NRF|SAAO Unveils Groundbreaking Capabilities with New Instrumentation

The National Research Foundation (NRF) and the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) recently demonstrated significant advancements in their observational capabilities, highlighted by the swift and successful study of an X-ray transient event. A new paper, led by Stephen B. Potter, underscores the collaborative efforts and technological innovations of the Intelligent Observatory and instrumentation teams.

Mookodi on the SAAO Lesedi telescope. Image Credit: Willie Koorts

Potter’s paper utilised both the Lesedi telescope and the 1.9m telescope to obtain photometric and spectroscopic data following an X-ray transient alert. This effort marks the first use of the new 1.9m instrument selector port, enabling seamless switching between instruments, and the innovative Mookodi, a multi-purpose low-resolution spectrograph and multi-filter photometric imager detailed in SAAO Astronomer Nicolas Erasmus’s recent publication.

The SAAO Instrumentation Team working on Lesedi. Image Credit: Willie Koorts

The study focused on the X-ray transient EP240309a (EP J115415.8-501810), classifying it as an intermediate polar. The rapid deployment of these new tools showcases the exceptional capabilities developed for quick follow-up of transient astronomical sources. The paper was completed and accepted in record time, emphasising the efficiency and dedication of the team.

Congratulations to the entire Intelligent Observatory and instrumentation teams for this remarkable achievement.

Key Papers:

These groundbreaking studies highlight the NRF|SAAO’s cutting-edge approach to astronomical research and their ability to rapidly respond to and analyse transient celestial phenomena.