ETS) Division has the multiple functions of building new instrumentation, upgrading existing telescopes and their instruments, and providing support to the Tololo-based Telescope Operations Division (Telops). In addition, computer hardware and software support is provided to the systems in both La Serena and on Tololo. Both divisions are expected to provide some support for Gemini South, particularly for NOAO instruments such as Phoenix. The ETS division is managed by Brooke Gregory, while schedules, progress, and priorities are reviewed by a committee of scientists who meet at approximately monthly intervals. The program presently contains 25 projects, large and small; here I concentrate on the major instrumentation projects now underway.

The Hydra multi-object spectrograph entered regular operation on the Blanco 4-m telescope during 1999, using the Air Schmidt camera and a Loral 3K CCD as detector. The camera vignettes significantly when used with Hydra, and the CCD format is not large enough to allow use of all the fibers. A new camera has been built under the leadership of Tom Ingerson, while Roger Smith and Andrés Montané have implemented a SITe 2K x 4K CCD in a sophisticated, low-profile mount. The combination is due to undergo tests during the next Hydra engineering run in March, and if successful will be offered to users immediately. We presently offer only 300-m fibers with Hydra, but with the new camera observers who desire higher resolution will be able to install slit plates of width 100 or 200 m. Watch http://www.ctio.noao.edu/spectrographs/hydra.

The Infrared Sideport IR Imager (ISPI) will fit at the Blanco F/8 focus on a sideport, with all transmissive optics (the Richard Elston Flamingos design) and a 2K HgCdTe detector, to give a 10' x 10' field with 0.3" pixels. The instrument is making good progress, with most optics received and mechanical design proceeding apace. Like the SOAR Imager (below), ISPI will use a Leach controller with software written in the LabView environment, under LINUX. The instrument is scheduled to be completed by late 2001, but array acquisition is likely to be the pacing item. Ron Probst, now relocated back to Tucson, is the project manager.

The SOAR Optical Imager is the commissioning instrument for the SOAR 4-m, which has first light scheduled for September 2002. The instrument fits on a folded Cass port and incorporates a rotator, ADC (trombone-type as in VLT FORS), tip-tilt sensor, and a 4K x 4K CCD mosaic, giving a 5.5' x 5.5' field with 0.08" pixels. This instrument is heading for preliminary design review and is on schedule. Alistair Walker is the project manager.

Finally, after some delays due to lack of resources, construction of an Integral Field Unit for the Blanco telescope is beginning. The IFU will insert at the F/8 RC focus and feed the Hydra bench spectrograph. This arrangement allows a great deal of flexibility and, in principle, could replace many of the functions presently provided by both RC and Echelle spectrographs. This project is led by Tom Ingerson.

The Blanco instruments described above (Hydra, ISPI, and IFU), together with the Mosaic II Imager, will be the only instruments offered on the Blanco telescope by the time the SOAR telescope enters operation in March 2003. This complement of fixed instrumentation will allow us to divert resources from Tololo to running SOAR. By that time, Gemini South will have been operating for approximately two years; the three telescopes together will offer a range of state-of-the-art instrumentation, with the wide-field Blanco and narrow-field high-resolution SOAR complementing the larger telescope.


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