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Two first lights in One Night!

At the South Africa Astronomical Observatory site last night, Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope achieved first light with two of its three 1-meter telescopes. The telescopes, initially built in the Santa Barbara headquarters, were delivered to SAAO on Monday, February 18th, were craned into the three domes the next morning, and one telescope was marginally on-sky for pointing runs by Thursday night. The science camera on that telescope was not commissioned yet, and so first light had to wait one more night. In the meantime, the second telescope was fully assembled, and so on Friday night, the SAAO team, working closely with engineers and astronomers in Goleta, acquired first light images from both telescopes. The third telescope will likely achieve first light in the next 24 to 48 hours.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"1766","attributes":{"class":"media-image","id":"3","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Telescopes were craned into the domes on Tuesday morning.
 
The installation team, led by project engineer Annie Hjelstrom, consists of telescope technicians Mark Crellin, Kurt Vander Horst, and David Petry, and is supported by LCOGT postdoc Abiy Tekola. The Santa Barbara team, was led by astronomer and lead engineer, Andrew Pickles, engineering director, Eric Hawkins, and software and instrument engineers Joe Tufts, Zach Walker and others.
 
The magnitude of the event is always best stated by individuals new to the LCOGT model. After commenting on the surprising speed of the telescopes, a visiting astronomer who attended the first light event at SAAO watched two telescopes slewing while the local team monitored events. "Who is doing that?" he asked. The Goleta team. And when the local team buttoned up for the night,with the domes open and the telescopes still on-sky, he said, "You're leaving it to the people in Santa Barbara?"

A lot of work remains to be done on all three telescopes. Polar alignments should be complete by Monday. A full optical alignment for each telescope will carry into next week. Some of the instruments require a new server and parts arrive on Tuesday to complete that work. But by a week from Friday, the team intends to leave site and hand over three working telescopes to the engineering team to complete their commissioning.
 
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NGC 2442, Dome A, LCOGT 1-meter telescope at SAAO                                                    NGC 2997, Dome C, LCOGT 1-meter telescope at SAAO
 
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