Monday, April 24, 2006

SALT Big Time

First Light: 47 Tuc

WaPo put The South African Large Telescope on the front page.
Nice article.

SALT is an 11 meter segmented optical telescope, optimised for spectroscopic surveys in the optical.
Design concept is based on the venerable Hobby-Eberly Telescope (with some engineering learning experience passed along...).

The key aspect to HET and SALT are that they are basically fixed telescopes which use the secondary to track targets over
a relatively limite range in azimuth and declination. So you sacrifice flexibility but gain light gathering power and cost.
The construction costs, for the size of telescope, is an order of magnitude lower than a full two-degrees-of-freedom telescope.
The telescopes are somewhat limited in both the range of targets they can reach in the sky, and the time they can stay on target, but they are big light buckets and work well for large scale spectroscopic surveys and synoptic spectroscopy.
HET, for example, has been doing steady work doing spectroscopic followup of Sloan and Chandra targets, as well as planet hunting (which requires high resolution synoptic spectroscopy).


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