We briefly describe the SOAR Optical Imager (SOI), the first light instrument for the 4.1m SOuthern Astronomical Research (SOAR) telescope now being commissioned on Cerro Pachón in the mountains of northern Chile. The SOI has a mini-mosaic of 2 2kx4k CCDs at its focal plane, a focal reducer camera, two filter cartridges, and a linear ADC. The instrument was designed to produce precision photometry and to fully exploit the expected superb image quality of the SOAR telescope over a 5.5x5.5 arcmin2 field with high throughput down to the atmospheric cut-off, and close reproduction of photometric pass-bands throughout 310-1050 nm. During early engineering runs in April 2004, we used the SOI to take images as part of the test program for the actively controlled primary mirror of the SOAR telescope, one of which we show in this paper. Taken just three months after the arrival of the optics in Chile, we show that the stellar images have the same diameter of 0.74" as the simultaneously measured seeing disk at the time of observation. We call our image "Engineering 1st Light" and in the near future expect to be able to produce images with diameters down to 0.3" in the R band over a 5.5' field during about 20% of the observing time, using the tip-tilt adaptive corrector we are implementing.
The SOAR Optical Imager (SOI) is the commissioning instrument for the 4.2-m SOAR telescope, which is sited on Cerro Pachón, and due for first light in April 2003. It is being built at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, and is one of a suite of first-light instruments being provided by the four SOAR partners (NOAO, Brazil, University of North Carolina, Michigan State University). The instrument is designed to produce precision photometry and to fully exploit the expected superb image quality of the SOAR telescope, over a 6x6 arcmin field. Design goals include maintaining high throughput down to the atmospheric cut-off, and close reproduction of photometric passbands throughout 310-1050nm. The focal plane consists of a two-CCD mosaic of 2Kx4K Lincoln Labs CCDs, following an atmospheric dispersion corrector, focal reducer, and tip-tilt sensor. Control and data handling are within the LabVIEW-Linux environment used throughout the SOAR Project.
The new operations model for the CTIO Blanco 4-m telescope will use a small suite of fixed facility instruments for imaging and spectroscopy. The Infrared Side Port Imager, ISPI, provides the infrared imaging capability. We describe the optical, mechanical, electronic, and software components of the instrument. The optical design is a refractive camera-collimator system. The cryo-mechanical packaging integrates two LN2-cooled dewars into a compact, straightline unit to fit within space constraints at the bent Cassegrain telescope focus. A HAWAII 2 2048 x 2048 HgCdTe array is operated by an SDSU II array controller. Instrument control is implemented with ArcVIEW, a proprietary LabVIEW-based software package. First light on the telescope is planned for September 2002.
To meet the needs of the SOAR 4.2-m telescope first-generation instrument suite, as well as new instruments for the Blanco 4-m telescope, we developed a new camera controller system called ArcVIEW. In order to provide a strong foundation and rapid development cycle, we decided to build the system using National Instrument's LabVIEW environment. The advantages of this approach centers on the tools available for rapid prototyping, integration and testing of components.
Over the past 2 years, we have taken ArcVIEW from a design document to the point of controlling two new instruments being built at CTIO. The IR imager, ISPI, will complete final testing this semester and go into use on the Blanco telescope in September 2002.
The second instrument, the SOAR Optical Imager, is due for completion this semester and will be the commissioning instrument for the SOAR telescope, for which first light is expected in early 2003.
The SOAR Telescope is in the final phases of construction. Software development is progressing well, in accordance with installation of the telescope subsystems. Our original strategy, explored during the prototype phase, has been maintained and improved, resulting in a software package of great flexibility. This paper describes the implementation details that have proved to be most useful for the development of the SOAR TCS.
The SOAR Telescope Project has developed a highly integrated Telescope and Observatory Control System, written in the LabVIEW graphical "G" language. A "plug-in" architecture and the ease of developing GUIs in LabVIEW has lead to a design and implementation that gives the operators flexibility, ease of use and a clear visual insight into the complex interactions of the many subsystems of a modern telescope. Care has been taken to abstract the many complexities into displays and controls that allows the operators to concentrate more on the functional operation of the telescope and observatory, and less on the intricacies of the various subsystems hardware. The User Interface includes many innovative features to make the operator?s job easier. Our process methodology for developing the TCS/OCS and continuous peer review/revision are enabling us to exceed SOAR's requirements and create a TCS/OCS that can easily be applied to other telescopes.
A Rapid Prototype and full development plan of the SOAR TCS is reviewed to show advances in: (1) Prototyping speed, which makes implementation and test of features faster than specification under older methods. This allows the development environment and prototype modules to become partners with and part of the specification documents. (2) Real-Time performance and reliability through use of RT Linux. (3) Visually Rich GUI development that allows an emphasis on `seeing' versus `reading'. (4) Long-Term DataLogging and Internet subscription service of all desired variables with instant recall of historical trend data. (5) A `plug-in' software architecture which enables rapid reconfiguration and reuse of the system and/or plug-ins utilizing LabVIEW graphical modules, a scripting language engine (in LabVIEW) and encapsulation of interfaces in `instrument-driver' style `plug-in' modules. (6) A platform- independent development environment and distributed architecture allowing secure internet observation and control via every major OS and hardware platform.