The SED Machine
Nick Konidaris, Robert Quimby, Chow Chong-Ngeow Sagi Ben-Ami, Richard Dekany, & Shri Kulkarni
NSF Award #1106171
No Transient Left Behind
Why the SED Machine?
The existence of our solar system is a result of the production of elements produced by cosmic explosions. One of astronomy's greatest triumphs is the story explaining the production of these elements, and "transients" play a central role. Due to advances in detector technology and computing, surveys designed to discover transients have popped up: Catalina Sky Survey, Palomar Transient Factory (PTF), SkyMapper and Pan-STARRS; as well as up-and-coming surveys: SASIR and LSST. The discovery power of these surveys is immense. The discovery rate for PTF exceeds one new transient every fifteen minutes, but this rate is too high to systematically classify all transients. In short, because our ability to classify is so poor, we are in an era where the systematic classification of transients is impossible.
The scale of this problem, however, is such that moderate aperture telescopes can play the critical role of classifying transients. To play this role, however, a new and highly efficient type of spectrograph is needed. Efficiency here is not limited to throughput, but rather designing an instrument and system that works together to produce the highest rate of classifications per square-centimeter of telescope. The SED Machine optimized specifically to maximize the transient classification rate.
Maximum Throughput: Instrument Design
Though the spectrograph itself is efficient, components of the SED Machine works together as a system to maximize transient classification efficiency.
Laboratory Testing at Caltech
July 2011: SED Machine project begins. Laboratory testing starts at Caltech:
Detector Testing in Israel
Detector testing is organize by our graduate student, Sagi Ben-Ami. Sagi has borrowed both an Apogee, as well as a Princeton Instruments PIXIS detector and has tested instruments on sky, as well as in the lab. Two example photos are shown below.