Friday, December 16, 2011

testing new technology

i've been out at siding spring observatory for a few nights in order to help with the commissioning of a new instrument on the anglo-australian telescope (AAT).

tonight's weather was not looking so good from the start. here are the warrumbungles being rained on.

and lightning over the skymapper telescope:

Photo Credit:  Andy Green

despite the weather, we've had no shortage of activities to keep us occupied!

on to the AAT we are adding a new instrument, the Sydney-AAO Multi-object Integral Field Unit (SAMI), that lives in that black tube at prime focus.

in slightly technical terms, SAMI is a multi-object integral field spectrograph with hexabundle optical fibre feeds! i'll explain that a bit more later, but first, here are a few shots of SAMI in the tube:

as you can imagine, it's a bit challenging to do mechanical things in such a small space (especially at 3 am in the dark when it's necessary!). here they are fixing the hexabundles to the metal plug plate with magnets. the next version of SAMI might employ a small robot to plug the plates.

inside each of those hexabundles are about 60 optical fibers. each hexabundle is placed over a single galaxy so light from the different regions of the galaxy can be investigated independently. currently, there are 13 bundles, so 13 galaxies can be looked at during each pointing of the telescope.

once the light is collected, the optical fibers direct the light through a long path down two stories, to a room where the AAOmega spectrograph lives.

the amount of stuff that can go wrong when testing new technology is amazing. sometimes things go more smoothly than you ever imagined, and other times, the simplest things dont work, and it takes many people a lot of thinking and discussing to get to the bottom of a problem and figure out how to fix it on the fly. notice the duct/gaffer tape!

at one point, we had to point at a very bright jupiter to make sure our telescope pointing and focus were as we thought they were!

the whole process is frustrating, exhilarating, and exhausting all at the same time.

now to show you a bit of data. here is a single galaxy that SAMI collected data on during the first commissioning run several months ago.

the galaxy image on the left comes from a survey using the UK Schmidt Telescope. the red circle shows the area of the galaxy covered by the hexabundle (15 arcsec) and the colored circles on the right show information from the spatially-resolved optical fiber spectra. the colors indicate how the gas in each of those regions of the galaxy moves: blue is towards us and red is away. the gas in the galaxy is spinning around, revealing very nice disk structure in this system!

these early results and instrument design are described in a paper that has been accepted for publication and is now out on the arXiv: here!


Tom Ogletree said...

Amazing that light can be collected through fiber optics! What kind of exposure times are typical?

i doser mp3 said...

Great Technology.. And nice pics also.

heroineworshipper said...

Australian men are tiny.