The Instrumentation Division consists of astronomers, engineers and technicians, working together to build and support instruments.
The purpose of the Instrumentation Division is the building and support of astronomical instruments, so the astronomers provide a vital link between the scientific and technical sides of what we do!
Amanda Sickafoose is the head of the division. In addition to managing the Division and overseeing the instrumentation building efforts, she has research interests in the study of remote solar system objects.
Lisa Crause is an astronomer by training and has many years of instrumentation building experience. She led the upgrade of the Cassegrain Spectrograph and is actively involved in instrumentation projects across the observatory.
Nicolas Erasmus (postdoctoral researcher) is a femtosecond laser physicist by training, and is now involved in research on near-Earth asteroids.
These are the people who actually manufacture much of the hardware that makes up the instruments. The shop is equipped with several state of the art measuring, turning and milling machines. Recent acquisitions include the Coordinate Measuring Machine and a 5-axis milling machine. The workshop team’s expertise is recognized and sought after for contract work outside of the SAAO, including by other national facilities such as iThemba Labs and industrial manufacturers.
Software is at the heart of all the instruments. We have recently developed a new software architecture for instrumentation at the observatory, and are applying it to all new and upgraded instruments.
Carel van Gend is the only full-time software developer in the division, but our software projects have had significant input from Briehan Lombaard (IT Division).
The graphical user interface for the upgraded Cassegrain spectrograph was developed by David Gilbank, and Steve Potter has developed the telescope control systems on the 74- and 40-inch telescopes.
Many other members of the Observatory contribute significantly to the projects and functioning of the Instrumentation Division. In particular, Hannah Worters (Telescope Operations) has been closely involved in the work of the division, and is currently leading the commissioning of the new 1-metre telescope.