Cast of Characters

PI: Amanda Gulbis (SALT/SAAO/MIT)

Master's student: Rocco Coppejans (NASSP)

IT/Mech/Elec. Support:

Hamish Whittal (SAAO) – IT support, programming

John Stoffels (SAAO) – Mounting-component design/machining

SAAO Electronics Workshop– Michael Rust, Pieter Fourie, Geoff Evans, Jaci Cloete

SAAO Mechanical Workshop– Craig Sass, Dougie Metcalfe

Marissa Kotze (SAAO) – beta tester; data reduction developer


David Buckley (SALT)

Phil Charles (SAAO)

Darragh O'Donoghue (SALT)

Stephen Potter (SAAO)

Ramotholo Sefako (SAAO)

Trained observers:
Amanda Gulbis
Rocco Coppenjans
Hannes Breytenbach (UCT) Steve Crawford (SAAO)
Deanne de Bude (UCT)
Marissa Kotze (SAAO)
Patrick Woudt (UCT)
Hannah Worters (SAAO)

Above Image credit:
A visitor high-speed camera system on the 1.9-m telescope in Sutherland (A. Gulbis)


South Africa has carved out a niche in the field of high-time-resolution astronomy. A key element in this work has been an instrument called the UCT CCD. However, that instrument is grossly outdated in terms of capability as well as technology. The UCT CCD has been the only fast imaging camera for use on the 0.75-, 1.0-, or 1.9-m telescopes in Sutherland. However, “fast” is defined as exposures no shorter than 1.5 sec, with significant deadtime, and the field of view is small (e.g. 50 arcsec x 34 arcsec on the 1.9-m telescope). Therefore, we proposed for funding for a new, high-speed imaging system that can be mounted on the telescopes in Sutherland. This instrument will not only supersede the UCT CCD, it will provide enhanced capabilities.

SHOC (the Sutherland High-speed Optical Camera) is based on a similar system called MORIS (the MIT Optical Rapid Imaging System) developed for NASA's 3-m IRTF (Infrared Telescope Facility; on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i) and POETS (Portable Occultation, Eclipse, and Transit Systems). These systems consist of a high-speed, visible wavelength camera capable of electron multiplying (Andor iXon), a GPS for accurate time and position information, a control computer, and other associated components.

SHOC mounts at the Cassegrain focus on either the 0.75-, 1.0-, or 1.9-m telescope. The existing SAAO filter wheel can be employed. The field of view is square, and approximately 3.7, 2.9, and 1.3 arcmin2 for each telescope respectively (with an increased field of 2.8 arcmin2 on the 1.9 m if the focal reducer is used). The instrument can take up to nine full frames per second, and can reach hundreds of frames per second with binning and/or subframing. There are a variety of user-selectable gain and readout options.

Scientific motivation for this enterprise includes the observation of stellar occultations by small bodies in the outer solar system, extrasolar planet transits, magnetic cataclysmic variable systems, x-ray binaries, and photometric variations in many types of stars. The instrument will also be used for student, postdoctoral, and technician training.

Dreamweaver template by