A new BOSS record: 103,000 spectra in a month!

4 04 2012

The Apache Point Observatory operations team reached a new record, observing 103 BOSS plates in March of 2012.

BOSS observes 1000 spectra at a time, organized by “plug plates” whose holes precisely align fiber optic cables that route light from the telescope focal plane to the spectrographs. Each plate has 1000 fibers, 10% of which are dedicated to the sky calibration, so ~90,000 spectra of astronomical objects were taken during this time.

This is the most number of spectra that any astronomical survey has ever observed in a month. In fact, no survey on any telescope other than the Sloan 2.5-m and the Anglo-Australian Telescope have ever even published more spectra than this one-month haul from SDSS-III.

Typically BOSS observes 50-60 plates per month. This March had unusually good weather enabling faster observations, even as the Spring nights are getting shorter and shorter. The entire Apache Point Observatory (APO) staff worked hard and with the utmost efficiency to keep up, resulting in a record breaking 103 plates this month in only 16 nights of active BOSS observing (the other nights went to APOGEE or were lost to bad weather), including the first ever “perfect night” of 9 plates from start to finish (we don’t have a 10th cart to mount another plate).

Congratulations to the entire APO staff!




Image Caption: In March, BOSS observed 103,000 spectra, each of which was routed through a fiber-optic cable that was plugged by hand. The industrious APO plugging crew is pictured here showing the deleterious effects of having placed more than 2,000 fibers/finger in a month. But don’t worry, click through to see that they’ve recovered and are happy to face a new month of plugging. (Image Credit: Dan Long, APO).


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