PL EN


NEWS


2015.12.18

SALT Call for Proposals 2016-1

Dear Colleagues,

We would like to inform you that we are now accepting SALT Phase 1 proposals for the period 01 May 2016 - 31 October 2016 (2016 Semester 1).

The Phase 1 proposal deadline is Friday, 29 January 2016, at 18:00 SAST (corresponding to 16:00 UTC).

This proposal call is for SALTICAM, RSS, HRS, and BVIT. All details of the status of specific instrument modes are available in the Call for Proposals link below. In particular note changes from the currently running Semester in the RSS Fabry-Perot mode availability, and new availability of selected RSS spectropolarimetry modes.

Please submit your proposal via the SALT Principal Investigator Proposal Tool (PIPT). Instructions, software, and other information about proposing for SALT can be found on the SALT website.

Call for Proposals, including link to information document: http://astronomers.salt.ac.za/proposals/

Instructions for submitting your proposal: http://astronomers.salt.ac.za/proposals/phase-i/

Download the PIPT software: http://astronomers.salt.ac.za/software/#PIPT

All questions regarding this proposal call should be addressed to: salthelp(at)salt.ac.za

Sincerely, SALT Astronomy Operations



2015.10.15

SALT Status Updates for October 2015 - Phase II

Congratulations to everyone who has received time for the 2015-2 semester.

** As a reminder, the Phase II deadline is 23 October 2015 **


Tips for Creating your Phase II proposal
========================================

Tips for creating your phase II proposal:

When creating your phase II proposal for next semester, there is no need for you to retype all the maximum lunar phases you chose in your phase I proposal. You can instead use version 4.7 of the PIPT to copy the phase values, as described at the bottom of

http://astronomers.salt.ac.za/proposals/tips-and-tricks/

This new version of the PIPT is now available, and can be downloaded from

http://astronomers.salt.ac.za/software/

You don't have to use this version for submitting your proposal. However, if you are planning to use pools in your proposal, you'll at least have to update to version 4.6 of the PIPT.

If you are a Mac user and have upgraded to El Capitan already, you might notice that the PIPT GUI is rather wonky. This seems to be an issue with Java 6, and upgrading to Java 8 should solve the problem.


Fabry-Perot Status
==================

As already communicated to FP users directly, the coatings of the Medium Resolution MR etalon have unfortunately degraded resulting in significant loss of spectral resolution. We have removed it from the telescope and are in the process of determining both costs and timescales for repairs - but we do not expect it will be returned to the telescope for several months.

On the positive side, LR is working well, and the HR etalon has been inserted and we are working to commission the dual etalon HR mode in November. If this effects your program, please contact salthelp@salt.ac.za for more information.


New P4 Policy
=============

There is a new policy on P4 Blocks allowing any accepted program to enter P4 targets to the queue, above their time allocation. These are to be used as filler targets in case we have nothing else available at a given time. If you are unsure what it means, first read the bits about P4 time in the Intro and Section 11.4 of the http://pysalt.salt.ac.za/proposal_calls/current/ProposalCall.html and discuss with your Liaison Astronomer. Note that using optional targets in pools is more useful in general.


Block Probability
=================

Before the 2015-2 Semester starts, there will be a new 'Block Probability' number on the Web Manager attached to each active Phase II block. The intention is to indicate roughly the chances of a block getting done. The number takes into account Moon phase and Seeing constraints, the 'Observability' i.e. how tight the requested track is within its visibility window, and Competition from all other Blocks in that same window taking into account their Priorities. Note that in case of multiple visits the number refers to the binomial probability of finishing *all* the requested visits taking into account the available tracks over the semester.

The system is live, so you can see the effects when e.g. changing seeing and lunar phase constraints. It also means that the numbers before at least the great majority of Phase II blocks are active do not mean much since the competition calculation will be unrealistic.

Disclaimer: This is our first stab at providing this functionality and it may still contain bugs. Please let us know if you think your nubmers are showing anomalous behaviour.



2015.10.15

SALT Status Updates for October 2015 - News

Recent Scientific Papers
========================

The 2015 calendar year will top the number of 31 refereed SALT publications from 2014. While waiting for the final tally, here is a list of SALT papers that have appeared since our last update in July:

* Brosch et al. study an "empty ring galaxy" using RSS/Fabry-Perot observations finding a past merger of disc galaxies and current star formation in a regularly spinning gas ring. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015MNRAS.451.4114B

* Coe & Kirk present a catalogue of Be/X-ray binary systems in the Small Magellanic Cloud including H-alpha measurement using RSS. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015MNRAS.452..969C

* Gvaramadze et al. combine Spitzer Space Telescope and RSS data to characterize the blue Galactic supergiant MN18 and its bipolar circumstellar nebula. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015MNRAS.454..219G

* Hajduk et al. combine X-Shooter spectra with RSS data to conclude that [JD2002]11 is the ninth symbiotic star known in total, and only the 2nd known dusty symbiotic star in the Small Magellanic Cloud. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015AcA....65..139H

* Karachentsev, Kniazev & Sharina present RSS spectroscopy of a globular cluster in the center of the nearby isolated dwarf spheroidal galaxy KKs3. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015AN....336..707K

* Katkov, Kniazev & Sil'chenko show, using RSS spectra of isolated lenticular galaxies, that there is a large range in their formation epochs and that their gas is likely externally accreted by minor mergers. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015AJ....150...24K

* Macfarlane et al. present the overview and first results of the large OmegaWhite survey at ESO/VST for short-period variable stars, including follow-up spectroscopy with SALT/RSS. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015MNRAS.454..507M

* Menzies, Whitelock & Feast study AGB variables in the Local Group galaxy IC 1613 and their RSS spectra demonstrates on-going "hot bottom burning" in an Oxygen-rich Mira variable. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015MNRAS.452..910M

* Silverman et al. include RSS data in their study of high-velocity features of calcium and silicon in a large sample of Type Ia SN spectra. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015MNRAS.451.1973S

* Zinchenko et al. present oxygen abundance distributions in six late-type galaxies based on RSS spectra of regions of ionized hydrogen in these galaxies. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015A%26A...582A..35Z

Too Large A Black Hole in the news
==================================

And in another new publication, Jacco van Loon from Keele University and Anne Sansom from the University of Central Lancashire used SALT to study a significantly over-sized nuclear black hole in a modest-mass early-type galaxy. This result was featured on CNN along with the Espresso morning TV show here in South Africa. For more details, see:
On ADS: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015MNRAS.453.2341V
SALT Press Release: http://www.salt.ac.za/news/too-large-a-black-hole/
CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/09/26/world/black-hole-is-30-times-expected-size/index.html


Record number of Blocks Observed
================================

We don't know what the final number will be yet, but this semester has seen a record number of blocks observed! Eric Depagne and Thea Koen passed the old record of 798 blocks on 3 October. See how they celebrated the accomplishment of passing 800 observed blocks!
SALT Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SATelescope
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SALT_Astro/status/650423292818550786


Laser Frequency Comb at SALT
============================

We have been fortunate to be approached by researchers from the University Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh, the Department of Photonics and Quantum Science, asking SALT to provide an on-sky test for their prototype laser frequency comb. These instruments provide an incredibly precise method to calibrate spectroscopy using tens of thousands of lines with well known wavelengths. Currently, only HARPS at ESO is equipped with such an instrument, and with such a calibrator it regularly delivers precision down to a few cm/s.

The frequency comb is expected to be installed on the telescope for a three month period and provide HRS with a high stability calibration source. It will be installed, commissioned and tested as soon as it arrives in January 2016, and will be available for HRS science during the second quarter of 2016. For more information, and if you have ideas of how to make use of the capability on HRS in this limited time period, please contact us at salthelp@salt.ac.za.


SALT polarimetry update
=======================

The RSS polarimetry beamsplitter was returned to its US manufacturer in 2013 after problems were discovered with leaking coupling fluid. An alternative coupling "gel" was used in the repair and the beamsplitter was successfully re-installed into RSS in June 2015. The recommissioning of the mechanical and electrical mechanisms and control software associated with the polarimetry mode has been ongoing over the past few months. As of October 2015, closed dome re-commissioning tests are almost complete. On-sky commissioning and calibrations are scheduled to begin in October/November 2015. We hope some of the polarimetry modes will be ready to be advertised for the SALT 2016-1 Semester Call, but at this point we are not certain yet. We will keep users informed. For more information about RSS polarimetry, please send any queries to salthelp@salt.ac.za.


RSS Guider
===========

A new RSS guider project is progressing well with proof-of-concept hardware for the motion stage and stand-alone control system on its way and concept designs of all the major components under way. This new two-probe design will be able to deliver rotation guidance (which especially MOS mode users will appreciate) and automatic focus feedback (which the observers will greatly appreciate), while delivering significantly improved performance with much fainter stars, reaching the same V~20 mag in 15 sec sensitivity as the current FIF guider. It is expected to be ready for integration with the telescope towards the end of 2016.


Tracker Upgrade
===============

Last week, the telescope was taken offline for the installation of the new Y-drive motors. The installation went smoothly and the telescope was back online and in operation after only two nights of down time. The final stage of the upgrade is expected to be carried out in April 2016 and will result in a much better performing and capable tracker for the telescope. Congratulations to the TechOps team for successfully carrying out this major milestone!



2015.07.21

SALT Status Updates for July 2015

Darragh O'Donoghue's sudden passing on 25 June 2015 has left a huge hole in of our lives. Darragh was directly responsible for much of the success of SALT and was leading the long term plan for the telescope as well as in the midst of developing new instrumentation for use by the community. More importantly, he was a mentor and friend to many of us. A memorial will be held for Darragh at SAAO on 24 July. For those who cannot attend, written tributes may be email to Lisa Crause at crause [at] saao.ac.za or posted online at http://www.saao.ac.za/tributes-to-darragh/.

Call for Proposals
--------------

We wish to remind all of the Phase-1 deadline for submissions is July 31st, 6pm SAST.

Science Papers
------------

Since the last SALT update in early March, there have been many SALT papers published. The full list is available at http://astronomers.salt.ac.za/data/publications/ As always, please let us know of any that we have missed.

* Czerny et al. discuss the origin of the Broad Line Region and AGN models, and specifically compare the expected line profiles with quasar Mg II line profiles from SALT data.
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015AdSpR..55.1806C

* Hajduk, Hoof & Zijlstra study the evolution of H-rich central stars of young planetary nebulae.
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015A%26A...573A..65H

* Kirk et al. present SALT multi-object spectroscopic observations of galaxy clusters detected by ACT, and find a type II QSO in a brightest cluster galaxy. The paper is useful reading to anyone planning RSS/MOS observations.
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015MNRAS.449.4010K

* Kollatschny et al. study strong magnetic fields near the central black hole in the quasar PG0043+039 using simultaneous multi-wavelength observations with SALT, HET, HST and XMM-Newton.
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015A%26A...577L...1K

* Pozo Nunez et al. present results of a monitoring campaign of the Seyfert 1 galaxy PGC 50427 to study its broad-line region and dust torus size.
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015A%26A...576A..73P

* Samsom et al. find, using RSS spectroscopy, the low-luminosity, early-type galaxy NGC 59 to be very metal poor constraining the way massive galaxies are built up from such building blocks.
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015MNRAS.450.1338S

* Spark & O'Donoghue study the shape of the emitting region on white dwarf surfaces using multiple high time resolution observations of an eclipsing cataclysmic variable OY Car with Salticam.
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015MNRAS.449..175S

* Tomov et al. report on RSS long-slit observations of the stellar and the nebular remnants of 22 southern post-novae.
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015A%26A...576A.119T

* White et al. study radio-quiet quasars in the VIDEO survey and suggest radio emission is AGN-powered rather than star-formation activity; RSS was used for obtaining redshifts of the targets.
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015MNRAS.448.2665W

* Jones et al. used SALT and VLT spectra to check for radial velocity shifts in a pair of planetary nebula.
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015arXiv150601563J

* Ilkiewicz et al. analyze multi-epoch observation sof LMC S63, a deeply eclipsing Magellanic symbiotic star.
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015arXiv150507740I


SALT Science Conference
--------------------

The SALT Science Conference was a success, featuring many on-going SALT projects and general excitement of recent results. The conference itself was featured well in the South African media, especially the keynote presentation given by the Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor. See the conference web-site http://ssc2015.salt.ac.za/ for science talks given at the conference and the SAAO web-site for a PR summary
http://www.saao.ac.za/press-release/the-salt-science-conference-2015/

Phase 1 Tips and Tricks
-------------------

There will be a number of useful Phase-1 tips posted on the SALT Blog site prior to the proposal deadline. For example, check out this post on general hints on strategy:
http://saltastro.blogspot.com/2015/06/do-you-want-salt-data-salt-science.html


SALT News
---------

Check out our new popular level SALT news pages at http://www.salt.ac.za/news/ The pages are are updated approximately once a month and are maintained by one of the SALT Operators, Thea Koen. If you have are willing to write a short piece for the benefit of all, please contact her at thea_at_salt.ac.za.



2015.07.03

SALT Call for Proposals 2015-2

Dear Colleagues,

We would like to inform you that we are now accepting SALT Phase 1 proposals for the period 01 Nov. 2015 - 30 April 2016 (2015 Semester 2) The Phase 1 proposal deadline will be 31 July 2015 at 18:00 SAST (corresponding to 16:00 UTC).

Please note that this proposal call is for SALTICAM, BVIT, HRS, and RSS, but with some modes, such as Fabry-Perot HR still on a "best efforts" basis (i.e. no guarantees regarding performance or completion), or not available at all. In particular, we will not accept polarimetric proposals, although it may be possible that we'll reactivate previous polarimetric commissioning proposals later in the semester should this mode becomes available.

Please submit your proposal via the SALT Principal Investigator Proposal Tool (PIPT). Instructions, software, and other information about proposing for SALT can be found on the SALT website.

Call for Proposals, including link to information document:
http://astronomers.salt.ac.za/proposals/

Instructions for submitting your proposal:
http://astronomers.salt.ac.za/proposals/phase-i/

Download the PIPT software:
http://astronomers.salt.ac.za/software/#PIPT

All questions regarding this proposal call should be address to:
salthelp(at)salt.ac.za

Sincerely,
Astronomy Operations


2015.05.26

SALT Data Help

Dear SALT user -

This letter is directed to any PI or co-I who has in the past received data from SALT. We are interested in getting SALT data published, and hence are offering help where possible and where it would be useful. We are also gathering feedback to improve efficiency.


1) If you have published your data, thank you very much. On the other hand, There are a myriad of reasons why observations don't get published. Maybe the data were clearly of inferior quality or not enough for the science purpose. And some project types (e.g. monitoring, student theses) often just take a long time. But if you are in a possession of a reasonably complete data-set and have not yet published it, we would like to know if there is anything we could help you with. This could be in the area of data reductions, calibrations, or perhaps some trivial amount of data or information missing for the set to be useful.

- Please send an email to salthelp with any details you wish to give us. Add the word "help" and a program ID in the subject line for us to keep the requests organized.

- We cannot guarantee results. But we do promise to at least assess the situation with you to see if there is something to be done, and possibly assign one of the SALT Astronomers to work with you.


2) In an effort to make future SALT Astro Ops more effective we would be interested in your frank feedback. What part of the process worked in your opinion, what did not? Were the data acceptable, useful, or not?

- Please send an email to salthelp with the word "feedback" in the subject line and a program id if appropriate.


3) Finally, we wish to advertise the fact that SALT data quality is improving.

- There was a significant increase in RSS throughput recently.
- Stray-light affecting faintest RSS observations have also significantly been reduced.
- The active alignment system for stable PSF (the SAMS) is not on-line yet. However, the central 7 segments already have sensors and are gathering performance data.
- There is a high priority project to implement a new RSS guider to address rotational guiding issues affecting especially MOS observations.
- We are aware that many users are waiting for a HRS reduction pipeline. When ready, we will announce the availability and help PIs to get extracted spectra from both past and on-going HRS data sets.
- We have studied the completion fractions of blocks and programs over the previous semesters and have tips and suggestions on how to maximize your chances of finishing programs. We will include these in the next Call for Proposal in late June.

We do hope that you continue to use SALT for your science and hope that with upcoming improvements we can deliver the kind of quality data originally expected.

-Petri Vaisanen
and the whole SALT Astronomy Operations team.


2015.03.13

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 chris_at_salt.ac.za. 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 petri_at_saao.ac.za or saltastrohead_at_saao.ac.za. Normal operations and on-going programs continue to be handled by the assigned individual Liaison SAs as previously.

DDT proposals and questions should be sent to ddt_at_saao.ac.za. DDT proposals are assessed by the SAAO director Ted Williams and Petri Vaisanen. More details at
http://astronomers.salt.ac.za/proposals/directors-discretionary-time/

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.
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015AJ....149..116M

* Kalari and Vink present optical spectra of pre-main-sequence candidates in the Low Metallicity Galactic Star-forming Region Sh 2-284 http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015ApJ...800..113K

* Milisavljevic report on the Broad-lined Type Ic SN 2012ap and its lack of +gamma ray detection.
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015ApJ...799...51M

* Mamajek et al. present the closest known flyby of a star, WISE J0720, to the Solar System (see below for PR).
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015ApJ...800L..17M

* Ivanov et al. present characteristics of the solar neighbour WISE J0720 (see below for Press Release).
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015A%26A...574A..64I

* Stritzinger et al. include RSS spectra in their comprehensive study of the bright and energetic Type Iax SN 2012Z.
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015A%26A...573A...2S

* Kniazev, Gvaramadze, and Berdnikov discover a new galactic luminous blue variable star (see below for Press Release) http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015MNRAS.449L..60K


* Manick, Miszalski, and McBride publish first results of a radial velocity survey of post-common-envelope Wolf-Rayet central stars of planetary nebulae.
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015MNRAS.448.1789M


For a full listing of all the papers published in 2014, please see: http://astronomers.salt.ac.za/data/publications/


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: http://ssc2015.salt.ac.za/


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.

http://www.saao.ac.za/press-release/a-neighbourhood-stars-close-shave-with-our-solar-system/

http://www.saao.ac.za/press-release/discovery-of-a-new-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:
http://saltastro.blogspot.com/2014/10/salt-long-slit-spectroscopy-of-cts.html


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 summer.

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:
http://saltastro.blogspot.com/2015/03/news-on-rss-throughput.html


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.


2015.03.11

Dear Colleagues,

This is to inform you that registration for the forthcoming "Science with SALT 2015" conference at the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Study (STIAS) from 1-5 June is now open.

Please visit the conference website: http://ssc2015.salt.ac.za/

Here you will find more details and the conference registration page. The deadline for registration and submitting an abstract for a talk or poster is 1 April.

We encourage students to attend this meeting and depending on the level of funding we receive, we will waiver or subsidize the R2000 registration fee (which covers all breaks and lunches) and possibly also contribute to accommodation expenses.

We look forward to seeing you in June!

Kind regards,
David Buckley
Eric Wilcots
SOC co-chairs


2014.12.18

Dear Colleagues,

We would like to inform you that we are now accepting SALT Phase 1 proposals for the period 01 May 2015 - 31 October 2015 (2015 Semester 1) The Phase 1 proposal deadline will be 2 February 2015 at 18:00 SAST (corresponding to 16:00 UTC).

Please note that this proposal call is for SALTICAM, BVIT, HRS, and RSS, but with some modes, such as Fabry-Perot HR, still on a "best efforts" basis (i.e. no guarantees regarding performance or completion), or not available at all. In particular, we will not accept polarimetric proposals, although it may be possible that we'll reactivate previous polarimetric commissioning proposals later in the semester should this mode becomes available.

We have updated the comprehensive information document for all proposers with the current performance status of the telescope and instruments. In addition, the PIPT has also been revised. Additional information and links to relevant webpages or documents are also included to assist proposers in writing their Phase 1 applications.

Please submit your proposal via the SALT Principal Investigator Proposal Tool (PIPT). Instructions, software, and other information about proposing for SALT can be found on the SALT website.

Call for Proposals, including link to information document:
http://astronomers.salt.ac.za/

Instructions for submitting your proposal:
http://astronomers.salt.ac.za/proposals/phase-i/

Download the PIPT software:
http://astronomers.salt.ac.za/software/#PIPT

All questions regarding this proposal call should be address to: salthelp(at)salt.ac.za


Sincerely,

David Buckley.

SALT Astronomy Operations Manager on behalf of the SALT Astronomy Operations Team



2014.09.19

RSS to be not available for the remainder of the semester

Dear Colleagues,

With RSS currently off the telescope, we have several gaps in the queue. At this time, we do not expect RSS to be available for the remainder of the semester. As such, we would like to offer consortium members the opportunity to fill these gaps through one of three processes:

(1) PIs of *existing* 2014-1 proposals with unused time may use their remaining time on HRS, SALTICAM or BVIT. The telescope time will be charged as with any normal proposal. This may involve target, instrument and even science case changes, but it is time that would otherwise be lost. PIs should re-submit their proposals with the new configurations or targets. If no time is remaining on your proposal, you can make a request to your TAC chair for additional allocation of time.

(2) Any consortium member may submit a new "P4-Commissioning" proposal, which would be automatically granted the observing time requested as P4 time (gap fillers). This proposal can be for HRS, SALTICAM, or BVIT. We strongly suggest selecting targets with large visibilities to allow for easy acquisition of the targets and/or targets with Right Ascensions between 16-7h and Declinations that are either equatorial or near the Large or Small Magellanic clouds. No time will be charged to the individual partners for these proposals.

To submit a new "P4-Commissioning" proposal, simply select "Commissioning" when creating a new proposal in the PIPT - this will be already phase 2. Once created, please go to Proposal -> change semester and select 2014-1.

(3) PI's of 2014-2 proposals for HRS, SALTICAM, or BVIT are strongly encouraged to submit their Phase 2's early. As soon as the Phase 2 is submitted, it will be reviewed, activated by a SALT Astronomer, and then added to the observing queue. The telescope time will be charged as with any normal proposal.

Please note that, due to current repairs and work on the telescope and instruments, we may not be fully operational at various times. Please keep an eye on the SALT website and astronomy blog for more details or feel free to email us at salthelp@salt.ac.za for more information.

Sincerely,
Astronomy Operations


2014.09.05

SALT Status Updates for Sept 2014

======================
Recent Science Results
======================

de Martino et al. measure the properties of the peculiar low mass X-ray binary XSS J12270-4859 http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2014arXiv1408.6138D

Onofrio and Wegner use RSS spectroscopy of white dwarfs to set the first upper bound of astrophysical origin on the coupling between the Higgs field and the Kreschmann curvature invariant. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2014ApJ...791..125O

Miszalski, Mikolajewska, and Udalski report on the discovery of a new Small Magellanic Cloud symbiotic star, OGLE-SMC-LPV-00861: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2014MNRAS.444L..11M

Karachentsev et al. used RSS to measure Ha velocity of the nearby gas-poor dwarf transition galaxy KK258 = ESO468-020 http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2014MNRAS.443.1281K

Gvaramadze et al. used SALT RSS observations for spectral studies of first discovery of a Wolf-Rayet (WR) star in the Large Magellanic Cloud via detection of a circular shell with the Spitzer Space Telescope http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2014MNRAS.442..929G

Oszkiewicz et al. used SALT spectroscopic to test methods for photometric selection of V-type asteroids: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2014arXiv1408.4288O


==============================
SALT HRS Telegram on V1369 Cen
==============================

Simultaneous observations with SALT HRS and HST STIS spectroscopy were carried out as part of a campaign to observe the classical nova V1369 Cen. Preliminary results were presented in the following Astronomer's Telegram: http://www.astronomerstelegram.org/?read=6413

An example of the reduced blue HRS spectrum produced via the new experimental HRS pipeline (see below for more details) are available here: http://saltastro.blogspot.com/2014/08/blue-spectroscopy-of-v1369-cen.html

================
New SALT Website
================

We are pleased to announce that the SALT web site has been given an overhaul and that it is now officially available for everyone to see. Some highlights include a new design, addition of interactive elements including recent observations, and an updated site for astronomers. Please check out the new websites here:

The new website was set up through the hard work of Briehan Lombaard, Paul Kotze, and Christian Hettlage at SAAO/SALT along with contributions from many others. The graphic design work was done by Joni-Leigh Doran. Besides web design, she also does fine art and illustrations. You can check out her work on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DesignerJoni

===============
RSS Maintenance
===============

RSS will be taken down Tuesday, Sept 9 for a major optical cleaning procedure with the goal to significantly improve the performances of the instrument. With the instrument off the telescope, throughput measurements of the major optical assemblies will be performed as well. The total downtime is currently expected to be between 4 and 6 weeks.

=======================
HRS Quick Look Software
=======================

A command line script for extracting a single order to allow estimates of the quality of data has been running at the telescope and we have made it available to the general community to help with assessing the quality of their observations. It can be downloaded from here: http://pysalt.salt.ac.za/versions/quickhrs_beta.tar.gz

Please see the README for more details on usage. The only requirements are some additional python libraries that can be installed via pip or other standard installation packages.

A prototype of a science reduction pipeline will be available soon. The code will be uploaded to the following repository soon if you would like a preview or to help contribute: https://github.com/saltastro/pyhrs


================
BVIT back on Sky
================

Following upgrades of the BVIT computer by the Berkeley group led by Barry Welsh and ably supported by SALT Tech Ops and Marissa Kotze, the instrument is back on sky. Some on-sky tests confirmed to was all working nominally. Several observing programs utilizing it are planned over the coming months and possibly into semester 2014-2.

=======
RSS NIR
=======

There has been good progress on the RSS near IR arm development, particularly with the detector optimization work. The science grade Hawaii 2RG array is expected to be installed in the cryostat in the coming months following tests and control parameter tweaking on the bare MUX device, currently installed. The pre-dewar cooling design work is near completion and RFPs are about to be released. The instrument is on track for delivery later in 2015, in time for installation following the tracker upgrade completion at the end of 2015.

====
SAMS
====

After a significant delay in the first phase of the edge sensor project, necessitated by the need for more thorough testing than originally anticipated, plus some design minor modifications, the first set of sensors are about to be installed on the central 7 segments (the so-called sub array). This will be followed by a commissioning period on the telescope, expected to be completed in a couple of months, depending on how co-operative the weather is during that time. Apart from several nights of engineering time required during this period, the SAMS commissioning is expected to have little impact on normal nighttime science activities. The vast majority of the remaining 480 sensors (plus spares) will be delivered over the next year or so.

============================
SALT Science Conference 2015
============================

A heads-up for the next SALT Science meeting: this will be held in the week of 1-5 June 2015 at the STIAS conference venue in Stellenbosch, some 40 km from Cape Town. This will follow the SALT Board meeting held the previous week in Cape Town. More details on this will be released over the coming months.


2014.07.02

SALT Call for Proposals for 2014-2

Dear Colleagues,

We would like to inform you that we are now accepting SALT Phase 1 proposals for the period 01 Nov. 2014 - 30 April 2015 (2014 Semester 2) The Phase 1 proposal deadline will be 01 August 2013 at 18:00 SAST (corresponding to 16:00 UTC).

Please note that this proposal call is for SALTICAM, BVIT, HRS, and RSS, but with some modes, such as Fabry-Perot HR and HRS, still on a "best efforts" basis (i.e. no guarantees regarding performance or completion), or not available at all. In particular, we will not accept polarimetric proposals, although it may be possible that we'll reactivate previous polarimetric commissioning proposals later in the semester should this mode becomes available.

In addition to normal and long term proposals, investigators can also submit Partnership Proposals for Key Science. Partnership Proposals for Key Science are proposals for high impact science that will benefit from a concentrated effort from the larger consortium. These proposals can be for up to 10% (~80 hours) of the time available per semester and up to four semesters. For more details about Partnership Proposals for Key Science, please see the Call for Proposals.

We have updated the comprehensive information document for all proposers with the current performance status of the telescope and instruments. In addition, the PIPT and Simulation Tools have also been revised. Additional information and links to relevant webpages or documents are also included to assist proposers in writing their Phase 1 applications.

Please submit your proposal via the SALT Principal Investigator Proposal Tool (PIPT). Instructions, software, and other information about proposing for SALT can be found on the SALT website.

Call for Proposals, including link to information document:
http://salt4scientist.salt.ac.za/

Instructions for submitting your proposal:
http://salt4scientist.salt.ac.za/phase-i/

Download the PIPT software:
http://salt4scientist.salt.ac.za/pipt/

All questions regarding this proposal call should be address to: salthelp(at)salt.ac.za


Sincerely,
Astronomy Operations


2014.07.02

SALT Status Updates for July 2014

============================================================
Cephieds on the far side of the Milky Way: SALT Nature Paper
============================================================

Prof Michael Feast (University of Cape Town, SAAO), Dr John Menzies (SAAO), Dr Noriyuki Matsunaga (the University of Tokyo, Japan) and Prof Patricia Whitelock (SAAO, UCT) reported on 'Cepheid variables in the flared outer disk of our galaxy' in the May issue of Nature. They used SALT to observe the Cephieds and help map out the shape of the far side of the Milky Way. More details are available here:
http://saltastro.blogspot.ca/2014/05/salt-observations-of-first-stars.html
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v509/n7500/full/nature13246.html

=====================================
Partnership Proposals for Key Science
=====================================

Partnership Proposals for Key Science will be offered starting in the 2014-1 semester. In the first semester, up to 10% of the time (80 hours per semester) will be available for key programmes. Full details will be given in the call for proposals, but these proposal should be for programs that will benefit from a concentrated effort from the large consortium for important science. Please see the Call for Proposals for more details!

==================
Maintenance on RSS
==================

While measuring the throughput of the RSS in April, visual inspection of the collimator optics indicated a degradation in the lens fluid and seals around some of the optical groups, and a fluid leakage, which was subsequently fixed. RSS will be removed from the telescope for further inspection and a thorough analysis of the state of the optical train. While down, quantitative measurements of the throughput of all the RSS optics will be performed and replacement of lens fluid maybe also be attempted. The instrument will be taken down from the telescope in late-july for an estimated period of 4 weeks. During this time, the instrument will remain in Sutherland and science programs will continue with HRS and SALTICAM.

=========================
SALT Board Meeting at UNC
=========================

The SALT board meeting was held at the University of North Carolina at the beginning of June. Lisa Crause presented some of the commissioning results from HRS, updates were given about different upgrades currently underway at SALT, highlights of various education and public outreach programs were given, and a number of new science results were presented by the partners. For these and more presentations, please see:
http://saltastro.blogspot.ca/2014/06/salt-board-and-science-day-at-unc.html

====================
BVITS Current Status
====================

The Berkeley Visible Image Tube, a SALT visitor instrument, has been out of action since April, apparently with a computer malfunction. This will be attended to by UC Berkeley over the coming few months, so it is expected to be available for 2014-2 programs. One successful observation conducted in Jan detected the 53 millisec optical pulsations of the LMC pulsar, PSR B0540-69 (see
http://saltastro.blogspot.com/2014/03/optical-pulses-detected-by-bvit-of.html )

====
SAMS
====

Good progress has been made with the new mirror edge sensors program, SAMS, with successful completion of the first phase of the acceptance tests for Phase 1 completed in March in France. All the hardware for the Phase 1 system, namely 24 sensor pairs for controlling a 7-segment subarray of mirrors, have been received and are undergoing final tests in Cape Town before installation on SALT begins, expected to start in late-June/early-July.


2014.04.05

SALT Status Updates for April 2014

======================
Recent Science Results
======================

In Loubser 2014 (http://arxiv.org/abs/1401.1822) SALT long-slit spectroscopy is used to fit complex star formation histories to a small sample of central cluster galaxies. Most of the galaxies contain a small component of young stars, and the high signal-to-noise data makes it possible to quantify the contribution of these young stars. Contrary to popular belief, a 'blue' brightest cluster galaxy is not necessarily associated with a cooling-flow cluster.

Brent Miszalski (RSA) and collaborators used SALT to obtain RSS spectroscopy of a newly discovered close binary central star of a planetary nebula Hen 2-11. The SALT spectrum confirmed the eclipsing binary is the hot central star of the planetary nebula and provided some standard measurements of other nebular quantities. The central star is a hot pre-white dwarf with a main sequence companion in a 0.609 day orbit. Binaries like these are thought to strongly influence the shape of their planetary nebulae. For more details, please see the paper by D. Jones et al. 2014, A&A, 562, A89; http://arxiv.org/abs/1401.1358

Brent Miszalski (RSA) and Joanna Mikolajewska (POL) have used SALT RSS to discover 12 new symbiotic stars in the Southern Galactic Plane. Symbiotic stars are interacting binaries that are strong candidates for type Ia supernovae (SN Ia) progenitors, however the Galactic population is not well characterised. Their ongoing SALT program observed several Halpha emission line candidates selected from the AAO/UKST SuperCOSMOS Halpha Survey and 2MASS. It aims to build an improved census of Galactic symbiotic stars, of which less than 300 are currently known. A particularly exciting result is that one of the new discoveries exhibits [Fe X] 6375 A emission, making it a supersoft X-ray source candidate. Supersoft sources are intimately linked to SN Ia progenitors since they are steadily burning hydrogen on the white dwarf. An appendix also lists several other new Halpha emission line objects such as B[e]/Be stars, a Wolf-Rayet star and planetary nebulae. Several more discoveries are anticipated as the survey progresses. For more details, please see the paper by B. Miszalski & J. Mikolajewska 2014, MNRAS, in press; http://arxiv.org/abs/1311.0797

===================
BVIT Pulsar results
===================

In January the first successful SALT BVIT observations of rapid optical pulsations from a pulsar were reported by Sarah Buchner (HartRAO) and her collaborators. BVIT was used in order to measure the 50.7 millisecond spin period of PSR B0540-69. For more details see: http://saltastro.blogspot.com/2014/03/optical-pulses-detected-by-bvit-of.html

====================
HRS Calibration Data
====================

Lisa Crause has provided the existing HRS calibration data at: http://hrscal.salt.ac.za/. The full set of biases, calsys arcs, calsys flats, and sky flats (as well as a few darks) from November through to March are now available at that webiste. The page does require the user to login using their Web Manager User Name and password.

=================================
New SALT Astronomer: Eric Depagne
=================================

Eric Depagne has started as the new SALT Astronomer. He arrived in Cape Town in late February, coming from Germany. Before Germany, he spent 3.5 years in California as a postdoc, and the 4 years before that working as a support astronomer at ESO in Chile. He is a high resolution spectroscopist whose science revolves around metal poor stars, nucleosynthesis, and galactic chemical evolution. He also a keen interest in instrumentation. He was the project engineer at the Leibniz-Institut for Astrophysics in Potsdam, for a multi-object spectrograph that will be installed on VISTA in 2019. He has built the first prototype of a Medium Resolution Spectrograph for LCOGT. The final version of which will be installed in Sutherland.

==========================
Updates to the PIPT and WM
==========================

The latest version of the PIPT (3.2) is required for accessing and submitting phase 2 proposals for the 2014-1 semester.

If you are following the SALT blog on http://saltastro.blogspot.com, you may have noticed that recently brief science summaries were added to the list of observed proposals. As of the 2014-1 semester, PIs are required to supply these summaries, and the latest PIPT offers a text field for this.

It might be worth noting that even if your proposal has been awarded time for more than one semester, the PIPT will only display the times for the current semester. You may find the time allocation for other semesters in the Web Manager, though.

Version 3.3 of the PIPT, to be released very soon, will asume shorter overheads for arcs and flats. While this might make updating attractive, you can still create and submit your proposals with version 3.2.

The Web Manager time allocation page for TAC members has been overhauled and made for user-friendly. Suggestions for further improvement are very welcome, of course.

================
New SALT website
================

The design for the new SALT homepage has been finalised, and Briehan Lombaard, the SAAO's new web developer, is working on the site. Apart from a complete overhaul of the look-and-feel, you may expect new features like a live feed of what observations are being taken at the telescope.

============
PySALT v0.47
============

The next version of PySALT has now been released. In addition to a number of bug fixes, this version includes updates to the specred package for improved wavelength identification and spectroscopic reductions, improvements to the masktool, and the first version of basic ccd reduction tools for HRS. The HRS tools are still in development though. The package is available here:http://pysalt.salt.ac.za/

We also suggest that you download the newest version of PySpectrograph for best results with the specred package. The software can installed via pip or downloaded from here: https://pypi.python.org/packages/source/P/PySpectrograph/PySpectrograph-0.23.tar.gz#md5=7c193d8689fcca59905ba53fcc9576e9