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The SALT HRS Spectrograph

TYAS, LUKE,MARTIN,GRAHAM (2012) The SALT HRS Spectrograph. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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SALT HRS (Southern African Large Telescope High Resolution E ́chelle Spectrograph) is a high-resolution, high-efficiency spectrograph for the 11m SALT telescope in Sutherland, South Africa. The initial optical design work was performed at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Revisions to the concept, the mechanical design, manufacture, assembly and testing have been handled by the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation, at Durham University in the United Kingdom.

SALT HRS is a fibre-fed echelle grating spectrograph with four operational modes: low-, medium- and high-resolution and high-stability modes, having spectral resolutions of R ≈16000, 37000, 67000 and 67000 respectively over a wavelength range of 370-890nm. The instrument is of a dual channel, ‘white pupil’ design, in which the primary mirror acts to collimate light onto a single R4 echelle grating, and also to focus dispersed light to an intermediate focus. A dichroic beam-splitter separates the dispersed light into two separate spectral channels. Spherical pupil mirrors transfer the separated beams via a fold mirror to two wavelength-specific volume-phase holographic gratings (VPHGs) used as cross-dispersers. Cross-dispersed spectra are then imaged by two fully dioptric camera systems onto optimized CCD detectors.

This thesis presents the results of the laboratory testing and specification of several critical sub-systems of SALT HRS, as well as the development of key software tools for the design verification and operation at the telescope. In Chapter 1 we first review the technical development of high-resolution spectroscopy and its specific implementation in SALT HRS.

In Chapter 2 we develop a comprehensive throughput model of the entire system based on a combination of as-built performance and specific throughput measurements in the laboratory. This is used to make some specific predictions for the on-sky performance of SALT HRS and the magnitude limits for science targets. We also present a graphical exposure time calculator based on these measurements which can be used by an astronomer to plan their observations with SALT HRS.

Chapter 3 contains a detailed treatise on the optical fibre system of SALT HRS. Considerations for the use of optical fibres in astronomy are provided, as are details of an optional double scrambler, and the various instrument fibre modes. Extensive measurements of focal ratio degradation (FRD) are also presented, with testing of input beam speed; wavelength; fibre bending; variable pupil mirror illumination; and vacuum tank pressure dependency. The systems for fibre management are reviewed, as is the fibre bundle assembly process.

Testing of two further sub-systems is described in Chapter 4. Firstly the long-term stability of the mirror mounting mechanisms is determined. The advantages of cross-dispersion of echelle spectra using volume-phase holographic gratings are then discussed, and the results of diffraction efficiency measurements are given for both red and blue channel gratings.

Modern CCD technologies are examined in Chapter 5, and the blue detector is experimentally characterized using photon transfer and quantum efficiency curves. It is also used for an investigation into cosmic ray events in CCDs. Results from shielding the detector using lead are described, as is an attempt to distinguish the source of the events based on their morphology.

Finally, Chapter 6 deals with the handling of data produced by SALT HRS. Methods of wavelength calibration of the spectra are discussed, including the use of Thorium-Argon lamps and an iodine absorption cell. The implementation of a Python based quick-look data reduction pipeline is reviewed, with a description of the processes performed.

A summary of the thesis is given in Chapter 7.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:SALT HRS; echelle; high resolution spectroscopy; optical fibre; focal ratio degradation; FRD; cosmic rays; volume phase holographic gratings; VPHG; astronomical instrumentation
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Science > Physics, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 May 2012 10:02

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