We are continuously upgrading and improving our instruments; we recently comprehensively overhauled the Cassegrain Spectrograph on the 74″ telescope and it was installed in the October 2015. The upgrade includes a much improved optical design, re-coated optics and a significantly better light throughput. There is also a new user interface, and the software was developed using our new software framework (see below). A webcam followed the progress of the instrument as it was built, and there’s a blog describing the building and commissioning of the instrument.
The SAAO recently acquired a new 1-metre telescope. This was installed in August 2016, and is currently being commissioned. We are using one of the SHOC instruments for this, but are in the process of designing a new large-detector camera to take advantage of the telescope’s wide field of view. We are also developing an interface to the RTS2 telescope control system with which the telescope was supplied.
We have developed a new software framework which we are now using for all new and upgraded instrumentation projects. The framework supports a distributed set of instrument components, and allows a web-based user interface to be implemented. This is in line with our long-term goal of having the instruments be remotely (and eventually robotically) operable.
The software for the SHOC instruments has been re-written using the new framework, and went live in the second quarter of 2015. As part of the rewrite, a web interface to the instrument is provided, and all the hardware components (camera, GPS and filterwheel) are controlled from a single interface. This also allows the generated FITS data files to be populated with information from all components.
In addition to the instruments, we are also developing new control systems for the telescopes. The Telescope Control System integrates all the different functions of the telescope such as telescope movement, dome and shutter control and any other parts of the telescope that requires control. We are working towards full remote control of the telescope and telescope environment. Safety features are incorporated in the designs to ensure that the telescope or users are protected in the events such as power failures, bad weather conditions and moving of the telescope or dome where things can be damaged. Some of these features that we have developed for telescopes and environment are incorporated by some of the other facilities we host at SAAO.
We proudly utilize the following software in the design and development of our instruments: