It is almost time for a new sky survey to begin at Palomar Observatory. The wide-field Samuel Oschin Schmidt Telescope is ready to receive its new camera - Mosaic.
Mosaic is due to arrive at Palomar this afternoon. The camera is an array of 12 8-megapixel CCD chips. Each image from this 96-megapixel camera will cover 7 square degrees of sky. It will survey the sky for the new Palomar Transient Factory, an automated program to detect and rapidly (in the same night) classify transient sources in the sky. Follow-up observations will be performed with the Palomar 60-inch telescope and other telescopes located elsewhere.
The survey should detect supernovae, variables, quasars, exoplanets and much more.
This fall the observatory staff has been performing maintance on the telescope and its optics. You may have already seen a shot of the newly re-aluminized primary mirror. The telescope's 48-inch corrector plate was also cleaned.
Here is how it looked back in September:
And how it looks today:
There have been so many shots of dirty and clean optics on the Palomar Skies blog this year, that most readers may think that we do this all the time. Actually most of the telescope mirrors only get re-aluminized once every couple of years or so. This year they were all due to get some care, making this a record year for the staff to clean and re-coat optics. In addition to a 40-inch mirror for Mount Laguna Observatory the staff re-coated the 60-inch, 72-inch and 200-inch mirrors and cleaned the corrector for the Samuel Oschin Telescope. That's a lot of glass to care for.
Expect to see some shots of the installation of Mosaic as that work progresses.